Restless New Brunswicker

I just finished reading Ike, a biography of former President Eisenhower and now I am on to Team of Rivals, another look at Abraham Lincoln this time from the perspective of his Cabinet.

The author talks about Lincoln and his contemporaries as being in an age of restlessness.  Of desiring change.

I think you can count me among those in New Brunswick that are restless for change.  Don’t know how pervasive that clique is but it does seem to be growing.  After 140 years of being the poor cousin of Confederation, it would seem that now is as good a time as any for change.

23 thoughts on “Restless New Brunswicker

  1. I agree. Catchy slogans and window dressing are a long way from effective economic development strategy. We have seen things like the prosperity plan and more recently self sufficiency as great sources for passionate speeches and the generation of false hope. The reality is, as you consistently point out, more and more restless New Brunswickers vote with their feet and leave for better opportunities.

    Most of the regular posters here would agree there are no easy answers and quick fixes. However, paying lip service to ED is going to worsen the problem. So, taking a queue from Mikel who advocates action, let’s challenge the political parties, to present their economic development strategies prior to the next election. Let’s not accept a catchy tag line as a “strategy”; we need more substance than that.

    A sound strategy needs to address two important points;
    1) improvement in federal funding for ED. Other provinces are getting millions while, as David highlighted this week, we get hockey rink and festival funding. With New Brusnwick’s limited resources, especially for ED, the federal relationship is critical.
    2) We need a focus. We have seen the successs with focus through our contact center industry. It has to be something where NB has a sustainable competitive advantage. There are not easy answers but we need to see some resources allocated to research them. Maybe it is something to do with environmental technology drawing on our forestry and engineering expertise. Perhaps it is David’s pet project, data warehousing. Maybe it is mining or energy technology.

    What we have been doing for the last 20 years is widenening the gap from other provincial economies. We need to do something different and that starts with government prioritizing economic development. It would be a happy day to see ED strategy, something that is going to determine if our kids have a chance to stay in our province, as the main topic of debate in the next election rather than recent election “hot topics” such as moose fencing, auto insurance rates and toll highways. Thesse have allowed our kids to safely and economically drive out of the province to prosperous economies. Now that these issues are resolved, let’s focus on ED strtegy so the resources can be used to welcome kids driving back into the province.

  2. There is ‘change’ and then there is ‘change’. Don’t assume it can’t get WORSE. By all indications things are about to get very nasty in the economy. It’s good to hear talk about ‘action’ though, unfortunately there are only two parties, but ya work with what ya got. Strategy wise, the best focus would be on the conservative party. Any ‘lobbying’ in their direction is sure to have some kind of effect on the liberals, and its quite obvious that lobbying government directly doesn’t appear to have much effect (but that may only be specific cases).

    But again, I encourage people here to reach out to organizations they may not like. If you want renewable energy policies, the Green Party and the CCNB are really the only ones talking about it. Being part of an organization doesn’t mean you like everything about it, and actually its a lot easier sometimes to change an organization than government. But ‘luck’ may be playing a part in this, so energy would be a good focus because like Richard says, new industries may provide a balance-but they can’t do it alone. Believe me, there are other mills in the world and in Canada, so don’t assume that if this company in Miramichi doesn’t find friendly legislation it won’t simply pack up and move to Quebec. One issue there is something seldom mentioned-namely net metering. NB is quite behind on that issue, it was a year ago I contacted them but they still had no firm policies. Even here in ontario its not great, they basically put a ceiling on how much energy could be sold to government (even though they obviously need all they can get) which has meant that small energy setups are not feasible.

    The other option is to FORM an organization. Governments rarely listen to individuals, its not in their interest. They DO listen to groups of individuals, particularly when they are in one riding. Particularly if that organization is smart and looks at the electoral map at ‘close ridings’ and focuses their energy there.

    But an organization needs something to push. While data centres are nice, that’s not policy. You can’t go to government and say “as voters we demand more data centres”. The final decision is always up to the company, although in the strange case of beer, its obviously not out of the question to lobby THIS government to actually get INTO the marketplace.

    So the next step is to find what actual public policies need to be pushed for an X result. That’s David’s pet project, I’ve mentioned animation-so has David, partly because there are easy public policy steps. First, we have the Nova Scotia template for tax credit for video and film industries. In NB they did make a change to that legislation, I can’t remember what it was, but it was quite inadequate. There is also the point of contacting FatKat and simply asking them what kind of policies can help them out. I remember the issue from a year ago when the owner commented here, I don’t remember what it was, but boy an interview with that guy would make a great podcast! hint hint.

    So getting policy to help the animation sector, unlike the data centres, seems fairly straight forward. The next step is to define a piece of legislation, then present it to both parties and see what sticks. Again, that does require some ‘work’, but that’s exactly what ‘action’ is. About the only benefit in this political system is that the tories have picked a new leader. They are usually the most responsive to change because they have the most to lose. Few people know him, and although there has been lots of griping about the liberals, I doubt its enough to unseat them. However, the FEAR of being unseated is a great motivator.

  3. David, the books you mention are about leaders and leadership. That should be part of the focus. While organization is fine and necessary, people have different views and while one organization lobbies for one thing, another will argue the opposite. Not everyone in NB is disgusted by the Irvings et al. Lots of people here think things are fine, we just need a few more blue-collar jobs from time to time.

    I was a young adult during the 60s. There was plenty of organizing going on then, let me tell you. But you know who most of the organizers were? Upper middle class kids with money and time to burn. If you want to change things in NB, then I would say you need more people with money and time to burn to run these types of organizations – that’s the only way they will have staying power.

    How do you get those people here? Well, you have to have white-collar jobs to attract them. That’s why I say that the ED must come first; the effective organizing relating to other issues will not come until after. I think that David is correct that a few large corporate outfits are the way to jumpstart this.

    The question for me is – which sectors to target? That is what the debate should be centered on. I have already expressed the view that we should use the unis plus R&D investments in selected sectors to help attract corporate players. To that we could add energy pricing (and/or energy source) and perhaps certain tax policies.

    Above all, however, we need good leadership. That at the moment is the great weakness; I just do not see any leaders with vision out there.

  4. “let’s challenge the political parties, to present their economic development strategies prior to the next election. Let’s not accept a catchy tag line as a “strategy”; we need more substance than that.”

    I think that would be a good start; but there is a big difference between what the parties say during a campaign and their willingness or ability to implement afterwards. IMHO, it would be more effective to discuss/debate this issue widely and get ideas out there now. Debate/discuss some of them such that eventually they appear to be ‘common sense’ rather than ‘untried’ or ‘radical’. That would make it easier for parties to implement them afterwards, provided there was a leadership in place that was intent on delivering.

  5. One final rant before I get back to my weekend.

    All is not lost. Change can come and come quickly. As I said above, I was a young adult in the 60s. Many of you younger folks may not realize how quickly and how greatly NB changed between about 1965 and 1975. We had a revolution here, lead by LJ Robichaud.

    During LJRs tenure, there was great debate over the changes he brought in. Likely he would have failed if all of the powers-that-be in NB had aligned against him. But he had at least one of them, the McCains, on his side. That’s a great example IMHO of the balance of forces I mentioned before. That is what NB now lacks in regard to ED and other policy issues here.

    With all respect to CCNB and similar organizations, they do not employ many, they have little money, and therefore cannot effectively oppose the interests of the Irvings on the big issues. NB needs corporate interests here that have different perspectives than the Irvings. When that happens, you will be surprised at how quickly things will change.

  6. Actually, that’s not true. If you look around the world most of the recent biggest changes have NOT come from upper middle class white kids. That’s ESPECIALLY true in the maritimes. The Antigonish movement of the early part of the century laid the ground for the sixties. It was primarily the soldiers returning from the war that got organized and pushed for Tommy Douglas. The sixties brought about some changes, but certainly not the most significant ones-that was the seventies and eighties.

    In other countries its even more obvious. Watch the ‘revolution will not be televised’ to see how the Venezuelan peasants kept Chavez from ending up in a body bag in the middle of the atlantic. In Bolivia it was peasants who threw Bechtel corporation out of the country when they implemented one of the worst water privatization schemes in the world.

    There is certainly no age or economic level that is a requirement for political activism. In fact, an involved electorate is a requirement of what anybody would consider to be remotely close to a democracy. If society is simply a push and pull between various companies and industries, thats NOT democracy, its an oligarchy, and even places that have lots of variety in their industries will still have significant problems.

    And again, its that ‘culture of defeat’, that idea that “I’m just a spectator in my society, somebody else really should do the work”. Again, those other industries HAVEN”T come to the province, what makes somebody think they will in the future without any policies to keep them? In a downturned economy, I can guarantee that even guys like Fatkat have to pay attention to where they may get the best deal.

    So obviously Richard is not interested, so these comments are really not intended for him, but for anybody else that thinks ‘change just happens’. You can ask Dave how long he’s been publishing this blog and what changes he’s seen. Ask him about how big a change there was when a new government took over in Fredericton. It’s very true that organizations have different interests, thats why I say that its important to join the ones that have similar goals and not be blinded by forty years of Irving propaganda. Some of these places don’t have a lot of money, but money isn’t necessarily what is needed. One guy in Fredericton is using his own money to challenge development over natural water purifiers-ONE guy. So imagine if a hundred were getting active. Just recently you saw protests for better animal cruelty laws, and more people are questioning the coroners act. That’s how these things get changed, not by white collar rich kids coming along.

  7. “That’s how these things get changed, not by white collar rich kids coming along.”

    I gather that Mark D’Arcy and the protesters in front of City Hall on Saturday are generally white collar middle class citizens. The demographics of Fredericton are such that change will be led by the middle class, not by some sort of peasant revolt.

  8. Between 1965 and 1975 things changed quickly, all over Canada.
    In my 5 trips a year from Montreal you could see it, just that NB was 3 years behind.
    Ridiculous to ever think any progress in NB or Canada followed anything but the U.S! And most likely always will.

  9. The two nations do more than $577 billion in annual trade – more than $1.6 billion of goods and services a day.

  10. That was a protest about animal cruelty, hardly a ‘peasant’ subject. However, what I said was not that it would be the poor causing change in NB, for heaven’s sake these people were threatened that they’d be thrown off welfare if they showed up at a poverty protest, and like I said, the poorest don’t even vote, and the second lowest don’t even have housing rights.

    However, the ‘middle class’ is a huge section, we aren’t talking about poor people. We grew up ‘lower middle class’, certainly not ‘upper middle class’. There is a huge distinction. Tommy Douglas’ core supporters were lower middle class, they were former soldiers.

    But that only makes my point-YOU guys are hardly ‘peasants’. YOu are the middle class, probably, or else you’d have far different views. So even if Richard WAS correct, then the kind of people here are most likely to bring about change. The reality is that of course if nobody tries, then it doesn’t happen. New Brunswick still doesn’t fund abortions, something illegal, all thanks to a very vocal mainly lower middle class lobby. They’d rather face lawsuits than face these voters.

    But like Richard says, a good many people are quite happy, and many are simply resigned to outmigration. If you have a policy to change that I’ll bet you’d get public support. But people are apathetic to change simply because the only options are BAD ones.

  11. A great opportunity for New Brunswick to grab a huge industry. We have lots of room and talented actors, although it will have to be duplicated in both official languages.
    On second thought, never mind.

    MONTREAL — The mock restaging of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham will likely go on, just maybe not on the Plains of Abraham.

    The organizer of the planned re-enactment says he will seek a new venue if his force of 2,000 costumed history buffs is no longer welcome at Quebec City’s historic site.

    No official decision has been announced, but André Juneau, the head of the National Battlefields Commission, made it clear this weekend that the planned commemoration will be dramatically scaled down.

  12. And another thing to note Mikel, animal cruelty in NB is actually rare. Sort of like a drop of blood and what a mess it makes!
    I know of three cases, including Minto, where there would have been no cruelty if proper sensible tack had been taken. All three cases will be determined not guilty!
    Sorry for the continued,reality!

  13. The main focus of this blog is ED, I believe, and how to get NB moving. While other things like abortion funding, animal cruelty, etc are important [ as an aside, the criminal code which is the most effective weapon re cruelty is a federal jurisdiction and changes to that law have failed due to conflict between farm groups and animal rights activists, i.e. an equal balance of forces], I think that if you look around the country you will find that action on those subjects tends to occur in regions with growing economies. In NB people (working class and middle class) are largely pre-occupied with keeping their job(s); social action takes second place. That’s reality. There is not going to be a peasant revolt in NB; people greatly dissatisfied will just move away.

    There is little point in saying change is needed. What change? Exactly what ED policies, what tax policies, are most likely to generate a significant number of high-paying jobs? And where are the data to support one strategy vs another? Those are the things we should be talking about.

  14. …and I am getting a bit tired of Mikel saying the rest of us are apathetic, not getting involved, etc, just because we don’t share his point of view.

  15. One problem is that he is trying to educate the wrong people. I think that everyone that posts on this blog can agree that economic development is an issue that the government needs to focus on. But what about the average Joe living in rural NB? People win elections on topics like moose fencing because that is what alot of people are concerned about. This needs to be an issue that people are discussing over the dinner table, not just a few educated? people bloggin about it in their spare time.

  16. I’m not trying to ‘educate’ anybody. YOu guys all know the facts. What I’ve said repeatedly is that IF you guys actually want these policies to move ahead, then you have to go beyond posting at a blog. David does a lot just running this blog, but he can’t do everything. Again, the government WON”T listen to you because you AREN”T political. And my point is that they SHOULDN’T. From a government’s point of view this blog is just catharsis, a bunch of guys who act smug like the NDP and assume they know some great secrets and maybe even are quite happy that it makes them feel smarter than the majority-who knows.

    I’ve repeatedly said that I personally don’t even agree with most of David’s ‘theory’, but always like his analysis, and I’m in ontario so don’t really care. To assume that the population is apathetic or focused on the wrong issues, but YOU aren’t simply because you post some thoughts on a blog, seems pretty hypocritical. And although its far from valid, David’s political analysis shows what I’ve been saying for ages-that just because the media and some politiians talk about moose fencing doesn’t mean that that is the people’s concern-but when there are only two parties and they are virtually identical then it may LOOK like that. That’s why I say it would be so easy for you guys, if a policy were actually presented to the public there would probably be enormous support-and that’s where political action comes from. Do you think Graham made all those changes to the Mining Act because one morning he developed a conscience? And again, this isn’t for Richard, who quite clearly is content to just be an armchair critic – that’s fine, but that’s not who I’m writing for so his thoughts are as irrelevant to me as they are to politicians.

    It was great to go that next step forward and see the podcast, but it really made no sense to just post it here where everybody just read it. But on itunes it would be completely different. But maybe David doesn’t have that kind of cash or time, so again, this is where a blog really comes in handy. A whole bunch of people here and it would cost each next to nothing to get the podcast up on the itunes store. Blogs and the internet are for organization as well as just spouting off views. IF you just use it to spout of views you can’t expect the government to take it seriously, any more than they walk into tim hortons to help make policy. I don’t care what an individual’s views are, and most people here disagree with me, but I’d still take some time to try to help out a podcast even if a segment of it were Richard griping about universities. Richard hasn’t been here that long, and there have been LOTS of Richard’s posting here over the three years. But nothing has changed in the ED field, but as we’ve seen, in all kinds of other social fields, where people HAVE been active, there HAVE been changes. The question is whether people actually want to ‘talk about change’ or whether they actually ‘want change’. Whether they just want their slogan to be from the Simpsons: “Can’t somebody else do it”, or actually get organized, get to work, and make change.

  17. If that were true then we wouldn’t have seen the short lived podcast or the video show-few bloggers think ‘how can I keep these views as marginalized as possible’. If we are seeing people marching to support the sale of a mill in Miramichi then imagine if the march actually included policy initiatives-things more specific than ‘bring michelin to dalhousie’ (since they aren’t expanding-what about bringing wind power to restigouche). That’s the kind of ‘movement’ that is often necessary to counteract the numerous people who think it’ll be just another taxpayer drain (usually those people aren’t from miramichi), and THOSE are the kind of people I’m writing for. While a march isn’t the ONLY way to be political, it IS something the government notices because if people are prepared to ‘march’ then they are certainly prepared to ‘vote’ for such a cause. But fortunately for people here there IS a ‘somebody else’ in the “can’t somebody else do it” category.

  18. Mikel is on a low roll and needs to be reminded that it is from this area of Canada where the movers and doers came from. And that it is now his province which will need to show that they can do it , not somebody else. And to remember the march from Saint Andrews to Kingston to defend those who had already been defeated in the former British America. Those same descendants are now the movers further west. Yes strange attack from a province bailed out by the Auto Pact and who couldn’t even keep the Auto cash cow mooimg right along, winding up putting together junk.
    Just wait till you have to duplicate everything! Or if you are ever forced to clean up your pollution or replace your crumbling infrastructure or stop the child poverty or health care problems.
    And when I hear some one talk about wind power, I know I’m not hearing someone who knows anything about economic sustainability in the Energy field.
    And furthermore, posting at a blog will get you a lot further than going to the well controlled party meetings where you toe their line or else. Blogs in fact are monitored HEAVILY every day and effect and influence a lot more than you think. And is so much of a handy tool for the “shutup” crowd, (90% of the people) to tell their stories without being threatened by the kinsella types, that efforts are now being made so that the state police can instantly monitor you. I mean in what century or country were the people not controlled by the State.

  19. Some of those have nothing to do with the comments, but these aren’t ‘attacks’ any more than David’s posts are ‘attacks’. They are simply criticism.
    On topic though ‘movers and doers’ come from all over at any time. There is no one area that breeds different types of human beings. Many areas have policies that may mean people like that don’t want to stick around-and its those policies that are usually being criticized here.

    However, its a big mistake to assume that posting at a blog is anything remotely political. As David says, a blog is just a blog. It records things, but that’s it, then its gone. There’s no doubt that the party line has power, but that changes all the time. With a new leader, the tories have a relative unknown and face an uphill battle getting elected, and no matter how strong a party line is, getting elected is the name of the game-that means they are more receptive to outside views than normally. You can see that even at their website when they started trying to invite people to ‘post questions’.

    And there are other opportunities as well, the Green Party is attempting to form in the province, and the Acadian Party and the COR party show just how quickly new parties can gain traction in the province.

    It always comes down to legislation. A blog can push to change legislation, and there’s no doubt that David would have some ‘power’ IF he had the numbers-he doesn’t. Which is why I mentioned the podcast, because the next generation is really where new ideas can be pushed. When people start getting the right information they start asking the questions politicians don’t want them to-or simply aren’t aware of. But it takes numbers and a policy. And as the evidence is increasingly showing, people AREN”T laying down and economic development is very much on people’s minds. The question is how to turn that into public policy.

  20. Podcasts covering the music scene might get downloaded, but political or ED issues? Doubtful; I expect the downloaders would resemble very much the audience for the blog. In any event, blogs, podcasts, marches, etc are really insufficient actions since they will not IMHO apply enough pressure on GNB to change its approach to ED.

    Let’s compare a couple of organizing activities for impact on NB.

    First, we saw the reaction to Lamrock’s changes to FI. A number of demos, facebook pages, hundreds to emails to politicians, etc. It became clear to GNB fairly quickly how upset certain people were; and those people were often middle class, with money and energy to devote to causes. Votes would be lost unless GNB changed course. Who was on the other side? A few GNB technocrats, some teachers (including their union reps), a UNB prof who wanted the funds for his literacy work (he had Lamrock’s ear), and some hired gun consultants. The balance of forces was against Lamrock and he was forced to compromise.

    Lets compare the success, or partial success, of that lobbying effort with the Conservation Council. I suspect that many of the same people involved with the FI issue are supporters or members of CCNB. Yet CCNB does not have that many successes. Why not? After all, they get press, they have internet sites, etc. Again, because on the big important issues the balance of forces is against them. How can that be changed? GNB needs to be convinced that significant votes will be lost if they do not meet some of CCNBs concerns. CCNB has not been able to do that, because the opposing forces can show that they control jobs and votes. It is not a conspiracy within GNB to do X or Y; it is GNBs reaction to pressure placed upon them. That pressure is entirely legitimate, IMHO. What is needed is some pressure pushing in the opposite direction.

    That pressure needs to come from more than political organizations or movements; it needs to come from organizations that control jobs or votes. If NB was growing rapidly then the electorate would be more likley to support initiatives that now would be seen as too risky, i.e. things that are now portrayed as job-killers.

    So, again, the key thing is to get the NB economy jump-started. That means a realistic plan and good leadership. We’ve had those things in the past, but we don’t have them now. That is the real problem that needs to be addressed.


    Well it surprised me too see the growth and breadth of this blog!
    And it does seem to have occured since I started posting here!?
    Don’t worry,flattery doesn’t affect me any.

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