Starting Over- Update


A week has passed and the Conservative leadership dust has settled. The media political prognosticators will now come out of the woodwork with their predictions.

From where I sit it woul seem that the Conservative establishment may have preferred Mel Norton as their leader however the grassroots saw more common sense in the message that Blaine Higgs has been delivering since he threw his hat in the ring in March, his message; “The division and polarization has to stop”. From where I sit the Gallant government is only adding fuel to the division fire by appointing a languages commissioner.

Higgs re-occurring messages is that partisan politics and irresponsible promises keeps getting in the way of progress. We have seen it over and over, there’s a change in government and we throw out the baby with the bath water. Yet another “new economic development strategy”.

Permit me to give you a little history lesson on a business sector that I have been intimately involved with the ICT (Information Communications Technology) sector.

Around 1975 the NB government spearheaded the formation of the New Brunswick Electronic Association. Anyone that had ever held a soldering iron was invited. It took less than a year for the provincial soldering irons to go cold. My company applied for government assistance to do software development – nope, at that time the Hatfield administration only understood. fabrication, farming, forestry, fishing or maybe even fur trapping. We had not yet worked our way through the alphabet to the letter “s” for software.

Next we had Software NB, someone in government apparently had heard about a young and upcoming company called ” Microsoft“. I was founding member of Software NB and eventually the President of the fledgling organization. The NB government recognized the importance of the software industry but was not prepared to provide any funding or support. The organization still in it’s infancy lasted a couple of years and died. It would be comparable to a mother eagle (government) pushing a featherless baby chick (Software NB) out of the nest from 100 feet up and expecting it to survive.

Next we had the formation of NBITA ( New Brunswick Information Technology Alliance) under the leadership and direction of Premier Frank McKenna, jointly funded by ACOA and the NB government.  I served as a founding member and one of the one year terms as president.The New Brunswick Information Technology Alliance lived a little longer, it lasted 5 years. Enter the Lord government, let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater again, out with NBITA. Premier Lord and his advisers had decided that manufacturing was the key to a prosperous New Brunswick. Apparently the Lord government hadn’t heard about the US rust belt and China, Mexico and India.

More  recently we’ve  had the birth of Propel ICT developed from the ashes of NBITA and here we go again, over 40 years from the initial realization that the ICT sector should and would be important if not critical to a prosperous New Brunswick.

How much sense would it make for a Christmas tree farmer to invest 16 years planting and raising Christmas trees and then give away 40 to 50 percent of those trees?  What would  the return on his investment be and what are his chances of surviving?

That’s exactly what we have been doing in the ICT as well as other sectors. We invest hundreds of millions of dollars to educate our youth from K to 12, we financially underwrite a 4 year Computer Science or other degree  and then 40 to 50 percent of our “product” goes off to companies in the US or Ontario or other parts of Canada. Where’s the return on that 18 to 18 year investment in education and where is the long term economic development strateg? Where is the communication and collaboration between industry, academia and government?

Since 1975, the year the New Brunswick Electronic Association was formed, we have seen the birth and development  of companies in the “rest of the world” that employ hundreds of thousands. Companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Apple, Ebay, Google, Facebook, Blackberry, Opentext and the list goes on. Companies with 100’s of billions in market capitalization and value…….. and none of these companies were or are geographic dependent for their development and growth.

Any or all of these or similar companies could have been established by the thousands of bright, capable graduates we have exported from New Brunswick over the past 4 decades, all that was required was a long term economic development strategy supported by elected non-partisan governments that were willing to collaborative and co-operative.

Or do we prefer to continue….starting over?

Think about it.