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.