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I could be accused of being somewhat negative on #NB’s propsects for economic growth, renewal and in need of a revival, but this article in TO’s “The Star” newspaper does a nice job of making a counterpoint. Trevor Econ-Warrior-MacAusland sent this around on Facebook recently and I have now read it.
It does highlight some successes recently, and what it masks is that when New Brunswickers owned NBTel, there was a creative telcom culture for innovation going back to Presidents Cox, Celeste, and Pond, who in his later years has morphed into a later day saint for start up investing. Like a rock star on a roll, his hits keep coming.
The UNB fund mentionned in the article is an investment in 25 years out for full realization, but is actionable now in its intent and outcome, and within five years will have done a lot to upgrade the makeup on the face of New Brunswick’s struggling economy. New Brunswick is caught in a sea change of immense magnitude, the likes of which was never experienced before, except perhaps in Europe when the crofters threw down their syths and hoes in servitude to a land baron and trudged off to a steam ginny to make fabric as a factory worker in a steam plant.
It is not a Liberal versus Conservative versus NDP versus Green Party kind of debate or problem around policy and programes. It is rather a fundamental change in how residents make a living in a digital first age, while living in a bountiful land mass that no one wants, nor the products it produces a few months of the year between snow squalls. So it is start up incubators like the 360 program and the Pied Pipers, like the Pond supported Trevor MacAusland who are making all the difference in how fast New Brunswick slides over the residential and commercial tax base cliff.
Like all slides, it starts really gradual and unseen as a force, but as it picks up steam - no pun intended, - the outcome becomes dibilitating and expensive to turn around. I lived through and was a cheer leader in the stands doing the equivalent of hand stands during the hard work done by Moncton leadership 35 years ago and now ahead. It was a huge challenge to turn a geograhicaly blessed central hub around in terms of its internal thinking, self image and commercial investment confidence efforts. It will take more than an EnRoute article , or in this case a Toronto Star skim of the tree tops article and effort to turn around New Brunswick.
What will be needed is a multi-party buy in to not make cheap political points and self serving brownie points off New Brunswick’s pain points. New Brunswick’s turn around will take a common vision and perhaps different talent from different parties at different times to make it happen.
One of the secrets I observed time and again in Moncton was political party warriors, and warrior in chiefs working with their respective bag men power blocks ( lots of women involved in each stage too - more a turn of phrase than a descriptive- as Senartor Brenda Robertson - the pride of Riverview was worth three to four political men on any given day of the week and twice as much on a weekend), came together and made a deal happen for the ” good of Moncton”. It may have been the most spiritual moment of my life, and most of them ( former warriors), are now on a bench somewhere warming it up for the next round of judicial appointments. But I digress.
There will need to be an accross the board level of cooperation and coordination to get a momenturm going in a positive vein in New Brunswick that is handed off like a marathon runner from one Premier to another, and one Party favorite of the moment to another. No Party at the moment has the collective of insight and intelligence in their ranks to lead this resurgence in New Brusnwick. This is because it is not about cutting another land grant, tax grant, free hold licence grant to the Irvings, or the McCains, or even a foreign capital group looking for cash forwarding operation like the Potash Mines, that will get us out of the decline in interest for what our resources can support for exploitation, or our waters for sport or spawn.
What is needed is actual innovation. Real ideas like the ones mentionned in the article. Radian6, probably our most popular play for creating millionaires came as a result of the still young programmers being forced out of NBTel ‘s Advanced Technology Labs, where they played with creating TV signals that could some from a Telco wire, instead of a SAT dish or a cable provider, by the evolutionary purchase of the Bell Telcom cartel, completing its ownership of a monoply supported sibling. That this had such a beneficial outcome to NB, was more in the name of collateral damage, than inspired thinking or outcome.
When long distance toll charges and revenue sharing among the cartels of Telcom industry members was rendered an Oldsmobile by the advent of wireless signals on one end eating at revenues, and upstart cable companies like Rogers and their early siblings eating away on the cash flow from the other end, the days of NBTel being needed to get around local Provincial licensing laws came to an end. The days of Wine and Roses for NBTel, then begating Bruncor, then collapsing into a merger of weak sisters in Atlantic Canada called Aliant for putting a local name on a national and international telcom carrier, beneficially owned in the majority by Wall Street fund managers sealed the deal.
On the upside, urban residents get Fibre Op, a vision of the early pioneers at NBTel’s Skunkworks, where UNB and Dalhousie along with U de M grads in science and engineering came together to create a talent pool that shifted New Brunswick from wood fiber production to ether fibre, just in time, as they say.
Which segues me to what the source article pointed out at the end of the rather light skim like a PR flack article on the benefits of being in a start up in New Brunswick, and the role that NBTel alumni near the end of their productive wealth generatino cycle are spawing in hallways here now, instead of Salmon pools on the Miramichi and Richibucto. And that is ideas and innovation.
Pond, ever the devil of deceptive sideways remarks masking a sound grasp of the commercially obivious, and a political bombshell actually pointed the way to a resurgence strategy for New Brunswick, and those aforementionned weak sisters of the Altantic Alliance.
While Newfoundland specifically and to a lessor extent Nova Scotia, both of whom are blessed with off shore oil and gas resource reserves are somewhat mollified about the cost of govrernment per resident, PEI and New Brunswick are facing huge costs in creating more managers to manage less real transactions. This is as the population base dies off from death and desertion to any point west of here, where jobs are spawning from either being central, or blessed with gas and oil.
The genius would be to not seek political uniion, which has been debated and defiled by many a political leader fearing that their own ox would be the first gored. They are enabled and abetted in this crime against citizenry by the often stated fear mongering of decisions being made in Halifax, or heavens in central location Moncton, and impacting Yarmouth, or Summerside, or Goose Bay.
However, the world is going digital and self serve. Except if you have ever stood in line at Services New Brunswick and given up two hours of enduring sousiance behavior from well paid stool clerks to do something that Amazon has mastered online for books and server time, without benefit of a line up or paying for precious parking while trying to deal with a basic government service.
Somewhere, the employee union or the manager of desk side services at Service NB or NS or NFLD is hoping that their political masters never read an article about the Digital Age, where a one to one , and one to many relationship can happen over an Internet connection without anyone travelling physically at cost anywhere.
Imagine in this age of Big Data and Big Servers, if a joint task force of retired politicans who know the scheme that bureaucrats play to keep their turf safe and budgets even more safe from cuts, in management, and if cuts are necessary, then on the front line lowest cost actions, like clerks. Ever notice that it is always nurses and orderlies who are axed, and never a group of middle to senior managers frog marched to the parking lot on firing day from budge cuts. You can bet your mouse pad that will never happen.
So it is that retired, and well pensioned ex-politicans as a Task Force get together and annouce to the IBM’s , the CISCO’s and the HP’s of the world, and even Amazon that in exchange for setting up the world’s largest data centre to run off power plants that formerly powered pulp mills in Atlantic Canada, that all electronic technology in Altantic Canada for governing is enabled to be more automated, more data centric, and more consumer-as-citizen orientated.
The economic impact, the spin off, the change in thinking and outcomes would be in order of magnitude of a force 5 hurrcane or storm. It would reduce the cost of government, remove half of the civil service burden easily in all four provinces, and allow for sharing of the investments that are needed to make the Altantic Alliance, as opposed to separate Atlatnic Provinces, a force of digital nature.
All universities with a common recuritment, world wide, and serve local students who agree to favorable financing for their student loans in return for a term of service in one of more agencies, or in their years of repayment, are rewarded for the jobs they create, or the economic impact ( now easily measured in this digital culture of results reporting that has spawned from IT servers being central to every transaction), that these Atlantic Alliance grads contribute, initiate, innovate or create.
Now this is playing and paying it forward.
Read the article and add what you think should happen.
I am going to come back to this Atlantic Digital Alliance that Gerry Pond threw out as a clever bone to the reader and prompted this longer commentary by me.
I continue to worry about New Brunswick because I see more storm clouds than sunlight, but this concept of bringing an area of population slightly larger than the total size of Maine together as one integrated, and digitally enabled economic unit is filled with potential..
An independent political representation ( who cares about political posturing beyond job creation, anyway), and through sharing of all revenues on a formula of population contribution, and sharing costs in a similar fashion, while managing the cost of delivery over the World’s fastesst broadest broadband network. A World class digital network stretching from fishing outport, to blueberry picking capital, ( every child could access higher education from home and learn to drink beer locally instead of at University dorms), we could turn the next 50 years to our favor,
This is much more attractive outcome, instead of undoing the community advances of the last 50 by squandering the promise and premise of digital living and economics. If you think the last 50 years of increasing the size of McMansions is an economic strategy for Atlantic Canada, then you have not read the economics textbooks of wealth generation.