Speech from the Throne

It’s hard to get much out of a speech to the throne. There wasn’t much that looked interesting from an economic development standpoint. I’ll make a couple of points:

Now more than ever, New Brunswick must be competitive in demonstrating that New Brunswick is a great place to be in business. Business New Brunswick has launched an aggressive investment attraction strategy. Your government remains committed to fostering innovation and exploring the potential of promising technology clusters such as advanced learning, health and biosciences.

There are a lot of folks in the ED and research communities waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. The Liberals were in Opposition for seven years and now in government for two. They have had nine years to ‘explore’ the potential of sectors. They should be just about ready to go beyond exploration by now.

New Brunswickers across the province are saddened when their sons and daughters, their friends and neighbours have to leave New Brunswick to seek out opportunities elsewhere. In two consecutive budgets, your government demonstrated its commitment to bringing New Brunswickers home by doubling funding for the Population Growth Secretariat last year and increasing it by a further 63 per cent in the current year. New Brunswick’s population has increased for six straight quarters and your government is on track to achieving its goal of boosting the province’s population by 6,000 by the end of 2009.

Probably not a bad idea to tell your Department of Finance not to publish these numbers which show a 17 year string of more people moving out of the province than in (interprovincial migration) and only about 1,600 new new population in the past two years.

With its new health plan, your government is putting the needs of patients first today and in the future. There are 95 more doctors working in New Brunswick than in October 2006 – the largest two-year increase in almost a decade.

If we take the Census numbers from 2006, that means 320 new doctors since 2001. Almost no new population growth in the province from 2001 to 2008 but 320 new doctors. At $200k a pop (conservative average level), that is $64 million in more costs with almost no new population. From 2001 to 2006, there were 3,830 new health care workers added to the health system in New Brunswick.

The population grew by 499 people from 2001-2006.

In other words, we added almost eight new health care workers for every additional person in population growth.

And that was under a ‘conservative’ government.

I know the political resonance of health care but someone, some day is going to figure out that we can’t keep expanding health care at such an unsustainable rate. I can tell you this. Ontario politicians and policy wonks know this data – better than we know it ourselves. I heard an angry pundit spouting all this data during an The Agenda podcast (TVO) the other day. He was griping because health care cost per capita in New Brunswick were increasing at some ridiculous growth rate compared to Ontario. That’s not really fair because if health care costs go up by $200 million and the population goes up by 499 that makes the per capita numbers all out of whack.

But the point is valid.

Your government has kept its commitment to build the best education system in the country through our bold education plan, When Kids Come First. Recent results of reading assessments showed, among other encouraging results, a seven percentage point increase among Grade 2 students across the province since 2006. This year, 76 per cent of students met or exceeded the standard for literacy proficiency, compared to 69 per cent in 2006.

When did we get the best education system in the country? Did I miss a memo? This should probably read the government has kept its commitment to have a plan for the education system – but that whole best education system in Canada is a few years off, don’t ya think? In addition, I think there are hundreds if not thousands of parents that didn’t appreciate the hatchet job on French Immersion. Blaming French Immersion for the poor outcomes in our education system is a very controversial thing to do.

I suppose I could go line by line and pick it apart but I won’t. I truly want this government to be successful. I realize that the Premier has to spin it out just like Lord and McKenna did before him. The problem with Lord (and some say McKenna) is that the spin became the outcome. After awhile, you start to believe your own PR.