02 July 2013

The Politics of Fashion #nlpoli

As it turns out, Corporate Research Associates president Don Mills had lots to say to the St. John’s Board of Trade besides a few guesses.

Newfoundland and Labrador can’t create economic booms in every nook and cranny.  Instead, we should focus on growth centres where people are moving anyway.

Such radical - dare one say revolutionary  - ideas. How blessed the Board of Trade members were to hear these comments the likes of which they have never heard before.


Never heard the likes of it before, except for the 1992 Strategic Economic Plan.

Pretty much everything Mills talked about is stuff that people in this province have known for a couple of decades or more.  Until 2003, what Mills is now holding out as some sort of new insight was government policy in this province.

And then things changed.

The provincial government started focussing on things like the Lower Churchill,  squeezing more hand-outs from the federal government, and spending beyond what the public treasury could support.  One of the provincial Conservatives’ biggest supporters after was Don Mills. Right in line behind Mills was the St. John’s Board of Trade.  They cheered as the provincial government increased spending by incredible amounts.  As the government admitted starting in late 2009, what it was doing was what the public couldn’t afford.  Neither Mills nor the Board of Trade said a peep about it.

None of this is surprising.  The two go together.  CRA is the only pollster the local elite accepts and the Board of Trade reflects the views of the highly clique-ish local establishment.  Mills is on the Board of Trade’s agenda because he is fashionable, not because he is saying something provocative or even something the Board actually supports.  They don’t.  The Board actually supports unsustainable government spending because that’s what puts cash in its members pockets.. 

You see, the Board of Trade doesn’t sponsor speakers who offer different views or who put new ideas in play. The Board’s goal is to reflect only the current, official viewpoint.  Officially, it is important to talk about economic change and financially responsible public spending.  They are like the provincial government.  They talk about it.  They don’t actually do anything. .

The Board is like an arm of government. The Board is such a reflection of the official view of things that they won’t even give time at a luncheon for a representative of the Liberals or New Democrats to speak.  That sort of thing would be commonplace anywhere else but not in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2003.

And a university economics professor other than official economist Wade Locke? Maybe a columnist from here or away?  Puhleese.  The gang at the Board just aren’t interested.

Mills is the official pollster of the Newfoundland intelligentsia. The fact that he was pushing ideas that didn’t come from his research is irrelevant.  The fact that the ideas are actually 20 years or more old doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter than someone locally could have done a far better job than Mills at laying out the need for a genuinely different economic agenda for the province.  It doesn’t even matter that Mills only showed how much he doesn’t know by talking about Chinese migration patterns rather than stuff that has actually been happening in this province over the past couple of decades.

What got Mills on the Board of Trade agenda was not what he had to say but who he is. Don Mills is safe.