Tag Archives: David Coon

Politicos in no mood to give straight answers

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How sadly predictable are the prescriptions New Brunswick’s political leaders now issue  to treat the provinces’s various and chronic maladies.

Asked repeatedly to speak plainly, boldly and fearlessly about innovative, even radical, remedies for the runaway illnesses of budget-sapping deficits and debt, they pour bromides instead.

Consider their responses to two questions the organization that owns this newspaper posed recently: Would your party consider hospital closures; and does there need to be a change in the size of the public service?

Anyone with even a mote of appreciation for the challenges of health care in a province whose population is simultaneously shrinking and aging recognizes that New Brunswick hosts too many primary care facilities doing too many of the wrong things in  too many of the wrong places.

Of course, we should shutter some hospitals. We should also reconstitute and strengthen geriatric care in community health centres and consolidate emergency medical services wherever such moves do not compromise the quality of, and access to, the services, themselves.

Saskatchewan, a province with population comparable in size to New Brunswick and under similar fiscal circumstances to ours, managed to revamp its health care system in the 1990s.

So, then, gentlemen on the hustings, what say you?

“We’re not in the business of closing hospitals,” declares People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin. And just what business are they in? “What we are in the business of is finding ways to create a better system whereby people can have access.”

Brilliant.

But no more so, perhaps, than Green Party Leader David Coon’s response: “In the abstract, there is no reason to rule anything out, but in the concrete does it (closing hospitals) make sense? I have no idea.”

Meanwhile Liberal Leader Brian Gallant is in a decidedly conditional mood: “If we can grow our economy, if we can create jobs, if we listen to people on the front lines about how we can be more efficient, more productive, if we ensure that we are more proactive about our health care system. . .we will be able to keep and maintain the infrastructure that we have.”

Sure, and if my grandmother wore a mustache, she’d be my grandfather. Sorry, Mr. Gallant, but wishing for a fundamental change in the fabric of reality does not a health care policy make.

Still, yours is a better answer than this from our current fearless leader, Premier David Alward: “We are focused to be able to build a foundation for an economy based on natural resource development, based on innovation, based on investing in our people so they have the right skills and that will allow us to be able to continue and invest smarter in health care, in hospitals, as we go forward.”

So, is that ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Would your party consider hospital closures?

Never mind. Let’s move on. What about the size of the public service? Whaddya think, men? Too big? Too small? Or just perfect?

You first, Mr. Coon: “Let’s just be practical. .and say, ‘OK, do we need these people to do this work to deliver a good public service and are they in the right places?’”

Yeah, but didn’t we just ask you that?

You next, Mr. Cardy: “It’s not a question of adding or subtracting people. . . It’s a question of what do we need to deliver the public services people want.”

Actually, the question that’s currently on the table is whether we can afford to pay for a civil service that numbers 50,000 in a province whose total population tops out at 750,000 on a good day. That’s among the highest per capita concentration of public workers in Canada.

Yes, Mr. Gallant; I see you have your hand up: “We are going to do a program review and that means we are going to look at every program, every department and every ministry to fully understand where every dollar is going.”

Fair enough, then. You’ll get back to us.

Finally, you Mr. Alward: “We’ve been clear from square one going back to our previous platform in 2010 – we believe that we need to continue to lean the size of the public service. We’ve done that in a very responsible way through attrition.”

Forget it, Mr. Premier. You had me at “lean the size of. . .”

Alas, it seems, a politician’s determination to turn a noun into a verb to express the virtue in maintaining the status quo is about as innovative and radical as it gets in this pretty little tableau of a province.

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Economy and environment are not mutually exclusive

 

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For many, if not most, New Brunswick’s peripatetic Green Party Leader David Coon whistles past the graveyard of the province’s economy when he insists that we, in this struggling part of Canada, must strive to break our addiction to fossil fuels.

It’s no good, he says – a rum thing that can only bring us and our our planet more misery. In one of his blog posts in early June, he wrote, “The Green Party will create new jobs in a new economy, powered by. . .green buildings, renewable energy, local food, information technology, smart grid, electric vehicles, local business, public transit, health education, and sustainable farming and forestry; this is the Green Party’s vision of our future, not the old pollution-based economy the other parties are trying to resuscitate.”

Last week, he reiterated his message while campaigning in the province in what is certainly another doomed stab at political relevance, come September’s general election. 

But is he as defiantly deluded as his detractors claim?

Traditionalists – a group that includes most of us – contend that economic development simply can’t proceed in any meaningful way without the heavy use of oil and gas. After all, that’s how we built our job-generating, tax-producing industries under the long shadows of our various industrial revolutions. 

How else would we have invented plastic bottles, plasma TVs, rayon? Without the cheap, accessible energy afforded by fossil fuels the world would be devoid of super-conducting metals, which give us the integrated circuits that power our smart phones. 

By God, how would we cope?

The corollary argument, of course, is that true environmental stewardship is anathema to economic development, both practically and on principle. It requires a degree of tree-hugging and hair-shirt-wearing that stifles innovation and turns entire segments of the populace into Whole Earth Catalogue readers.

If these mantras hold true, then one would guess that the richest, most successful economies the world necessarily post the worst track records on the environment.

Well, dear reader, guess again.

The ninth most-affluent nation on Earth is Switzerland. It also happens to be the greenest country on the planet. Luxembourg is the second-wealthiest nation, and the also the second-most environmentally circumspect.

According to recent economic research aggregated by the popular website, top10thebest.com, “Switzerland, a rich nation in the European continent, is among the most prosperous countries in the world. It boasts (a) diverse and stable economy, and it has managed to maintain its excellent record in terms of. . .GDP. What makes Switzerland one of the wealthiest countries is its extensive sources of income, such as agriculture, tourism and banking. It is also known as the leading exporter and maker of the finest watches, and well-off individuals consider the country as a financial haven to increase their money.”

Meanwhile, swissworld.org reports, “At the end of 2009 the (country’s) Federal Council decided to continue with the SwissEnergy Action Plan until 2020. SwissEnergy is the main national platform for economical and intelligent energy use and the use of renewable energy. Energy-saving measures are implemented by SwissEnergy in partnership with the cantons, municipalities, business and environmental organisations.”

As for Luxembourg, top10thebest.com says that nation “is among the most prosperous countries (and) also recognized as a tax heaven. In fact, several billionaires from other parts of the world choose to live in this nation to free themselves of expensive taxes in their native countries. . .The sources of income (in) Luxembourg include telecommunications and steel.”

And yet, referencing a 2010 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report, a Wikipedia entry states, “Despite its growing GDP and population, Luxembourg has made progress in decoupling environmental pressures from economic growth and has developed a National Plan for Sustainable Development. The annual vehicle tax is now calculated as a function of CO2 emissions. A National Plan for Energy Efficiency has been introduced, together with economic incentives targeted at the construction industry. A national body has been created to provide information and advice on energy savings and renewable energy.”

All of which suggests that Mr. Coon is on to something. We who think him deluded may, in fact, be the deranged ones.

 

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