Is it a whole new ball game for N.B.?

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When a government seeks a home run in the early innings of its time at bat, it helps to have a couple of heavy hitters warming up in the dugout.

Last week, New Brunswick’s Grit Premier Brian Gallant announced his appointments of three all-stars in the field of economic and business development to help shepherd the province’s new Jobs Board secretariat.

According to the premier, Jacques Pinet (as the group’s new chief executive officer), Susan Holt (as the new chief of business relationships) and David Campbell (as the new chief economist of New Brunswick) “will work to set the conditions for growth so that we can help our province’s businesses and entrepreneurs create jobs which will, in turn, help improve our finances. . .These individuals each join government with a strong and diverse background in the private sector.”

For their part, the individuals in question appear as fired up about their new positions and the promise of making a difference as do their bosses Gallant and Economic Development Minister Rick Doucet, who jointly chair the Jobs Board.

“The time is right to change the way we approach economic development and job creation in New Brunswick,” said Pinet, a Moncton lawyer and former senior executive of Assumption Life. “It is clear the status quo is not working. Jobs Board represents a fresh opportunity to re-invigorate our economy. I am honoured to be part of these efforts.”

Added Holt, the former chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Business Council, “New Brunswick has a history of entrepreneurship and innovation. I am looking forward to working with our business community to unleash their ideas and establish the kind of environment that will lead to job creation and prosperity in today’s economy.”

In fact, said Campbell, an economic development consultant and researcher, “Together, Opportunities NB and Jobs Board will help the government better co-ordinate and evaluate job creation efforts. Diversifying the economy, developing the workforce and making strategic investments in infrastructure are all examples of the way we can work towards the common goal of job creation.”

To say that these folks have their work cut out for them vastly understates the case.

The province’s fiscal morass of rolling annual deficits amounting to hundreds-of-millions of dollars a year on a longterm, structural debt of some $2 billion reflects an even more worrying combination of conditions that have, for years, conspired to undermine economic capacity in the province.

The labour force is dwindling, strategic infrastructure for business development is only just keeping pace with the rest of the developed world, and innovation, commercialization and productivity rates haven’t budged convincingly since the turn of the century.

As the national unemployment rate continues to drop (to 6.6 per cent last month), New Brunswick’s remains stuck in the 10 per cent range (though, this is likely the most optimistic number a statistician will average, as the actual, seasonally adjusted, rate in many parts of the province is closer to 18 per cent, especially among young, employable people).

I know Pinet only by reputation. I know Holt only slightly better. But I’ve been a friend and colleague of Campbell’s for years and he is – as is I imagine each of his new colleagues – the right person for the right job at the right time.

He is certainly correct when he writes, as he did recently, on his blog, “If we don’t find a way to get the province’s economy back to at least a moderate level of economic growth no amount of fiscal austerity will be enough to bring balance to the province’s books.”

That sounds like a cue if there ever was one.

Dear Messrs. Campbell and Pinet – dear Ms. Holt – your time at bat is drawing near. Let’s see how you hit it out of the park.

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