On clarity and conviction

A couple of stories this a.m. of interest. 

First, the CBC has a more detailed piece on the ROC Consulting gig to support economic development in Northern NB.  Somebody said this might change my view of the thing.  Look, I don’t know much about the tendering process.   There are instances where government doesn’t need to tender and I think that makes a lot of sense.  I have been involved in losing bids to tenders where it was more than clear that a single contractor had stood out above the pack.  These should be rare – but when you look at the four consultants involved with ROC, it would be hard to create that team from an RFP process.  In my view, this is about results.  From a high level view, it seems their vision for northern NB is an interesting one.  Now we will see if it gets results.

I’ve never met this Constantine Passaris at UNB but he seems like a grizzled veteran of the economics game in New Brunswick.  He’s got a very strong commentary in the paper today that I enjoyed reading.  But, increasingly, I think it is time to get beyond the generic to the specific.  Passaris says:

Government has an important role and a unique responsibility to provide economic leadership and vision, to invest in state-of-the-art infrastructure, to promote the valuable role of human capital and to enhance the efficacy of an inspired and articulate public policy and competent economic strategy.

The long-term vision can be summarized in employment creation, income generation and baking a bigger economic pie – that is to say, investing in the fundamentals that create economic growth and development.

This is a distilled version of self-sufficiency.  Perfect.  But generic.  How do we bake a “bigger economic pie”?  People need to know – inside and outside government – that only efforts that lead to significant new private sector business investment in the province from companies that generate their revenue primarily outside the province will bake a bigger pie.  These can be NB firms or national or international firms but we need far more private business investment.  Government policies and limited resources should be focused on this goal.

It’s important to make this distinction.  The 97% of NB businesses that generate their economic activity only in New Brunswick cannot be part of baking the bigger pie unless they expand outside the borders of New Brunswick (i.e. generate more revenue from outside the borders of NB).   Import substitution and increased productivity are also part of the mix here.

Finally, there is a story today about eight small NB firms that received funding for expansion.  I am not going to complain about these projects but I will make a point.  At least two of the projects involved seasonal jobs.  Two, these firms received upwards of $30,000 per job.  I hope there is an economic payback model in place on these projects.  The average job at $35k will pay out around $3-5K in taxes to the provincial government each year (depending on deductions and spending patterns).  That’s between a six and eight year payback on these government investments.  I am just trying to illustrate the importance of linking wages to the economic benefit to the province.  FYI, UPS received about $10,000 per job to put 900 jobs in New Brunswick back in the 1990s.

9 thoughts on “On clarity and conviction

  1. What I wan to know is that if this is the kind of things BNB needs to be doing then why can’t their existing staff do it? Who does this need to be outsourced? Is it an admission that BNB staff is incompetent or at least do not possess the right skill set to do the job they really need to do? If this is important work to do then competent staff need to be hired to do this on an ongoing basis.

  2. Just to follow up.
    What is am afraid of is this is an indication of a wider problem with the public service, and of society in general. It is well understood that the boomer generation is the most paternal yet, and seem unwilling to give up on parenting their children until well after they have left the nest. I think this translates to the workplace where the boomers still left feel a reluctance to cede responsibility to the next cohort, having a feeling that they still need to do parent them. Instead, they turn to retirees of the same vintage as them. The problem with this sort of nepotism is that they are turning to retirees because they are likely to tell them things the like to hear because they all have the same mindset. Turning to entrenched paradigms rather than solicit ideas from a fresh point of view means that the only way forward is the status quo. Perhaps the more dangerous problem is that the young cohort in the public service will increasingly become disenfranchised because their point of view is not being heard and their chances for advancement are stifled when positions are outsourced to retirees. Now if the removal of mandatory retirement and the current stock market plunge means that people will not be retiring as soon as expected, it will be a long time yet before we really see a full turnover in the faces and ideas coming out of the public service.

  3. Ontario can have all the EI fund. It has been used in Atlantic Canada for decades as a feable attempt to show compassion. We should offer to trade it for the billions in reserach dollars, billions in industry subsidies, lucrative policy decisions and dozens of government offices and crown corporations that Ottawa has provided to accelerate Ontario’s economy for decades.

  4. The list of companies receiving aid was disheartening, to say the least. Patronage writ large, I’d say.

  5. When I write specifications for NB government construction projects, we’re asked to provide 2 alternates for each specified piece of equipment. This ranges from a $5 pipe fitting to a $250,000 boiler.
    This is done to keep suppliers honest when they bid for work.

    Similarly, on large gov’t construction projects, a Clerk of the Works will be posted onsite to supervise the construction process. The Clerk verifies contract compliance. As well, consultants and architects review all progress claims from contractors before any money is paid out. This is to keep contractors honest when they perform work.

    I can’t speak to the ROC Consultants deal, as I don’t have any experience in the ED world, nor do I know how the contracts are parcelled out. Does BNB have procedures in place to keep the consultants and their billing in check? If it takes a CBC ROI request to even find out about these deals, I’m not that confident that we’re getting the best bang for our buck.

  6. This is to keep contractors honest when they perform work.

    Really? Well I know one Brother and my son who will never bid on another government job!
    I believe that attitude speaks volumes!
    Home many rich contractors do yo know?
    Well I know some ,and they are affiliated with Quebec, AND a former premier!!
    Another reason our workers and engineers are in the West.

    What a ridiculous statement about our engineers and contractors.Who are and have been monitored by university graduate engineers who have never worked the field!
    Remember who silently owned the company that build the arenas up the valley,well he was an MLA.
    Meanwhile I would love to see a trustworthy outside source investigate the government contract process ,fully.

  7. “Who are and have been monitored by university graduate engineers who have never worked the field!”

    Would you prefer university drop-out engineers?

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