Ireland and Breakfast Club

Just finished watching the Breakfast Club. Haven’t watched it in years. John Hughes nailed 1984 teenaged angst. Oh to be young and idealistic again. At one point the principal bemoans the fact that these kids would be ‘running the country’. Here we are.

Got to see the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson and Frank McKenna speak today in Freddy Beach at the EDAC conference. It was interesting – a little high level for the EDACkers which are mostly workers in the bowels of economic development organizations. But, then again, maybe the EDACkers could use a little international exposure.

This will sound terrible but I couldn’t help thinking that Ms. Robinson kept name dropping and how strange it was. Think about it, this woman is probably one of the most influencial people in the world – she sits on councils with Nelson Mandella and was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. But she seemed to slide in the these names – almost just for the sake of invoking them. Those there might find me harsh but I remain fascinated that persons who have reached the pinnacle of achievement in this world still feel the need to impress.

Frank McKenna didn’t do as much name dropping except to say he was in Haiti with Matt Damon. He kind of smiled when the head of EDAC said he hoped to bring back Frank one day to EDAC as the ex Prime Minister of Canada. That may be prescient. Frank is sounding Prime Ministerial these days and if Stephane Dion has trouble in four weeks, it is likely he will be sent to pound sand.

He made a good speech, Frank, and as always tried to rev people up about what they are doing. I think a lot of economic developers lose sight of the role they play in community development. Frank called it the ‘burning platform’ to borrow a phrase. But it is true. Without economic development in a community, the rest of it fades away over time. You don’t need schools if you don’t have kids. You won’t have kids if the parents moved to Alberta for work. Same can be said for hospitals, community centres, etc.

Finally got around to watching Al Gore’s powerpoint presentation the other night (my kids have seen it twice in school) and chuckled as he rolled out the frog and the beaker example. You put a frog in a beaker of hot water and it will jump out. You put a frog in a beaker of cold water and then heat it to boiling and the frog will stay in and die. I don’t know if this is actually true – you can be Al Gore never really tried it.

But it’s a good analogy to economic development. We can sit in New Brunswick as the rest of Canada booms – record population growth, the emergence of new industries, record levels of government revenue and settle for a declining population and a declining fiscal capacity to pay for government services from taxes and revenues generated in the province. We can put ourselves more and more at the mercy of the national government – and watch its key stakeholders (i.e. Ontario) continue to crap on the very programs that are keeping New Brunswick afloat.

Or we can start to realize that things are heating up and start trying to jump out of that beaker.