We like Gail Lethbridge. Why bury her business column in the Arts section online?
On Sunday in The Herald, Lethbridge tackled the NDP’s replacement of the scandal-prone 1952 Industrial Expansion Fund with their legislation for the Jobs Fund in order to meet the Auditor General’s requirements for an accountable fund open to a real audit.
Since 1952, this self-serving model of political largesse defined a generation of regional economic development in Nova Scotia. And for what? Just take a look at the state of the economy…
Nova Scotia deserves the very best investment decisions possible. This means eliminating politicians from the decision-making. Not only would it improve the optics, it would also bolster the likelihood of business success and good jobs.
Let the government target regions that need economic development and then stand back and let the real business experts — bankers, investment angels and venture capitalists — evaluate business cases.
Can’t argue with two decades of the worst economic performance of any province. But Lethbridge’s experts – the bankers and ‘investment angels’, they’ve been having a hard go of it lately. And we still see a role for Cabinet in economic decisions like the re-opening of TrentonWorks to build wind turbines. That’s what we elect them to do. Their fast work helping forestry owners with the thoughtful and thorough Seven Point Action Plan being another good example of economic decision-making by politicians (after consulting with business owners, bankers and workers).
What many Nova Scotians lamented about the Industrial Expansion Fund was that it seemed to be used to reward friends and donors of the government of the day. The politics that people raged against was pork-barrel politics. Given Nova Scotia’s lengthy history with that style of governance, it’s understandable that columnists would confuse back-room-boy decisions and political accountability.
But there is a vast difference between a politician taking care of his friends without any oversight, and Cabinet making the decisions that they were elected to make. It’s this difference which separates modern democracies from banana republics.
As another Herald editorial put it:
That’s the crux of accountability – Cabinet has to provide the auditor with something to audit when it makes these spending decisions.
The Jobs Fund does that. The Industrial Expansion Fund did not.