Winnie the Pooh and Economic Development

I remember when I first became a dad, one of the shocking things is that your mind gets filled with kiddie stuff – Barney, Teletubbies, etc.   You find yourself listening to kids music and watching kids movies and TV.  You constantly talk babytalk.   And this can spill over into your professional life.  I remember one time sitting in a meeting with a dozen or so business executives and humming Barney out loud.

Anyway, my column today uses Winnie the Pooh as its main character.   The fusion of my professional preoccupation and the inevitability of the consequences of having three kids (although my youngest is now nine).

I like the visual of Winnie the Pooh sitting down on his butt, tapping his head and saying “think, think, think”.  He realizes if he is t figure out the problem he has to not rush to judgement or go by his gut. He has to think about it for a while and then he will get a better frame of reference to make a decision.

I know it is self-serving because I am in the “thinking about economic development” game but I still think we could use a little more in this province.

7 thoughts on “Winnie the Pooh and Economic Development

  1. Your call for a New Brunswick think tank is perceptive. We need to counter some of the many trends that, if left unchallenged, become conventional thinking. One of these has to do with equalization, which is not a Canadian peculiarity gone wrong, but a feature of modern federations, the US being the exception that proves the rule. Unitary states have automatic equalization in their funding of basic services. Most federations stop short of actual equalization, but do have some levelling mechanism to avoid severe disparities and the dis-economies they produce.
    The development of a think tank function has some firm roots in U de M’s Institute for Research on Public Policy, Mt. A’s Rural and Small Town Institute and UNB’s economic and education policy centres. A trend toward focussing the thinking from various centres is developing, beginning with the Next NB/Avenir N-B exercise, the founding of the New Brunswick Business Council, 21inc. and the first-ever Ideas Conference, and a nascent Social Policy Research Institute that will draw together researchers from university and government circles. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the self-sufficiency concept is born of the realization that our country is changing and the past willingness to be mutually supportive is on the decline.

  2. re your column. I agree that a think tank of some sort is required. But a lot of care needs to be exercised – it would have to have rigorous analytical discipline and a high degree of real scholarship. That’s because many of the disciplines involved in ED are soft sciences. Over the past couple of decades these disciplines (economics, sociology, polysci, etc) have failed to retain the analytical rigor they once had. There is little point, in my view, having low standards such as that exhibited by AIMS, Frontier, etc. There needs to be a high standard of excellence with a firm committment to the use of the scientific method in study design and analysis. The think tank or foundation should be affiliated with one or more unis, but with a BOG drawn from a number of communities.

    A lot of thought would have to go into just what sort of mandate and what areas the organization would cover. It could not be too broad; perhaps there should be a few of such organizations with different mandates. Finally, projects should have reports that have some practical and implementable recommendations. The Finn Report, whether one agrees with its conclusions or not, had some well-detailed recommendations right down to the municipal funding level. That gives you something to both inform people and provide fodder for discussion.

    Just as importantly, a think tank needs to have a communications group – one that can produce readable and accurate synopses of analytical reports and deliver them to the hard copy press and internet-based media.

  3. I was particularly interested in his source material. He was taking his analysis from the Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy which has emerged as an influential national think-tank with a decidedly western Canadian bias.

    One of my buds works at the centre focusing on aboriginal policy. He would say it’s more a think tank based on libertarian and conservative principles. Principles that are growing in Ontario and Western Canada, not so much in Quebec and statist NB, PEI and NS.

  4. David, in large part royal commissions have gotten us to the high points of our society as evolved. This both nationally and provincially. Whether for northern economic development, the level of social programs really needed or whatever balance we need in government the fact is that royal commissions have been greatly underutilized in the last 40 years here in NB and in Canada for the last 25.

  5. Maybe it is time to have some type of royal commission. I haven’t thought about it but it might be time. I agree with Richard about the Finn Report. It was a rigorous piece of work on an issue that no government has wanted to touch in 40 years. As for my old friend Samonymou – I don’t have a problem with conservative principles. I lean that direction myself on many issues. But I do not like this creeping idea that all government is bad. Good government, I believe, is a fundamental reason why Canada has become one of the world’s great democracies. If we take the position that government is inherently bad or untrustworthy, we (the public) are undercutting our own future. We need government.

    It’s so easy these days to tear down and so hard to build up. Read some of the threads on CBC or Canadaeast news stories sometime (and the occasional one here). And those threads tend to be tame compared to the New York Times which I read on a daily basis. For every comment meant to be constructive (for or against an issue) there are 30 or 40 negative rants. People find it cathartic to just crap all over people and ideas and then walk away. That will never solve things. It is likely to make things worse.

  6. Canada is definitely NOT one of the ‘worlds great democracies’, in fact over the past decade Canada in much of the international press has been compared to Italy as an example of a deeply dysfunctional government. Recent proroguing has only made this even worse.

    Canada IS an ‘industrial’ nation, and for much of the population its a pretty nice place to live, but really, relative to the size and resources in such a vast country with so few population centers, Canada is no beacon. Poverty is on the increase, public services are crumbling, health care systems are on life support. While things are not all bad, people should not think that makes them ‘good’.

    As for scholarship, there is LOTS of good scholarship out there, and TONS of good studies. For awhile I ran a blog basically just posting government data that just doesn’t get into the press but it was just too much work for such little reaction.

    The problem is not that the research isn’t out there, its that it simply isn’t part of the ‘culture’. That’s PARTLY media’s fault, but when you see 2000 posts to a story about a guy thrown out of Tim Hortons versus at most 200 about NBPower, you know where people’s mind is.

    And again, that’s the fault of our society. People have no political power, what little power they DO have, is simply the power to protest, the power to say ‘no’, and so thats the only way we see political action get represented.

    So again, don’t want to be critical but that’s why its unfortunate that even here there was really no concern that the government suddenly decided to sell a public utility. That makes it sound as if the folks HERE simply want somebody else to do their dirty work for them, and want a think tank that says what THEY think. Even though, again, after years reading this I can’t for the life of me think of what policies any of you people WANT. So to complain about people ‘being negative’, again, isn’t that what this blog is about?

    Don’t want to turn this into another thread about NBPower, but selling off a public utility is pretty strong ‘tearing down’, and dumping a public utility, well, you don’t get much more libertarian than that.

    But keep in mind that lots of ‘libertarian’ ideologies are simply gripes about bad government, and those are the same complaints that most people make. Not sure what kind of ‘libertarian’ themes are growing here in Ontario, I’d say just the opposite, but I”m not sure what the commenter is pertaining to. Certainly most think tanks have pretty strong biases, however, bias doesn’t necessary mean ‘bad science’.

    So again, I’m not sure how to ‘get the stuff out there’, particularly if people aren’t interested in reading it. And looking at the political system in NB, the question is, why WOULD anybody be interested in public policy, since there is no way to get government to pay attention to it, and since politician’s simply lie through their teeth to get elected. This is a political problem, not an economic one.

    However, I’ll again repeat what I think, which is that if you guys would actually step up and do some lobbying, THEN you may see some action. About ten years ago when AIMS was just starting the Atlantica push, I did a ‘study’ focused on one of THEIR studies, which was basically a lengthy rebuttal. I did some schooling, so I know how to do research and statistics, and this was pretty good if I say so myself-and I have ZERO credentials. Of course at the time there WAS a group opposing AIMS, culminating in the Atlantica Protest which, I seem to recall, this blog was pretty critical of, even though most of their concerns have since turned out to be validated.

    So again, even have a central website done like Canadaeast but with a different focus than the slow pitch, down home garbage so often evident at the Irving website, and perhaps you’d see some progress. Its pretty cheap to do, and you’ll notice most of Irving’s website seldom has new content. Combine that with some of the youthful content HERE USED to have, and you may be surprised. But it DOES take a little work….heck, like I said, do a Youtube news show and it would probably get attention.

  7. Agreed that we need to do a lot of thinking about where we are here in NB, our business culture, our advantages, strategies etc. But don’t you know our think tanks are all provided for us by the Empire. The only wisdom we need is daily delivered to us by the imperial press. Anything else is frowned upon or worse ignored by the Family.
    In a patriarchy such as ours consulting with the peasants is a waste of time. Theirs is not to reason why. Theirs is but to do and die. Regards, Fort Defiance.

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