Monthly Archives: July 2015

Hoisted by their own petard


There was never anything essentially wise – beyond the obviously political considerations – about the Government of Canada’s white-knuckled determination to balance its budget come hell or Armageddon.

In their quietest moments even the fiscal hawks among us must admit that into all lives, some red ink must fall. Individuals, banks, commercial enterprises and, yes, even governments do, from time to time, deficit-finance their way to durable prosperity. That’s simply because the coincidence of opportunity and solvency is not always – in fact, never – perfect.

Knowing this, then, we ought not become the saps that campaigners on the hustings seem to think we are when they point to their debt-defying antics as proof of their unimpeachable sagacity.

Of course, the Harper government isn’t the first in this country to claim that it, and only it, has the best interests of the average tax payer at heart when it refuses to consider any alternative to a bottom line that reads: zero.

The problem is this ambition just doesn’t appear sensible, or even achievable, at the moment.

“Rotten Luck”, thy name is Torytown.

Oil prices are slumping more deeply than anyone expected. The economic revival in the United States is losing steam. The tragi-comedy that is the Grecian formula for European recession unfolds even as a downturn in our Greater Canuckistan’s resource-fired economy conjures the dreaded “R-word” here.

Now, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Jean-Denis Frechette, says all of this is becoming a lethal cocktail for Conservatives.

According to a CBC report last week, “The government had projected a slim, $1.4-billion surplus for 2015 in its budget, which was presented last April.

The PBO estimates a budget outlook updated with the lower GDP numbers alone would show a $1.5-billion deficit at the end of this year and a $0.1 billion, or $100 million, deficit in 2016-17. Canada would be back at a $1.5 billion surplus in 2017-18, according to the PBO projection.

Added the public broadcaster: “But that’s not the whole picture. Weak GDP growth, the budget office says, would be partially offset by higher inflation and lower interest rates. Once those are taken into account, the projected deficit is $1 billion this year, with a small surplus of $0.6 billion, or $600 million, in 2016-17, and $2.2 billion in 2017-18.”

In fact, writing in the Globe and Mail earlier this year, Jim Stanford, an economist with Unifor, had this to say:

“From the outset, the battle to slay the deficit was all about political optics, not economics. Canada’s deficits after the 2008-09 meltdown were among the smallest in the world. Our debt burden (the more important concern) is small compared to those of other countries and other periods in history. Indeed, as a share of GDP, the debt has been shrinking since 2012. So whether Ottawa has a small surplus or deficit any year is irrelevant.

“For this government, though, it’s a political imperative. Nothing will prevent the Conservatives from forecasting balance next year.”

Nothing, so far, has. Ignoring the writing on the wall has become a singular pastime in Ottawa. And no one plays the game more stubbornly than Finance Minister Joe Oliver who continued to insist – despite the rather compelling, new evidence to the contrary – that the government will better than balance the budget.

“We have looked at our numbers and we are very comfortable that we will have a surplus this year,” he said last week.

Such insistence, once merely economically unwise, is now becoming politically perilous to the self-described standard-bearers of wise money management.

Are certain petards about to hoist certain MPs, after all?

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The Moncton Miracle strikes again

To the surprise of precisely no one in New Brunswick’s Hub City, Moncton has scored another top finish in the race to be known perpetually as the pluckiest, little urban area in Canada.

It is, perhaps, unbecoming to dwell on one’s civic greatness, but what the heck. . .let’s do it anyway.

According to the Conference Board of Canada’s latest Metropolitan Outlook, “Moncton and Saint John are among the five fastest-growing medium-sized (municipal) economies in Canada this year. . . On the other hand, St. John’s, Newfoundland, is on track to post the slowest economic growth among the 15 cities covered in the report.”

Specifically, the analysis finds that Moncton’s real “GDP is forecast to rise by a 10-year high of 3 per cent this year, thanks to healthy gains in manufacturing and the broader services sector. In particular, the local transportation and warehousing sector, whose outlook is closely tied to that of manufacturing’s, is expected to expand at a vigorous clip. The solid economy will translate into decent job and income gains, which should encourage consumers to continue spending.”

Meanwhile, up the highway a piece, Saint John will benefit from “a recovery in manufacturing and in resources and utilities sectors.” This will push economic expansion the Port City to about 2.3 per cent this year.

In fact, manufacturing and resources and utilities will rebound thanks to a comparatively weak Canadian dollar (relative to its U.S. counterpart) as well as “stronger housing demand south of the border.”

As if to invite a chorus of “We Told You So,” St. John’s economy is forecast to tank, dragged down by plummeting oil prices and steady declines in resource investment and production.

Still, the Conference Board chirps optimistically, “things will be better than last year when total output fell by 2.3 per cent. This year, St. John’s (GDP) is forecast to grow by 0.5 per cent, as solid gains in manufacturing, in wholesale and retail trade, and in finance and real estate are offset by declines in resources and utilities and in construction.”

All of which should comprise a heady argument for steady, efficacious diversification in mid-sized metropolitan economies. This is, of course, the not-so-hidden secret of Moncton’s success over the past 25 years. Hard experience has taught this city that one-horse towns are just fine until the horse breaks a leg and has to be shot.

Instead, this greater urban area has worked assiduously to develop a broad array of economic clusters, any one of which can, and does, imbue this region of the province with business and employment opportunities without – it should be emphasized – a disproportionate degree of help from provincial and federal governments.

As a consequence, Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe’s entrepreneurial verve has placed it first over the finish line repeatedly in KPMG’s annual survey of the most likely and winsome communities for economic growth in North America.

Our urban dynamo is also, by deliberate design, one of the “smartest” cities on the continent – if we measure intelligence by the sophistication and coverage of our telecommunications and information technology infrastructure and services.

Indeed, as other communities in this province suffer from their dependence on seasonal, resource-based industries, Moncton’s economy remains buoyant year-round.

There is, perhaps, no better reason than this to expect steady, self-perpetuating success from a new, multi-purpose downtown events centre – for if any community in this province can build a solid business case for such a project, it’s this one.

And it’s with our characteristic foresight and determination that we must proceed without delay, if only to preserve our reputation for promise and pluck.

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What old Guysborough town teaches


When the mid-summer sun shines sweetly on the roads of Guysborough town, and a breeze brings news of waves breaking on the far shore of Chedabucto Bay, you know it is high season – that time of the year, after the last black fly and before the first frost, when this village of 400 at the eastern tip of mainland Nova Scotia is at its best.

Up and down the main street – which may be only as long as quick breath on lover’s lane – evidence of revival is everywhere. Bunting flies at pretty cafes and shops festooned with homemade goods and specialty fare.

There, along the boulevard, the Rare Bird Pub & Eatery jostles the Skipping Stone Cafe and Store. Not far away, the Full Steam Coffee Co. shakes hands with the Harbour Belle Bakery. Elsewhere, the Osprey Shores Golf Resort caters to those of a clubbier mindset, and the DesBarres Manor Inn provides a year-round destination for romantic foodies of every inclination.

Here was where Prince Henry Sinclair was rumoured to make landfall in 1398. Here was where peripatetic Acadians settled between 1604 and 1659. Then, in the 18th Century, came the Scots and the Irish, fresh from the Napoleonic wars.

My original forebear, a fellow by the name of James, apparently sailed from Scotland with a land grant of 100 acres, given to him as a reward for his military service in Europe. Of course, in the late 1700’s, there were no roads to speak of, let alone physicians. So, when a tree fell on the poor sap’s head, he did what most transplanted Scots of good, sturdy character did at the time: He died.

Still, the family he sired and the community he helped build persisted which is, all things considered, a minor miracle.

One of the more urgent conversations in Atlantic Canada concerns the plight of its rural areas, most of which can boast notable provenances. Faced with aging and dwindling populations, inadequate access to educational opportunities, crumbling transportation and communications infrastructure, and winnowing industrial bases, many are on the brink of extinction.

In fact, more than once in both distant and recent memory, Guysborough, itself, has flirted with calamity.

Once, lumbering and shipbuilding dominated the local land and seascapes. Not anymore and for all the reasons familiar to coastal communities across the region (changing technology, a shrinking pool of skilled labour, shifting government policies and priorities).

Commercial fishing, a traditionally vital engine of employment, came to a screeching halt during the 1980s and ‘90s in the wake of the federally imposed cod moratorium. Since then, stabs at long-term economic development have enjoyed only mixed success, though don’t utter such a blasphemy anywhere in Guysborough County, lest you prepare yourself for a long debate.

Still, the deeper truth is, as prominent Maritime writer Harry Bruce (pater familias to me) once noted, “Wave after wave after wave of Maritimers have left their beloved homeland, rolling westward again and again to seek jobs up and down the Atlantic seaboard, in the American midwest and far west, in Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, British Columbia, and the northern territories . . . Maritimers, more than other Canadians, have had to keep their eyes on the horizons, and Leaving Home has long outlasted the golden age of sail as part of their heritage.

Yet, now that Alberta has given up the ghost of its oil and gas promise, we may live long enough to witness a mass return of Maritimers to these shores.

Perhaps this is all that old Guysborough town teaches: faith.

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A summer trip down home


To reach paradise, you drive from Moncton about four hours through some of the prettiest country the Maritimes offer.

You take the Trans-Canada past the village of Memramcook and the university town where my grandfather, dad and daughter once spent many happy and productive years. If you are peckish, you stop at the elegant and still exquisitely appointed Marshlands Inn in Sackville, New Brunswick, for a quick and supremely satisfying repast.

You rejoin the road at the Tantramar Marshes, where ancient Acadians once diked and dammed the land to eke out an existence from the brackish sea. You pass the glorious windmill farm near Amherst, where Don Quixote – if he were real and a long-haul trucker – might roll up to challenge the mighty blades spinning in the sun.

You move along with speed and alacrity until you reach Bible Hill, Nova Scotia, forge through until you are on Mount Thom, then descend into the vales of New Glasgow, Antigonish and Monastery, where the real deal describes itself this way: “Our Lady of Grace Monastery is home to the Contemplative Augustinian Nuns. Here, these religious sisters live out their lives consecrated to Our Lord where they pray for the Church and the whole world. The Monastery of Saint Lucy, which is the mother house is located in Rome.”

Still, on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in the summertime, Rome seems far away. Paradise, on the other hand, is just around the corner.

You take the paved road through Lincolnville and arrive at the bustling outskirts of Bolyston, a town the Globe and Mail’s Kim Mackrael once described as “The pearl of the East.” In her 2011 piece, she enthused, “The tiny seaside village is perched on the northeast side of Nova Scotia, close to Cape Breton Island. Like many of its neighbours, Boylston suffered deeply following the collapse of the Atlantic fishing industry and the loss of thousands of jobs along the coast. These days, Boylston is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, one driven by people looking for a place to call home after they retire.”

Indeed, she reported, “Some of its residents have discovered the town only recently, while others are finding themselves drawn back home after a long absence. What they have in common is the sense of being instantly welcomed into the community. That’s why Marilyn McLean nominated Boylston as one of Canada’s great communities. She and her husband are. . .settling down after a life in the military.”

Said Marilyn: “Our neighbours are neighbourly; our darling doctor mends bones and brings hot casseroles until you can manage your crutches. You awaken after a monster snowfall to a freshly shovelled walkway. How can there be any better place on earth to live out one’s life?”

Added Ms. Mackrael: “On calm mornings in Boylston, the water by the wharf becomes as smooth as glass. Tourists driving through choose this spot to pull over and take photos of the boats as they bob gently beside the dock, casting colourful reflections across the water.”

That’s about right. I should know. My family settled these parts in the late 18th Century, fresh off the boat from Scotland. Our forbears and us have maintained “The Place” on the banks of Chedabucto Bay ever since. It’s a small, and yet somehow rambling, former farmhouse perched on 80 acres of prime rock-growing territory.

It really isn’t much, but it’s ours. And the view is, well. . .what you might expect from paradise.

As for me, I’m going for a long-missed drive down the road to down home.

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Don’t fear the “R-word”


Economists tremble at the appellation’s very utterance. Politicians descend into denial at the term’s deployment in the mainstream media. And, when the “R-word” hovers into view, regular folks batten down the hatches and check the condition of their rainy day funds stored neatly under their mattresses.

But are recessions really all bad, after all?

Sure, they tend to increase the amount of joblessness in society. They devalue personal savings and investments. They dampen business opportunities, and they generate the sort of fear and loathing that a 100-year blizzard often engenders.

Now that Canada is in one (a recession, that is), despite protestations to the contrary of our fearless, federal leaders, we might properly expect a slow, agonizing grind in the months, or even years, ahead.

Still, it ain’t necessarily so.

According to an item on the investopedia website, posted by financial writer Chris Seabury, recessions enable economies to “clean out the excesses. During this process, inventories drop to more normal levels, allowing the economy to experience long-term growth as demand for products picks back up.”

What’s more, these cyclical downturns – typically identified after the gross domestic product shrinks in two consecutive months – have an almost refreshing, levelling effect. As Mr. Seabury writes, “Recessions. . .help keep economic growth balanced. If the economy grew unchecked at an expansionist rate for many years, this could lead to uncontrolled inflation. By having recessions. . .consumers are forced to cut back in response to falling wages. These falling wages force prices to drop, creating a situation in which the economy can grow at normal levels without having prices run away.”

They can also “create massive buying opportunities in huge asset classes. As the economy runs its course, the markets will readjust to an expanding economy.”

Notably, perhaps, “economic hardship can create a change in the mindset of consumers. . .(who) stop trying to live above their means (but) within the income they have. This generally causes the national savings rate to rise and allows investments in the economy to increase once again.”

In fact, writes Stijn Claessens and M. Ayhan Kose in the International Monetary Fund’s research department, “There were 122 completed recessions in 21 advanced economies over the 1960–2007 period. Although this sounds like a lot, recessions do not happen frequently. Indeed, the proportion of time spent in recession – measured by the percentage of quarters a country was in recession over the full sample period – was typically about 10 per cent.”

So while recessions can clean out the pipes and tune up the engine of any economy, they don’t last forever, even if it only seems that way.

In my adult life, I’ve gamely weathered four downtowns – 1981-82; 1991-1993; 2000-2001; and 2008-2009. They didn’t kill me. In fact, I might even say, they made me stronger. Certainly, they made me smarter about debt, equity, and never taking anything for granted in the precarious, capricious world of money management and the revolving doors of the labour market.

None of which is to say that economic dislocation is preferable to long-term stability. Still, it’s worth noting that droves of Canadians endure near-permanent states of recession thanks to patently unfair, negligent policies of various governments at every level.

And, as this country appears to be heading into another one of its multi-month, economic head colds, only the mighty among us will truly fall.

In this company, of course, belong politicians who overpromise and underestimate their own power to affect the course of human affairs just in time for a general election.

They do, indeed, need fear the “R-word”.

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All hail a jobless future


It is, perhaps, the paradox of our times: We are not happy when we work, and we are not happy when we don’t. Let’s just say we get used to both productivity and lassitude in equal measures.

We are, apparently, happiest (spoiler alert) when we do precisely as we please, which roughly breaks down as follows: Labouring a little bit, playing a little bit, goofing off a little bit, and sleeping. . .well, a lot.

Apparently, there’s actual research that backs me up and, in so doing, makes me feel far less guilty than I have for most of my adult life for the gazillion hours I have wasted in patently trivial pursuits.

Consider this month’s cover story in the Atlantic magazine (a certain tonic if anyone needed one at this time of the year, in this time of man and woman kind). In his piece, entitled, “A World Without Work”, writer Derek Thompson declares: “Futurists and science-fiction writers have at times looked forward to machines’ workplace takeover with a kind of giddy excitement, imagining the banishment of drudgery and its replacement by expansive leisure and almost limitless personal freedom.”

And, he says, “Make no mistake: if the capabilities of computers continue to multiply while the price of computing continues to decline, that will mean a great many of life’s necessities and luxuries will become ever cheaper, and it will mean great wealth – at least when aggregated up to the level of the national economy.”

But, then, of course, what do we mere humans do with ourselves? If we are, indeed, the demi-gods who invented machines to replace ourselves, to which plain of existence do we retire? Re-runs of “Happy Days?” Existentially, does this mean that God, itself, is officially dead?

Not necessarily. Says Mr. Thompson:

“One of the first things we might expect to see in a period of technological displacement is the diminishment of human labor as a driver of economic growth. In fact, signs that this is happening have been present for quite some time. The share of U.S. economic output that’s paid out in wages fell steadily in the 1980s, reversed some of its losses in the ’90s, and then continued falling after 2000, accelerating during the Great Recession. It now stands at its lowest level since the government started keeping track in the mid‑20th century.”

Moreover, he observes, “A number of theories have been advanced to explain this phenomenon, including globalization and its accompanying loss of bargaining power for some workers. But Loukas Karabarbounis and Brent Neiman, economists at the University of Chicago, have estimated that almost half of the decline is the result of businesses’ replacing workers with computers and software. In 1964, the nation’s most valuable company, AT&T, was worth $267 billion in today’s dollars and employed 758,611 people. Today’s telecommunications giant, Google, is worth $370 billion but has only about 55,000 employees – less than a tenth the size of AT&T’s workforce in its heyday.”

On the other hand, he concludes with some reason, people stripped of their workaday drudgery will find more creative pursuits to fill their time and what remains of their bank accounts.

We shall, in due course, become artists and artisans, tradesmen and craftspeople. We might even dance around the May pole, whenever winter decides to relinquish its icy grip, and plant food in the empty parking garages and vacant spaces where people once congregated to build their fateful remnant of civilization.

We may not be entirely happy with our new lot.

But, given our track record, I’m pretty sure we’ll get used to it.

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Who let the dogs out?

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has sicced his political terriers on the federal Tory government for an array of alleged abuses he claims are ruining the province’s economy. The problem is, those dogs won’t hunt.

In an open letter earlier this week, the premier stipulated that, “provinces have been unduly burdened by the federal government’s approach to balancing the books. Provinces have been left between a rock and a hard place as they try to stretch every dollar to deliver the most important services Canadians rely on. The federal government has the capacity and the obligation to step up and play a greater role.”

He went on to state, “The upcoming federal election is an opportunity to discuss how the federal government can partner with us in creating jobs for New Brunswickers and focusing on supporting services and initiatives in education that will lead to long-term growth that will benefit all Canadians and this country’s economy.”

Specifically, Mr. Gallant wants, “equitable support on federal investments in energy and natural resource projects”, more investment in “infrastructure renewal in New Brunswick”, and more material help “fostering success for New Brunswick’s key industries”.

He also demands that the Feds review their tough stand on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and reverse their policies concerning the Employment Insurance program, which he claims puts seasonal workers in the province at an unfair disadvantage relative to unemployed people elsewhere in the country.

“We want to work with the federal government to prioritize and invest in initiatives that will create jobs and help families,” the premier wrote. “Our government’s focus is on creating the conditions for job growth and economic development. We look forward to discussing these items with party leaders, the candidates in New Brunswick, and with policy-makers from the respective parties.”

All of which drew New Brunswick Conservative MP John Williamson from the shadows, his six-guns blazing away.

“There is a fiscal imbalance,” he snorted. “It’s between provinces that develop their economies and those who choose not to. The federal government cannot force the provinces to develop their resources. I’m not going to sit here and let the premier blame others when we have the solution as New Brunswickers to fix our problems, to grow our economy, to keep and attract people here.”

Referring to Mr. Gallant directly, he said, “This is the beggar begging for more.”

As intemperate as Mr. Williamson’s characterization may be, he’s more right than wrong.

The New Brunswick government has within its grasp the tools to fix the provincial economy without barking for more money from Ottawa. It has, for example, an entire shale gas industry it refuses to develop, despite spending countless hours checking and re-checking the safety and efficacy of hydraulic fracturing.

We are, however, unaccustomed in this province with doing for ourselves; and its a condition we had better reverse without delay.

For, even if Mr. Gallant is correct about the putative “fiscal imbalance” between Freddy Beach and Fat City, no amount of baying and snarling will ever change Ottawa’s mind about what it does, or does not, owe in federal transfers to the provinces.

If anything, the Liberal premier’s deliberately public complaint about the big, bad feds and their parsimonious ways merely persuades a dubious electorate that Mr. Gallant is an ideological shill for Justin Trudeau and the national Grits. And those folks have dropped from 44 to 22 per cent in popular support in less than a year.

Maybe it’s time for Mr. Gallant to call off the dogs – if only for his own sake.

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The perfect picture-panic province


What a marvelous time to be the youngest premier in Canada, representing the oldest population in the nation. Could anything in Brian Gallant’s professional experience be less desirable than the thankless job he now faithfully executes?

The 32-year-old’s to-do list would give Hercules a panic attack.

First, there’s the little problem of a $12-billion long-term public debt, and a $500-million annual deficit that just won’t go away no matter what tweaks he executes to civil-service spending.

Second, there’s a litany of campaign promises that inveigh against any reasonable tool to manage the province’s fiscal crisis.

There will be no new revenue streams in the foreseeable future – not from onshore natural gas development, not from a putative pipeline from Alberta into Saint John, not from the high-tech or natural resources sectors, not from manufacturing, not even from community economic entrepreneurship. Nada. Zip. End of story. Period.

Third, the cost of health care in New Brunswick is rising alarmingly, given the tax base that remains to help pay for emergency rooms, walk-in clinics, family physicians, fully equipped hospitals.

This province “boasts” the highest per-capita spending on “interventional” medicine (as opposed to the preventative type) in the country. We are, as a populace, fatter, drunker, and more likely to cough our lungs out than any other region of Canada.

Fourth, we continue to endure the steady outmigration of our “best and brightest” to other parts of the nation, the continent and the world. And, even when other parts of the nation (Alberta), the continent (the Midwestern shale patch) and the world (the European Union) fail to retain promise, our ex-pats routinely choose places other than home in which to roost (Brazil, Venezuela).

And then, of course, there are the awful employment numbers, reported far and wide around this tiny province.

According to a piece by John Chilibeck in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, published last Saturday, “New Brunswick’s bleak jobless situation became even gloomier in June, with the unemployment rate shooting up into double digits again, to 10.8 per cent. . .Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey (reported that) employment in the province fell for the second consecutive month, down 3,500 in June.”

All of which must leave the impression, even in the minds of the most circumspect among us, that we are circling the drain. And that gives us the equipoise to blame the current office holders for their mismanagement, misalignment and even malfeasance.

Still, how much blame for what ails us can we properly assign to a new government, less than a year into its mandate, or even its one-term predecessor (party politics, notwithstanding)?

A friend of mine cornered me at a local grocery check-out recently and demanded to know why I haven’t been holding this young premier’s feet to the fire. “He’s obviously way over his head,” he declared as we surveyed the price of beef from Alberta. “So, what’s up with you? Have you gone soft, or something?”

To which I replied: “I was the first out of the gate telling the government to raise the HST by one percentage point. I was one of the first to tell this government to monetize shale gas, responsibly.”

My friend replied: “Well, I’m not for raising the HST, and as for shale gas, I’m for it as long it doesn’t affect me in any way possible.”

In other words, everything is better than the status quo, except for the status quo.

What a marvelous time, indeed, to be the youngest premier in Canada, representing the most calcified attitudes in the nation: The perfect picture-panic province.

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On political acrobats and citizen arenas


If, we once thought, a new downtown event centre in little, old Moncton would never support artistically inclined gymnasts, torturing their minds and bodies to make their daily bread, then fear not populace.

The acrobatics of acrimony and conciliation are, in equal measures, on display right now in the council chambers and parliaments of power. Though the players’ creaking bones and calcified ligaments might be past their prime, they are nonetheless fascinating for their late-game contortions.

Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe Member of Parliament Robert Goguen has devised an utterly splendid solution to the problem of funding a $107-million multi-purpose sports and entertainment facility in the Hub City’s downtown core.     As his federal Tory confederates say “no” to anything that smacks of hockey rink, Mr. Goguen, in his wisdom, has decided that all that money the feds owe to the tri-city area for regular road and sewer upgrades should be leveraged against a new downtown centre.

That is to say simply this: All the money we might have given you to upgrade your city’s urban core, we are now going to give you to expand your suburbs whose residents don’t give a fig about Main Street.

Take the municipal funds, Mr. Goguen sagely advises, that we would have otherwise invested in road repairs in the outskirts and pour it into an event centre, if, of course, we dare.

The problem with this “solution” is that it begs a problem.

It intimates that the feds have no real responsibility – notwithstanding a major build, such as an event centre – to upgrade the roads and sewers along routes in this city where people live and work. The Constitution declares otherwise.

It also suggests that a part of Moncton – the downtown core – simply does not contribute to the cultural and economic life of the greater urban area in ways and means that are sufficient to justify honest public investment. The evidence argues to the contrary.

Once again, I will trot out the fine work of my friend David Campbell, now New Brunswick’s senior economist. Three years ago he was on this file like a fly on honey. Here’s what he said:

“Like a successful shopping mall, a vibrant downtown will have economic anchors strategically located throughout the area. Moncton City Hall anchors a cluster of office buildings and services in the eastern part of the downtown and the Highfield Square Mall played this role in the western part of the downtown. “With the closure of that facility, it opens up the potential for another ‘anchor tenant’ that will drive economic activity and foot traffic in that area. There are not many large-scale opportunities that would apply on that site. The proposed Downtown Centre; however, is one such opportunity. It would be large enough to drive significant incremental economic activity into the downtown.

“The Sierra Planning and Management report reviewed for this brief estimated that the new Downtown Centre would cater to between 316,800 attendees (lower attendance scenario) and 396,000 attendees (moderate attendance scenario). These attendance estimates assume that 53 per cent of the traffic would come from regular season Wildcat home games. The lower attendance scenario is expected to result in over $12 million in new direct and offsite expenditures and the higher attendance scenario will bring in nearly $15 million in new expenditures to the downtown.”

In other words, a new downtown event centre does not need to be justified through political acrobatics. It justifies itself, and always has.

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