Graham bets everything on us

Posted on February 5, 2010
Filed Under Commentary | 1 Comment

I wish there were a better solution to New Brunswick’s NB Power problem than to sell it to Hydro Quebec. I wish Quebec would sell Hydro Quebec to private sector owners. I wish there was not so much corruption in politics, bureaucracy and corporations. I wish there were some way New Brunswick could be a self-sufficient entity and not a chronic welfare case. I wish the Maritimes were one province with a larger voice in a competitive world.

All or none of those things might be possible but only a manic, chemically enhanced optimist would foresee any of them occurring in any forseeable future.

One of the problems that contributed to NB Power’s frailty is that both parties that take turns governing New Brunswick have used it as a giant pork barrel. A Member of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly told me recently that both parties refer to NB Power as “The Upper Chamber,” a joking reference to the idea that it is the equivalent of the Senate of Canada as a reward for cronies. We all know so many people who got their jobs with NB Power via political favouritism that we must wonder if there is anyone there who did not. Hydro Quebec has a similar reputation.

However, Quebecers and their industries have had lower power rates than New Brunswickers for years. It is difficult to know how many companies failed, left New Brunswick or never came because of that but certainly thousands of jobs were involved. It seems odd that so many New Brunswickers resent the idea that business and industry would benefit from lower rates.

How many people realize that there is no one to pay any tax or cost of business except the final consumer, you and me? Does anyone think taxes or costs businesses pay can be recovered from anyone else? Oh, yes, sometimes we can pass a share of it off to a neighbour or guest as, for example, other provinces do with highway tolls. New Brunswickers chose not to do even that. Sometimes we can mooch a larger share from our neighbours via the federal government. Still, most of us know that living with our parents is not the life we want.

In fact, the lower the costs and taxes New Brunswick businesses pay, the more competitive they can be here and away. The more competitive they are here, the less we pay for goods and services. The more competitive they are outside our province, the more revenues they bring back here and the more of us they employ.

Another factor that may not be significant but should not be ignored is the future of major power grids. Power transmission is very inefficient and grids are vulnerable to natural and terrorist acts. There is a great deal of research taking place right now to develop alternate and local forms of electricity generation. Hydrogen fuel cells, for example, could be very small and local if the cost barrier could be cracked.

Not so long ago, telephone companies were huge monopolies. Even more recently, the pulp and paper industry dominated the value-added forest industry in, not just New Brunswick, but Canada. Aren’t we glad New Brunswick does not own those industries now? Generally speaking, governments never do well owning business or industries unless they can force a monopoly like the NB Liquor Corporation to gouge us mercilessly.

“Politics,” as US President Lyndon Johnson, is supposed to have said, “is the art of the possible”. I am sure Premier Shawn Graham would prefer many different choices than are politically possible in New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the right thing is not always the popular or politically possible thing. We all know, for example, that linguistic dualism is destructive to our prosperity and unity. No party can oppose it and form a government.

However, Premier Graham is leading an effort akin to Louis Robichaud’s to improve the standard of living and self-sufficiency of New Brunswickers. He has bent but not broken, compromised but not surrendered. He has put his government and his legacy on the line hoping that enough New Brunswickers have faith in a progressive future to support him.

Here’s hoping we do.                                               DAC


One Response to “Graham bets everything on us”

  1. Dave Page on February 27th, 2010 7:34 pm

    I believe New Brunswick could become self sufficient but it has to start with the government itself and I don’t believe they know how to do it. Government’s are a reflection of its people and when the majority overspend, overindulge and live the me life it leads to disaster. No North American governments since the 2nd world war should be financially unstable but they all are. Many people following the war became very wealthy as should the governments but here we stand with debt upon debt piling up and no one doing anything about it. My father told me along time ago that being financially secure was not rocket science. He merely said stop spending the money. It wouldn’t be long before we would be stable. What does Quebec Hydro know that we New Brunswicker’s don’t. Have we given up or does the Premier believe if it can’t be fixed get rid of it.It dosen’t appear if we are getting rid of all of it so are we going to continue with more of the same. Well Dave I guess Thats all I have to say.

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