20 June 2016

Developing a sustainable, diverse economy #nlpoli

When it comes to developing a successful economic development strategy, Edsel Bonnell has advice worth heeding.

He co-chaired the team that developed "Change and Challenge," the 1992 Strategic Economic Plan. The SEP "called for a transformation of culture, away from a dependence on government initiatives and government control and toward one based on individual initiative and private-sector entrepreneurship.

"The plan did not promise easy answers, nor did it fixate on one sector of the economy or on large megaprojects. Change and Challenge represented the result of a long development process that was itself crucial. The long period of discussion and consultation both inside and outside government helped to develop a consensus among those who took part in the discussions."  

Everything in the SEP represented a departure from the unsuccessful approaches we had already tried in the province,  all the ideas we knew were unsuccessful and yet the ones that the  Conservatives put back in place after 2003.  In many respects, it's how we got into our current financial mess... again.  

The process  - "the long period of consultation and discussion" - was an important part of the SEP's success.  The discussions helped build a strong agreement throughout the province about what needed to be done to develop a sustainable, diverse economy.  Not surprisingly,  Edsel recommends we try the same thing again.  He's described the approach very simply in two recent letters to the Telegram:  June 13 and June 18.   

Edsel may be a bit optimistic about how fast we might develop the plan:  this fall would be very fast.  But there is is merit in the idea of bringing all the parties together to set an apolitical task force on the track to build a plan to get us out of the very big hole in which we find ourselves. The politicians can't do it alone.  The bureaucrats can't,  and the business community can't. Nor can ordinary citizens fix things all by themselves.