The one that got away

Even a cursory look at the numbers reveals the inarguable truth about the contribution that southeastern New Brunswick brings to the table of the province’s economy: This region, anchored by Greater Moncton, drives every other in measureable ways.

So why, then, does it merit only perfunctory recognition from the federal Conservative government, whose agents now, rather counter-intuitively, desire the undying support and approval of its residents mere weeks before the next general election?

Every major federal leader has done his or her pass through the southeast in recent weeks. Everyone, that is, except Stephen Harper, who, we are told, is getting around to it.

The prime minister’s persistent absence from the banks of the Petticodiac is conspicuous for several reasons, not the least of which is his filial connection to the area (one of his forbears actually hailed from here; there’s even a crumbling street in the east end of the city named for his family).

Another is that he has a fine lieutenant in the body of Tory MP Robert Goguen, who must, by now, feel like Little Orphan Annie pining for a Daddy Warbucks.

Mr. Goguen’s efforts to spin the federal government’s determination to divert regular infrastructure money (snow removal, road repairs, etc.) into a downtown events centre on the expectation that the completed facility will return enough to replenish municipal coffers was beyond brilliant. No one, to my knowledge, has made a better “robbing Peter to pay Paul” argument in the recent political history of this province.

Then again, no one outside this province really gives a darn about this province – least of all this part of the province, which boasts far too much commercial success to characterize as a basket case in need of federal support.

Again, look at the numbers, courtesy of Moncton’s official website: “In 2014, KMPG ranked Moncton as the lowest cost location for business in Canada; Moncton is known as the hub of the Maritimes with more than 1.3 million people living within a 2.5-hour drive; with a 9.7 per cent population growth between 2006 and 2011, Moncton is the fastest growing Canadian urban centre East of Saskatoon and the fifth-fastest growing CMA in Canada; Moncton (has) added more than 25,000 jobs to its workforce since 1990; home sales in 2011 reached the fourth highest level in history; there were twice as many houses sold in 2011 than (the) decade (before); with an average price of $166,476 in 2013, Moncton remain(ed) one of the most affordable housing markets in Canada; total value of building permits issued in 2011 reached $184 million, the second highest level in history; retail sales reached $2.1 billion in 2011.”

All of which suggests that Mr. Harper has nothing to gain by spending his political capital here – or, perhaps more accurately, no one to control, apart from his various factotums.

An affecting piece in the New York Times last week, written by veteran political journalist Stephen Marche, makes several compelling points:

“Americans have traditionally looked to Canada as a liberal haven, with gun control, universal health care and good public education. But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government.

“(Mr. Harper’s) stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.”

Under the circumstances, then, perhaps Mr. Harper’s ignorance of us is our bliss.

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