Wanted: a federal partner

Here is the text of Premier Graham’s open letter to all federal party leaders.

A couple of points:

He would be wise to use the term ‘province’ over and over again. When Iggy came to the Maritimes during his run for the Lib leadership he equated what was going on in New Brunswick as no different than Northern Ontario, the Gaspe, etc. He said we need to have federal support for supporting these underperforming areas. Regardless of what you think of Iggy (and I kind of like the idea of a philosopher-king), he is dead wrong on this point. Northern Ontario is a region of Ontario and fully under the perview of Ontario. New Brunswick is a province within a confederation of provinces inside the country of Canada. It has distinct autonomy in multiple jurisdiction areas and in many ways has more authority than a State does in the U.S. context (Do we have a federal Department of Education? Do we have a federal Medicare program?).

This is an important point. Northern Ontario is an Ontario challenge and should be addressed via a partnership with the Ontarion government. The Gaspe in Quebec the same thing. There is no equating a province with a region within a province.

The federal government should work with New Brunswick – even though it is politically small it is still a province just like Ontario or Alberta or Quebec – on a plan for economic development.

The second point here is that Graham’s open letter doesn’t talk at all directly about helping attract business investment to the province. It talks about R&D (good), workforce (moderate), moving federal jobs here (fat chance) and natural gas for nothern NB (I like the idea).

The federal government has massive resources to promote international business investment into Canada. They literally have hundreds of officers around the world working on trade and investment with Canada. They have Industry Canada, Invest in Canada, foreign embassies and consulates. Why wouldn’t the Premier talk about a partnership to bring more business investment here? Without that all his talk of workforce development, investing in children and building infrastructure is meaningless.

There are chickens, folks and there are eggs. I am not disputing that you need workforce development, ‘investing in children’ and infrastructure to be an environment where business can foster. I am saying they are two sides of the same coin. Just focusing on each discreetly won’t work.

If you focus on infrastructure and workforce only – natural gas to the north, more skilled workers – and not on attracting and growing industry – you will just continue the role of labour market incubator for Ontario and Alberta.

If you focus only on selling what we have – you will get very little because our value proposition is quite weak these days.

So we need both. And the Premier should have acknowledged the federal role in both.