Atlantic cooperation unlikely

My old friend Peter Lindfield lays down some options for streamlining government service delivery in his column today ranging from program redesign to Atlantic cooperation to outsourcing. 

I am not particularly knowledgeable about two of the three but I do know that Atlantic cooperation is highly unlikely.  He mentions Atlantic Lottery.  A couple of years ago a senior person in Atlantic Lottery told me that there is still resentment in Nova Scotia over putting the head office in Moncton – two decades later.  Imagine if we started consolidating health care back office functions or – heaven forbid – electricity utilities.

My theory on this – espoused before – is that in an area like Atlantic Canada where there has been limited economic activity, this kind of rationalization would come down to economics.  New Brunswick would fully support health care back office consolidation across Atlantic Canada – if those jobs were put in New Brunswick.    PEI would fully support a single regional electricity utility – if it was based in Charlottetown.

If you don’t believe me think about the consolidation of blood supply services into Halifax recently.  That is still a massive issue in this province with weeks of lobbying and thousand of pages of briefs.  I don’t have a position on that because I don’t know the full extent of the issues but it is an excellent example of one city losing to another in Atlantic Canada (in the minds of the players) and it has been acrimonious.

Beggar thy neighbour has been the policy for decades and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  Most of us would rather everybody gets cut 10% across the board than I get cut 30% and the other guy gets an increase – even if it is a far better outcome system wide.

6 thoughts on “Atlantic cooperation unlikely

  1. With strong competitive forces even within each Atlantic province to attract, grow, or simply hold on to economic assets, it is not surprising there is no real incentive (political or otherwise) to support concrete steps towards some level of regional integration of such resources.

    Until there are few other options, as in a scenario where the Feds drastically cut transfer payments to our region’s coffers and force the hand of our leaders, cooperation will largely remain off the table.

  2. It’s true that without strong incentives for regional cooperation, the likelihood of integrated services across the Maritime or Atlantic provinces are lower. However, Atlantic Lottery was founded in 1976 and while resentment remains, there is nonetheless recognition that a collection of Atlantic provincial lottery agencies would be irrelevant in the global marketplace. Instead, ALC is a genuine player and today actively seeking M&A targets. It provides more employment and better jobs than the provinces could separately.

    But some of the opportunities that are emerging combine current assets and resources with new investments, in health care, environmental technologies and energy, for example. No-one’s ox needs to be gored and fewer sacrifices need to be made. The confidence-building measures could cascade to existing programs over time.

    Ottawa grows more impatient each day that, in the Maritimes (they tend to speak less of “Atlantic” Canada now that Newfoundland is flush with oil wealth) we can’t compromise even a little to improve our economic prospects. Their response will be very soon that they will “help us along” with incentives of their own.

  3. The same thing goes for the airports in the Maritimes. Halifax and Moncton should be the one and only hubs. If more passengers would consolidate their flying from Charlottetown, Fredericton, Bathurst, and Saint John into Moncton, Moncton would be able to attract even more direct and sun destinations to the benefit of all.

  4. “in the Maritimes …. we can’t compromise even a little to improve our economic prospects.”

    This is a crtical point, I believe, that speaks not only to the lack of cooperation within the region, but to (at least in NB) a failure to do what needs to be done to improve the economic performance of the province. It is not just in-fighting, but a failure to look at the real problems we have and address them in a meaningful way. Our heads are in the sand; if we do not start to get serious soon then the ‘solutions’ forced on us by Ottawa might cause a great deal of pain for those least able to handle it.

  5. Well yes – but I’ve been listening to the Canadian Blood Services staff on the radio, and they insist on saying Dartmouth is closer to some parts of New Brunwsick than Moncton or Saint John.

    Yes, there will be resentment, but part of the current plaint is the Blood Service’s failure to grasp geography.

  6. Not all services should be the subject for regional harmonization. The arguments to regionalize the Canadian Blood Services agency are ambitiously disingenuous at best. New Brunswickers simply will not be served as well under the Dartmouth model. Similarly, does anyone really believe that creating a national securities regulator with a regional office in Halifax will be a productive and effective substitute for the current provincial system under the Passport model?

    But none of this should obscure the fact that there are new assets and new investments that are being distributed across the Maritimes in health care, administration and technology management for example, where there is less history of protectionism and possessiveness and where the new institutional arrangements involving integration should be examined and pursued.

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