Self-sufficiency or Resilience?

The NB Self-Sufficiency Task Force is making its recommendations, based on its stated realities of a “need to increase our population and our labour force”, “increase labour productivity by providing people with the right tools for he right jobs”, create “large-scale investments in infrastructure”, and “expand our existing corporate base”. All of this is premised on what appears to be the primary reality, that “Export growth must drive overall economic growth. This will create prosperity”.

The ways to achieve this are provided as 20 policy recommendations, including “Rebranding New Brunswick”, creating a “flexible incentives program to attract businesses” and conduct a “review of business tax policy”. The Task Force also recommends the establishment of several new organisations, including:

  • A Commission on the Future of Local Governments
  • An Aboriginal Employment Council
  • A $1-billion Self-Sufficiency Fund (of which $500 million would be raised from long-term bonds from the Liquor Corporation)
  • A not-for-profit corporation to raise funds necessary to develop an e-health system
  • A centre of excellence for service delivery

In addition, the Task Forces recommends the “creation of a lean manufacturing program by the Research and Productivity Council” and a targeted immigration strategy.

I’m not an economic development specialist but I have worked with several NB companies, government departments and non-profits. I try to see patterns and determine the underlying foundation of operating models, to see what makes them tick.

It appears that the foundation for self-sufficiency is that we need to export our stuff and we need to get bigger companies (corporations) to locate here so that they can sell our stuff. In return we get jobs, and employees will continue to take their cars and drive to these places that generate the paycheques, from which the government will deduct taxes or invest their beer money profits. This money will create some think-tanks and money-lending agencies to fuel this economy.

So what’s new? Corporations create jobs based on shipping stuff that belongs to the people, especially our grandchildren. We get jobs to pay taxes and attract some more people to come and pay taxes. Everything goes along just fine as long as there is demand for our products. The corporations get richer and the average citizen remains a wage-slave. This is self-sufficiency?

In reading the reports, I didn’t see much that was innovative at all. Yes, there’s an understanding that “We need to be prepared for sweeping changes of unprecedented magnitude”, but little that explains how we can be better prepared. For instance, the need for education is stated, but it is assumed that the same outdated industrial structure is adequate for our societal needs. It is assumed that work will continue to be a place to which we commute, increasing the demand for roads. Recommendations for agriculture are to continue the corporatist model, whereas there is real innovative thinking coming from people like Rob Paterson on Food:

This series will be all about how we can practically, and in a generation, shift from a model where farming now profits only a few large external companies, where it creates serfs of our farmers and where it is ruining our biosphere. Shift from this to a model where it is our farmers who make the money and where farming is the most powerful beneficial force that restores and sustains the key services that give us all life on PEI.

This report seems to be a recommendation for business as usual, but under a new brand. It supports the entrenched powers, particularly faceless corporations who are not rooted in the land.

Thomas Homer-Dixon has said that we really need to develop resilience in order to be prepared for an uncertain future. The best tools available for that task are open source collaborative problem-solving and the Internet. The grassroots, who really understand the land and our communities now have the means to assemble and collaborate. It seems that real leadership and vision for our future as a resilient region is up to us.

2 Responses to “Self-sufficiency or Resilience?”

  1. cw taylor

    Dear Harold,

    For the past four years I’ve lived and worked as a volunteer in Saigon, Vietnam.
    I’m originally from Vancouver Island.
    However in recent months as I’ve begun contemplating a return to Canada I’m looking more closely at Atlantic Canada.

    It seems in Atlantic Canada there is a possibility of being part of a small, ecologically sustainable community in a region that seems less complicated than the western region.
    I’ve just read a number books on bio-regional development, local food, alternate currencies and small scale economies.
    I’m excited at the prospect of shopping for fresh local food produced on small sustainable local farms and sold at a farmer’s market, eating local seafood that isn’t on the endangered species list and comes to the table fresh, and by being able to hike and cycle in sensibly harvested forests.

    I’ve just finished browsing the website on the New Brunswick Self Sufficiency report you refer to above.
    I think a model that favours growth and the support of large corporations is a mistake.
    I was impressed by your statement: “It appears that the foundation for self-sufficiency is that we need to export our stuff and we need to get bigger companies (corporations) to locate here so that they can sell our stuff. So what’s new? Corporations create jobs based on shipping stuff that belongs to the people, especially our grandchildren.”
    The world can no longer afford corporations that behave this way. Is it possible that government and business leaders in New Brunswick aren’t aware that great business minds like Peter Senge of MIT, Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank and Jeremy Rifkin are pressuring corporations into a rethink.

    I’m not an economist either but I can see three converging events that will affect the shape of our future:
    One is the upcoming IPCC meeting in Bali. The message to governments will be – take radical action or perish.
    Second is the declining (recession, depression, collapse – choose your label) American economy.
    Third is peak oil. Peak has been past; higher oil prices will push the need for alternate, local, renewable energy sources.

    It seems the time has come for us to pay attention to EF Schumacher’s book, Small is Beautiful. I hope people in New Brunswick realize this and speak up.

    When you receive this I would appreciate a response.
    I would like to do anything I can to support your efforts.

    CW Taylor
    Saigon, Vietnam


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