Megaprojects give a lot upfront but…..

The Conference Board’s prediction for New Brunswick:

New Brunswick’s work force will lose more than 3,000 jobs next year as the economy takes a nosedive and construction of megaprojects draws to a close, the Conference Board of Canada reports. About 2,700 jobs will leave construction while weak demand south of the border strips another 900 jobs from the forestry, manufacturing and mining sectors. The province’s economic outlook looks grim in the board’s fall forecast, released Thursday, at just one per cent growth in gross domestic product for the remainder of this year and 0.8 per cent growth in 2009. The construction boom will recede by next year as the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear reactor and work on the Canaport liquefied natural gas terminal finish.

That is exactly why economic development strategy should be independent from megaprojects. These large scale highway paving, bridge building, LNG plant/potash mill building projects bump up short term job numbers but leave limited economic benefit long term.

Politicians bask in the glow of the good numbers (think 2007) and then run for cover when the numbers turn south.

I am not against megaprojects but running in parallel should be plans to see development in durable, longer term economic activity.

If I were advising Steve Carson, for example, in Saint John, I would be recommending he develop a longer term strategy for the development of that city’s nascent ICT sector. I am not saying avoid energy – to the contrary it should be supported – but in parallel other key sectors should be priority.