As you know, in recent years, I have become a big believer that we need to have far more discussion in the public square about economic development and the role of government and communities in fostering economic development.

There are a number of good university-based institutes that are studying issues related to development in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. Think of the Canada Research Chair in Atlantic Canada Studies at UNB or the Rural and Small Town Programme at Mount Allison University.

But there seems to be a derth of study and analysis of the most basic, fundamental problem that has been at the heart of Atlantic Canada’s economic woes for a hundred years. That is the fact that this region has witnessed chronically low levels of business investment (domestic and foreign direct invesmtent) – for decades.

Here are some of the current study themes at the chair in Atlantic Canada Studies:.
*How Atlantic Canada Invented the Welfare State
*Community Stability & the Role of Migration in Rural Areas Experiencing Demographic Decline
*Immigrants, Temporary Migrants, Work, and Rural Community Well-Being
*Cultural Diversity and Health in Rural Atlantic Canada

And there are dozens more at these various institutes and very few are focused on that huge matzah ball that is business investment.

It’s almost like we want to dance around the issue – talk about effects – analyze dozens of derivative areas – without ever talking seriously about the fundamental problem.

How about a symposium on these topics?
*Getting the fundamentals right – the role of infrastructure as catalyst for new business investment.
*What are the medium and longer term effects of attracting FDI to stimulate economic development in rural economies? Case studies from Alabama and Ireland.
*Environmental technologies – New Brunswick’s next ‘call centre’ level growth engine?
*Why manufacturing is on the decline in New Brunswick – and models for growth.
*Attracting venture capital – the good, bad and ugly.
*People follow investment – getting the sequence right when looking at immigration and repatriation.
*Using energy as a competitive advantage for the attraction of business investment.

Or even more specific academic level analysis of trends such as:
*FDI into New Brunswick – a 20 year view.
*Why we need more Bricklins – the case for targeted industrial development.
*Has the 25 year policy of fostering small business creation in New Brunswick led to more entrepreneurship or more people with lower earnings and without pensions?
*The long term effects of out-migration – the loss of human capital.
*Why New Brunswick is not an export-intensive economy – debunking a popular myth.

I’m not trying to be nasty here. Is it because these academics are mostly historians? Or social scientists? Is an economic development track not compatable and even integral to the discussion of virtually all of these broader issues?