Brian Gallant’s big break?

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With his approval rating dropping into the political dumpster, the premier of New Brunswick needed a convincing win, one year into his mandate. He got it with BMM Testlabs’ announcement that, with the province’s help, the company will create 1,000 good jobs in Moncton, though not all at once.

Now, can Brian Gallant maintain the momentum the province evidently needs?

In a commentary the premier penned for this newspaper organization last month, he declared how pleased he was to have participated in the “biggest job announcement ever sponsored by government in New Brunswick’s history.”

The fact to which he referred was that the province had put real skin into the game – ultimately in the form of taxpayers’ dollars – not only to keep a satellite office of an international company in the environs around Moncton, but to help expand it: 200 well-paid positions each year over the next five.

To be clear, BMM Testlabs is an Aussie operation that makes its bones by making sure that gaming companies don’t run afoul of their particular jurisdictions’ rules and regulations. It maintains outposts in its home country, the U.S., South Africa, and, of course, Canada, among many others.

In other words, as a player in a government-regulated industry it needs and gets all the public-sector support it can handle. In fact, that is its global, strategic imperative. But, really, in this marketplace, whose isn’t?

Private companies and corporations troll the world for “business-friendly” jurisdictions – those that provide tax incentives, skills-development initiatives and various “move-in/move-up” allowances.

In fact, former Liberal Premier Frank McKenna made an unapologetic career out of the tactic in the late 1980s and through much of the 1990s – even going so far as to set up an international 1-800 line that connected directly to him. I actually dialed the number once in 1990 just to see if it worked. It did.

The conversation went a little like this:

Me: “Uh. . .Hullo, Mr. Premier. I was just phoning to determine whether this thing of yours was, well, real.”

McKenna: “It is. What can I help you with?”

Me: “Uuumm…do you have pop in a bottle?”

McKenna: “Why, in fact, in Sussex, I do.

Me: “Then you better let him out as mum wants him home for dinner.”

Click, and the dead-phone hum ensued.

I assume that when BMM and Opportunities New Brunswick got together, a childish prank like this was declared verboten. After all, says Mr. Gallant in his column, “Good government policy opens the door for job creation.”

Somehow, that goes to this: “We are supporting responsible resource development projects. We are excited about the thousands of jobs that could be created from major projects, such as the Energy East Pipeline, the LNG terminal in Saint John and the Sisson Mine. All of these projects have moved closer to reality under this government and we will continue to work to make them happen. If these projects go forward, nearly 10,000 jobs will be created at their peak.”

Before we, of course, descend to the infantile humor that such a claim requires (something about unicorns farting rainbows), let us just pause, for a moment, and consider the implications of Mr. Gallant’s broader claims.

BMM’s announcement is great news. But its determination to create jobs is not, necessarily, deterministic. Anything can happen (and often does) with domestic and offshore companies.

The idea is to keep every possibility in play, and never allow one big jobs announcement triumph over the long-term objective of building economic vigor and diversity – or, in truth, goose one particular premier’s poll numbers.

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