Enlisting the young in the fight against lethargy and stagnation

From Dan Martell’s CrunchtimeNB initiative to Lisa Hrabluk’s Wicked Ideas (as in, she tells me, wicked smart), there has been a lot of focus on getting out the youth vote in this election.  I love it.  The more NBers engaged in the political process the better.

But I would like to see it go one step further.  I’d like to see young NBers get engaged and push politicians towards smarter economic policies.

It’s easy to get young people worked up over social, environmental and rights issues but economic issues not so much.  In fact, I would suggest in general younger people are even more suspicious of markets and profit and wealth than the older generation (hunch, not data driven).

That suspicion is not a bad thing.  Suspicion is one of the ways we can restrain some of the excesses of the capitalistic system.

But, in the specific case of New Brunswick, we need people to think about how economies grow and reward the political class for moving in that direction.

For example, young people are smart.  They can connect the dots.

They know that more than ever the products and services they consume are produced elsewhere – think Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Samsung, Apple, etc. so it should not be a leap to convince them New Brunswick has to be more focused on integrating into this global economy.  For New Brunswick to be successful we need firms that are selling into the global market.

If a young person is saving for the future (RRSPs, pension, etc.) it wouldn’t take long for them to realize that virtually all of their savings have been invested anywhere but New Brunswick.  Young public servants can look at where their pension is being invested if they want the most vivid example of this.

The logic that we need to be attracting our share of investment from outside, then, shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.  This investment can come by way of investment into existing NB firms or from firms that are based outside NB investing here.

Young people can understand the basic demographic reality facing this province.  If we don’t dramatically increase the younger population we will destabilize the ability of government to generate enough taxes to pay for public services and infrastructure.

Young people are more jazzed up by ‘localism’ and so they should be but that is not inconsistent with a globalized NB.  In fact, the two are highly symbiotic.  If we have a strong core traded economy (export-based to offset the massive imports), that allows us more wiggle room to pursue a local food strategy, local arts and culture development, etc.  The stuff that binds us together as local communities requires us to get the global issues (the traded economy part) right.

So, do I expect young people to demonstrate outside the legislature with placards reading “We want more multinationals to invest here now!”?  No.  That would be too far even by my standards (although the campaign to attract Walmart to the Miramichi was an interesting aberration all those years ago).

But I would like them to push their politicians on immigration, on urban development, and, yes, on natural resources development.  Again, it is somewhat of a cliché that young=anti-natural resources development.  But they see their peers leaving to work in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  They read the stories.  They see the Facebook posts.  The dots are there to connect.

In the end it is a matter of basic ‘physics’ that older NBers are starting to think about retirement and the great blue yonder.  It is the young ‘uns – with their entire lives still ahead of them – that have the most to lose if we don’t get this right.

They need to step up.