Yvon Godin

I had never met NDP stalward Yvon Godin until Saturday.  I actually had a good conversation with him about the NDP win in Nova Scotia and what it might mean for the party in New Brunswick and I asked him why the NDP gets such a bad reputation in the area of economic development.

Later, during the keynote speech, I got a partial answer to my latter question.  The presenter made a thoughtful speech on the need to re-orient our economic development and put business back in the centre as opposed to the current model where government is at the centre.  This is a theme that I have been exploring recently so, for me, it was timely.

The message was clear.  We need to have strong government support for economic development but ultimately it is about businesses having the confidence to invest in New Brunswick.

The speech was greeted with great enthusiasm until Godin got up and took the mic.   He launched into what I am told is his canned “woe is me” speech and mistook the speaker’s comments to mean that government had no role to play. 

I won’t go into all the details of Godin’s comments but suffice it to say he has built a political empire exacerbating North/South tension, pitting government against business and playing the fear card.  That, of course, is an opinion based on his five minute diatribe but those around my table confirmed this suspicion.

There are many thoughtful and smart people such as the head of the Conseil Economique and the head of the Association of Francophone Municipalities in New Brunswick that are seriously looking at models to rejuvinate the Northern NB economy – with industry as the backbone of the recovery and government playing its vital role as enabler, facilitator and supporter.  I fear that Godin and this attitude is a major barrier to the region’s growth even though I understand where he is coming from.

21 thoughts on “Yvon Godin

  1. The NDP is a WORKER run party, not a business run party. There are already TWO ‘business centred’ party’s, and look at where they have us. The ‘diatribe’ is simply calling it as it is. As is often the case its a question of semantics. Would you SERIOUSLY say that New Brunswick is ‘government centred’ when you look at what concessions industry constantly gets? Irving gets 10 million or it will move its pulp mill, gets a tax deal that has it pay one eighth what similar facilities pay. CIT is dropped to the lowest it has ever been since the 1800’s. Atcon is getting ‘bailed out’, the financial markets had Lord back off public insurance. I could go on and on, but are you SERIOUSLY saying that all this is because ‘business is government centred?’

    The mining regulations are almost non existent, a new refinery is being built with virtually NO environmental tests. IF it were true that ‘the government was the centre’ then of course we’d have massive bureaucracies built up around ALL those industries. Imagine how many bureaucrats would be involved in an EIA of a new refinery.

    So its VERY true that NDP is NOT interested as governments role simply as “enabler, facilitator and supporter”-why WOULD it? That simply means the status quo-corporations make the profits and government bails them out. Government represents ALL the population, business DOESN”T. So the NDP (I think) is quite correct-it is the role of BUSINESS to be the ‘enabler and supporter’ of government’. Businesses serve one or two purposes, either they do what capitalism was designed to do, and service the public good, or they simply enrich the people who own them. If anything the NDP has shown that they are RIGHT in their approach. That is the message that resonated in Nova Scotia, especially amongst youth, and that is the message that will resonate amongst NBers, particularly youth. Again, thats not ‘anti business’, but it is ‘anti corporate’-depending on the corporate model.

  2. It’s funny how you like to tart up negativity and defeatism as fighting for the rights of the people. Godin wasn’t fighting for the people on Saturday night. He was pouring gas on the fire of north south resentment, business government tension, etc. That message is not one of hope, optimism and the future. I suspect that Daryl Dexter will have a far different message in Nova Scotia – at least I hope so.

  3. The ex-mayor of Miramichi and former Liberal MLA, was on the radio this morning saying that the reason people are against the Atcon bailout is due to the South being anti-North.

    I don’t think people making hay of the North v. South debate is limited to the NDP. We can’t have a serious debate about the merits of a massive government loan guarantee without being accused of regionalism. Apparently if you’re against the guarantee, you’re against jobs for the Miramichi region.

  4. “The NDP is a WORKER run party, not a business run party.”

    I think it is a politician-run party. Is there any evidence that the party speaks for the ‘workers’, as opposed to speaking to the workers (i.e. we, the ndp, know what you, the worker, need)?

    The victory by the NDP in NS had more to due with the province being ready for the NDP than it had to do with the workers rising up. That’s for a combination of reasons, but the policy differences between the NS NDP and the Libs and Tories just aren’t that great. The party that should have been ready to replace the Tories (the Libs) fell on their sword, opening the way for the NDP. The NDP made that possible by running a centrist campaign. That’s the lesson for the NB NDP.

    Rob is correct that regionalism is a common political tactic here in NB. We need to find a way to get over that.

  5. It’s not a north-south thing as much as it is enclaves of support for this stuff. I know it was an issue for Angela Vautour in the southeastern riding of Beausejour during the ’97 election (and after). Now that she is gone, it is Dominic’s message (along with the hope that some government units relocated will get ppl off seasonal work).

    But that is more a Liberal tactic used first when his dad was under Trudeau. We haven’t really changed our mindset, or tried a new path, since then. which is why we see similar results.

  6. David,
    Yvon Godin works for Yvon Godin’s constituents and no one else. He is a miserable person that never has anything good to add when it comes to policy. He is perfect in his role and does not want anyone else that is associated with his party (in this province) to be successful. The NB-NDP will have to distance themseleves from the unionist approach if they want to be successful. As far as the new government in NS, they can prove to us here in NB whether or not it would be realistic to win. The NDP here went from a leader (Brewer) that couldn’t speak a lick of French to now a leader that has a difficult time forming a sentence in English. They need to take advantage of our dismal situation here in NB and generate some interest in joining the party. Then they can think of getting some decent candidates to run. And try to run a full slate of candidates at least. There are many ridings where there are either really weak candidates (Carmel Robichaud, Rick Miles, Bernard LeBlanc) or no incumbents (Jeannot Volpe and Roly MacIntyre’s ridings) and they should take advantage of these.

  7. David, relax. Every day you post a blog about government ….whatever, do commentors berail you for being so damn negative, for being defeatist? Come on. As the other commentor above noted, the north south debate is hardly exclusive to the NDP. We readers are at a disadvantage, we weren’t there, but let’s look at reality. The ‘business as usual’ model has got us to a point where there at least MAY be catastrophic repercussions that at least COULD end life on the planet, and at the very least is already causing wars and relocations based on scarce resources.
    We have governments enshrining ‘corporate rights’ while attacking human rights. In Canada, we are VERY complicit in the outright murder and oppression of numerous indiginous peoples around the world as well as responsible for third world conditions here in one of the wealthiest and least populated countries of the world.
    I’m of course just getting started, this is an economic development blog so I don’t usually talk like that, but the NDP DOES, at least to an extent. My point is, there ARE people out there who are fearful, and who know that when government is NOT ‘pitted against industry’ (as they clearly are not in the Irving case, and look how that unfolds) then its the people and the environment that lose. So again, keep in mind this guy is one of the most successful politicians in New Brunswick-ever. He is speaking for a constituency. Now, some people who AREN”T from that constituency may not like it, but thats politics. That’s kind of a fascist strain that says “I don’t like what you’re saying, why don’t you say what I want you to”.
    Its’ true that the NDP in Nova Scotia isn’t exactly Tommy Douglas, but keep in mind that its also the case like in most canadian governments that more people voted against them than voted for them. In other words, we really don’t know how much MORE popular they would be if they were even more populist. Everybody is going to have a pet theory about ‘why’ voters voted certain ways, the reality is we have no way of knowing. It’s a dangerous assumption to state that their policies ‘aren’t that different’, because that means that people are voting for reasons other than policy, which isn’t often the case. Is he better looking? Is he a super hero? If their policies weren’t much different, why would more people vote for them? Their policies ARE at their website, and they are at least nominally different.
    But I’d disagree about the NDP, if you look at who runs for NDP nominees they are very rarely ‘professional politicians’, unlike the other two parties. The two main parties are well known for candidates who bounce around from political position to political position, and some of those geezers in Fredericton have been there for decades. The NDP is also far more grassroots, the individual members have far more power than in other parties, no doubt because they rarely HOLD power. When I say ‘worker run’ that definitely means ‘union’, for better and worse. It’s there in all their policies, but when you look at the liberals, it clearly NOT politicians running things, at least not in economic development.

    And again, Yvon Gaudin doesn’t necessarily speak for every NDPer, the reality is that if you are ‘pro union’ then you have a vested interest in the success of the corporation that employs that union. I remember the blog during the last federal election where virtually the ONLY politician who was echoing most of the themes of this blog was a St. John NDPer.

  8. mikel said: “Would you SERIOUSLY say that New Brunswick is ‘government centred’ when you look at what concessions industry constantly gets?’

    We’ve been through this a million times. if NB was truly a conservative mecca for business it would have more faith in the market and competition. Picking he same ‘winners’ has less to do with being industry/market/private sector friendly and more to do with being friendly to economic provincialism (provincial version of Economic Nationalism practiced by Trudeau in the 70s and 80s). A practice that needs to be curbed (over time) if the province wants to truly expand its private sector (and not really on the government for economic growth).

  9. “if NB was truly a conservative mecca for business it would have more faith in the market and competition”

    Perhaps you could explain what that would mean in policy terms. Canadian conservatives have, historically, had only limited faith in the ‘market’. Perhaps you mean neo-liberals or, as is said these days, neo-conservatives. In any event, what policies would you enact to put these desires into place? What other regions have done more in that regard?

  10. “It’s a dangerous assumption to state that their policies ‘aren’t that different’”

    But its true – they aren’t that different, at least their campaign promises were decidedly mainstream. The NS NDP was smart enough to realize that the Cons were unpopular and unlikely to be re-elected. The NDP had a genial, non-threatening leader and a mainstream platform. If the NB NDP presents itself as a union party or a workers party, it will never gain ground, not in this province. Most of the time, change has to be incremental.

  11. I didn’t say it was a conservative mecca, conservatism has numerous strains, theres a reason why until recently they were called PROGRESSIVE conservatives. It wasn’t liberals who had populist policies closely aligned to the progressive movement. Socially New Brunswick IS a conservative mecca, again, take a look at abortion policies that are downright draconian, and women’s groups in NB have a heck of a time in the medical field. You can’t even get the morning after pill from most doctors in NB. Here in Ontario, you don’t even HEAR about abortion as an issue, in NB hardly four months go by without it being in the news again.
    Fiscally, we don’t know what ‘conservatism’ means anymore. In NS the NDP have one of their main policy aims being “living within our means” which is a very unusual stance for the NDP to state up front, and shows just how conservative the maritimes are.
    Governments really don’t care about ‘markets’ and ‘competition’, why would they? They aren’t economists. I said New Brunswick, like most of Canada, is business run, simple as that. The evidence for that is simply overwhelming, and in NB its even moreso the case as there are no political parties representing any other interests-which is why the NDP is so necessary. The Atcon example is a good one, both parties want to bail out the company, the tories just want them to sell their jet so its easier to sell NBers on the plan.
    I don’t know what ‘economic provincialism’ means, the fact is that an Indian multinational got a great deal, Molson got a great deal, Atcon may get a great deal, Atlantic Yarns (subsidiary of an ontario company), and Irving almost always gets great deals. The Fraser institute says mining regulations are better for industry in NB than in even most third world countries. If that isn’t ‘business friendly’ I don’t know what is. The problem we’ve recounted before is that the large players currently controlling the government don’t want OTHER industry players involved in their sectors. That’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that Dewey was correct in stating that ‘government is the shadow that big business casts over society’, particularly in New Brunswick.

  12. The NDP victory in NS could be a great opportunity for NB ED. Let’s make sure companies like Michelin know they have a friendly, welcoming neighbour if it becomes difficut for them to do business in NS.

  13. First of all fellas, there is a lot being thrown around in here about government as an intervener into business. But what concerns me is the lack of probity on the issue. First of all, when you engage further into this type of policy approach (which seems to be the theme in here), you should know that you put our province at a disadvantage right away, in that, smaller provinces with the most to gain are always the one that are put at the bottom of the list politically. In other words, we end up being the province with the most to lose from a failed negotiation with the feds on ED because we still only have a large number of inefficient industries concentrated in a clear and vast area of declining comparative advantage (over use of subsidies to compete).

    So to get back to your question Richard, I guess it would be in our best interest to find a way to strengthen our provincial position (Or regional since the three provinces are small) so that we are not always negotiating with the feds from the position of demandeur, or better yet, cap in hand.

  14. “strengthen our provincial position”

    Consequent to our small population, we currently have limited electoral leverage in Ottawa, so I think that there are only a few ways that this strengthening could be achieved: 1) much more collaboration/cooperation on ED amongst the 3 Maritime provinces 2) a transparent strategy that has a long-term focus on a few sectors (those most likely to generate high-income jobs). If at least (2) was in place then perhaps Ottawa could be brought on board.

    I have no problem with subsidies or other measures being taken to achieve (2); after all, its worked for everyone else. In order to prepare the ground for (2), the alternatives (such as, do nothing, just lower taxes) being emitted by the AIMS Klowns and their followers need to be countered by historical data at every instance.

    As to the government being an ‘intervener’ in business – when has it never been? That is a global constant. Government, to a large degree, is a creature of business. The danger comes not from ‘intervention’ but from governments that abandon common-sense and good social/fiscal policy in favor of religious-like beliefs in ‘free’ markets or the opposite extreme.

    “large number of inefficient industries”

    Industries here are no more inefficient than they are elsewhere in NA. We have industries that are seasonal in nature, but that does not make them inherently inefficient – justs makes them unreliable as employers.
    Whats needed are high-income industries, ‘efficient’ or not.

  15. The danger comes not from ‘intervention’ but from governments that abandon common-sense and good social/fiscal policy in favor of religious-like beliefs in ‘free’ markets or the opposite extreme.,/i>

    I would think it to be the opposite, in that, scarce government funding should be directed entirely to assisting workers and communities [much needed infrastructure], rather than dumping more money into firms who can’t make a go of it on the free market or ones that do (who probably could compete without it).

    Plus, such intervention (as it has done in all regions) acts as a wedge in our ultimate achievement of national unity. In the case of NEP (prohibiting such a thing to happen again) and the free trade negotiations, standing down on subsidies was looked at as a way to find common ground, not the other away around.

  16. ” than dumping more money into firms who can’t make a go of it on the free market ”

    There is no free market, as exporters facing the Buy American provisions are now finding. Your belief that the free market exists is one of those religious-like beliefs I was referring to. Subsidies (in the form of grants, tax policies, and directed infrastructure projects) have indeed been used to good effect in stimulating various industries in different part of this country. When some of those companies succeed, its put down to them being good competitors; when they fail, its put down to the horrors of subsidy. I think we should stop being religious and just do what has been shown to work.

    NAFTA and other trade agreements, BTW, allow for plenty of subsidy programs; they just don’t call them subsidies. You get a subsidy, I get an infrastructure grant or ‘buy local’ support.

  17. You’re right on one thing, it lies somewhere in the middle between free market economist and economic nationalist. Hey, I don’t agree with Mel Hertig either nor do I think that Simon Reismon and Tom D’Aquino had all the answers, but to brush either side off as fanatics is just plain silly.

    They’re both just pulling with and against gravity. take your pick on which one you think is the latter.

  18. On Richard’s point its worth noting that Canada is the ONLY G20 country that doesn’t have an internal procurement policy that favours its own producers. Currently our military is buying jeeps being built in Texas. This got some airplay when unions brought it to lights, stating that IF Canada had the same procurement policies as the US, then there would be little need of the auto bailout-those workers would have more than enough work building military vehicles. It was interesting to note that the ‘free trade’ issue had become so ingrained, that many comments on the issue couldn’t even differentiate between a local procurement policy and a ‘trade barrier’. It IS a trade barrier, but one that every nation and region has so ingrained they wouldn’t even consider putting it on the trading block. There is more than ONE of these issues where Canada is literally designed just to empty out resources with no thought going to who owns them.

    NAFTA is garbage, that’s been long known since it was signed. The fact that NB can start selling government beer and nobody minds is evidence enough of the ‘strength’ of ‘free trade’. The eternal problem with Richard’s scenario, which always consterns critics, is how to decide who gets subsidies and in what form. Again, in most of europe they have found that good corporate tax policy combined with excellent educational facilities has meant that direct payouts to companies isn’t necessary or even desirable. The fact is, New Brunswick seriously underfunds education, and virtually every R&D INDUSTRY is seriously lacking in the province. There is almost NO focus on science, and most of the new industries are science based.

  19. “to brush either side off as fanatics is just plain silly”

    That’s why data are the key. You either have data to support your beliefs or you do not. There are, seems to me, no good data cases to support the idea that ‘coporate welfare’ is inherently bad (in terms of economic outcomes) or that broad-based tax cuts are inherently good. Given that, someone needs to explain why the tax cut approach gets so much play, and why it is held so fervently as the solution. Sounds like religious mania to me. Is it a good idea to base social and fiscal policies on religious belief? It doesn’t matter what D’Aquino or Crowley say; the question is : do they have the data to back up their beliefs? The answer apparently is no. So why listen to them?

  20. The reason it gets so much airplay is because its just so simple, and it plays into people’s distrust of government. Economics is extremely complex, hell, NB media virtually NEVER broaches into economics, preferring to keep things as dumb as possible. Ever notice that Irving media, until recently, didn’t even have a science or technology section. The above question though can’t even be answered because of semantics. Who can define ‘corporate welfare’? Is it direct handouts? Is it training? Tax credits? If NB has no environmental impact assessment of the new refinery, isn’t that a ‘gift’? Irving doesn’t have to spend all that money doing studies.

    And of course there are the economic externals. Aren’t the streets and roads ‘corporate welfare’ for companies? What about public education, what about landfills? What about protecting an industry from international competition like telecommunications, finance or insurance? That’s the BEST corporate welfare, just look at how well those companies are doing in Canada.

    Determining whether they are ‘bad’ is even harder. I don’t quite agree with Richard, I think that its fairly clear that IF you give handouts to company x, its unfair to company y in the same industry. It also serves to limit competition, because nobody feels its worthwhile to get into industry x because they know company x gets all the handouts it needs. That brings us back to the case of New Brusnwick, where there are limited firms dominating industries, and by economic theory that means higher costs for consumers. That is borne out in reality, canadians pay higher costs for food because of the monopoly on food distribution. Canadians have some of the most restrictive telecom contracts in the world with the highest prices.

    Those are all ‘government effects’ on industry, so it can be seen where ‘they are bad’. But it all depends how you use the terms, what data you look at, and which outcomes are used.

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