Tag Archives: Robert Goguen

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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Under pressure, he’s still “Gallant”

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Apparently, the premier of New Brunswick and I are on a first-name basis. He’s 32. My daughter will be 34 this year. I’m turning 55 and feeling every inch the old scold these days.

So, Mr. Premier, you can call me “Dad”, though I don’t believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of actually meeting you directly. Still, at least you managed to get my name right (it’s not Alex, or Aleck, or Ozymandias) when you penned this remarkably courteous and circumspect note before emailing it to my personal inbox the other day:

“Hi Alec – I hope all is well. After reading your blog commenting on the Moncton Downtown Centre and my commentary, I just wanted to clarify why Mr. Goguen (i.e., Robert Goguen, MP for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe) was mentioned in my commentary.”

I’m listening.

“The GMCC (Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce) announced it’s going to mount a lobbying campaign against myself and our government. I was completely surprised that its campaign would solely focus on us and not also target the federal government.”

Yes, yes. Do go on.

“The reason one may say the target should be only our government is because Mr. Goguen has said he is supportive of the project. But I haven’t heard Stephen Harper say his government is supportive. I haven’t heard the regional minister Moore say his government is supportive. And even if one of them did make comments to confirm support, the next question would be why is the federal government not providing a letter to the city confirming funding that would be conditional on the province being at the table? That is how any project like this would work.”

Hmmm. And how does that make you feel?

“The point I was, therefore, trying to make was why is the GMCC focused on just us and not the federal government since neither of us are at the table officially at the moment?

“That was my only point regarding Mr. Goguen. Perhaps I didn’t make that point clearly enough. I will try to do a better job in the future, and hopefully this email will clarify it for you. All the best. . .BG.”

Indeed, “BG”must be the most solicitous premier New Brunswick has ever enjoyed hosting (although history suggests Richard Hatfield and Hugh John Flemming were also pretty fine gents).

But this does not excuse Mr. Gallant from his responsibility to avoid partisan politics when the issue is nothing less than the future of economic development in New Brunswick’s urban jobs’ dynamo.

Personally, I don’t concur with every word that issues from Mr. Goguen’s mouth. He’s a Harper man, trained and true. When he insists that the feds are willing to invest in a Moncton events centre, he likely means that they are prepared to divert necessary federal infrastructure funds from sewers, roads and bridges in the tri-city area to fulfill their end of the bargain. Then, just watch them step through potholes to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, plaudits and honorifics in hand.

But you, dear Brian (if I may be so bold), are better than that. You are already known for taking stands (fracking comes to mind, though we clearly don’t agree).

Take a stand on this one. You have the research. You have the evidence. Does a Moncton downtown events centre make economic sense? Of course, it does. Now say so, and make the project yours.

I hate to be a scold, my son, but at my age it comes with the empty territory where a brilliant meeting place, a gathering space, waits to rise.

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Out of the mouths of babes as the wrecking ball swings

It is, perhaps, only natural to expect a fundamentally good economic-development idea in this province to fall prey to petty, partisan politics, posturing and breathtakingly vast buckets of bovine effluent.

Still, that doesn’t excuse the jaw-dropping imbecility that both the Grit-dominated Government of New Brunswick and the Tory-ruled Government of Canada seem determined to manufacture in their respective (and predictably doomed) efforts to win friends and influence people over yet another municipal turf war.

In this instance, the turf in question is a demolition zone where a mall once stood, and where a downtown, mixed-use sports and entertainment facility may one day occupy (if, course, our pols manage to get out of the way of their own wrecking balls to consensus).   

As it happens, I live not five minutes from the proposed site in Moncton’s west end; and as much fun as it is to show my grandkids how “Bob the Builder” likes razing the old almost as much as he enjoys raising the new, it’s a trial to explain to my IQ-enhanced three and five-year-old compatriots why the Hub City might not actually see a new, galvanizing civic centre in their good, old Poppy’s lifetime.

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Well, you see, boys, we have a member of parliament who likes to issue statements that sound suspiciously disingenuous from time to time: Why, of course, we’re all for a new downtown events centre. Why, you must know, this has been a singular preoccupation of mine and the Government of Canada’s,  for. . .oh. . .you know. . .forever, it seems. It’s just that we’ve been waiting for our friends in the New Brunswick government to get on board.

On the other hand, fellows, we have a new premier of the province who seems to have been asleep over the past year whilst in opposition, when all of the forward economic forecasting, cost analyses and return-on-investment calculations definitively stated that if such a facility were to be built in Moncton’s downtown, it would generate more than $12 million for the feds and $7 million for the province in sales tax on construction outlays, even before the blessed facility’s doors open for regular business.

Still, Premier Gallant is on record, saying: “We’re not simply going to continue a project because expectations were given by the previous government for the wrong reasons.”

To which Mr. Goguen has replied (recently, to the CBC), “The province has to sign in on this, so if they don’t put their share in, we don’t put our share in.” Quoting from the public broadcaster’s report last week, the minister added that “the only thing standing in the way of federal funding is for the provincial government to agree to pay its share of. . .six infrastructure projects (road, water and sewer). ‘So, yes, they (the projects) have been identified, they have been submitted, we studied them and we’re to the point where we’re waiting for the sign-off from the province.”

Meanwhile, the only progressive moves appear to involve the steady dismantling of the old Highfield Square property and adjacent structures, which is, of course, both necessary and to, certain young acquaintances of mine, absolutely awesome.

“Can we go in there?”

Nope.

“How much longer will it take?”

No idea.

“Is it going to stay empty like that, or will they make a big snow fort in the winter?

Probably and probably not, in that order.

“So, then, why don’t they build something? Like a building or something.”

Good question, I muse. Hey, I venture, maybe you two should become Premier of New Brunswick or even Prime Minister of Canada some day. That way, you can make sure things get done for the benefit of an entire community, and not just a couple of narrow, vote-getting interests. You know what I mean?

A quick pause ensues as I toss one over my shoulder and grab the other one, sack-of-potatoes-like, at my hip, and head off to Grandma’s house, where sausages and maple syrup await the hungry inquisitors.

“What’s Premier of New Brunswick, Pops?”

“Yeah, Pops,” the spud bag joins in, “What’s Prime Minister of Canada?”

Exactly, men, exactly.

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