Not much correlation

As you know I am a big believer in the importance of municipal government. They have the least amount of authority and the least amount of fiscal capacity of the three levels of government (although someone pointed out to me that municipal government is not actually a ‘level’ of government – it is not able to create laws – only by-laws that must be sanctioned by the province).

However, municipal government is closest to the action. And economic development happens in communities not in provinces or in countries. That is to say that companies making choices – which country, which province but eventually they settle in a specific community.

And how municipal council approaches economic development will have a lot to do with the economic success – over time – of that municipality.

Because of the issues mentioned in paragraph one, municipal government is also the quickest to pass the buck. To blame the ‘province’ for its troubles. To blame the ‘feds’. To wait to get things done on provincial funding.

And I realize the fiscal constraints but I have also witnessed communities get things done “with or without” the help of the province – and I like that model.

All this to say congratulations to the winners last night. Funny about old Norm Macfarlane in Saint John. All signs point up in that community but he got creamed coming in fourth. I guess the voters do not correlate the rising energy hub with Norm. I have met him on several occassions and found him to be quite strong – a good mayor at least from the perspective of an outsider. I do know he was dogged by some management issues. Maybe a Saint Johner can fill us in on why a fairly capable mayor in a city on the rise could be trounced like that.

Brad Woodside is Fredericton’s version of Monton’s Claudette Bradshaw. He will keep winning until he decides to stop. I had lunch with George Leblanc in Moncton before he announced his candidacy. He seems to be a good man and I am hopeful he will do a good job in Moncton. Moncton is in a bit of a tight spot. It needs both stable management out if its mayor and a vision for what’s next. Downtown development has not really occurred in any meaningful way in over a decade. Someone once said you can measure the economic position of Toronto by how many cranes you see in the downtown as you fly into that city. I think there has been one crane in downtown Moncton in the past 13 years.

Hopefully economic development is starting to dribble into the vernacular of councils – even in small municipalities – particularly our smaller towns and villages. It’s easy to wait on the province or blame the province and ignore the dozen things the village can do to improve its economic development position.