Keith Colwell has it all wrong

No, we’re not writing about the off-the-ice incident with Percy Paris. We’ll leave that discussion with the referees and race-relations pundits.

The important point is this: in a week in which Stats Canada recorded Nova Scotia as the only province with three consecutive months of job creation Colwell was trying to lecture the government on how economic development works:

Keith Colwell: The Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism touted that Theriault Shipyard got a whole $20,000 to really help their operation. Now, $20,000 is great, and that’s a very solid, good, long-standing company in Nova Scotia, but Irving gets $300 million? There’s something wrong with this whole picture here – $300 million (for a $25 billion contract).

It’s like comparing Mars to Jupiter.

Keith Colwell: So $300 million that Irving could have done by themselves; they could have done it without the $300 million.

You don't spot the other team 20 points on a $25 billion contract.

You don’t spot the other team 20 points on a $25 billion contract.

But would they have? Could they have? Someone should really ask Jim Irving.
Or ask the federal bureaucrats who administered the national shipbuilding procurement strategy. Ask them whether or not bids required a provincial guarantee to protect the federal government from unwanted liabilities?
Or see here

Keith Colwell: People are starting to realize that there are going to be very few jobs from this.

“Very few jobs”  is Colwell logic.  As if a “few” workers are going to build a bunch of 21st -Century combat ships for Canada’s navy? It’s ridiculous stuff to be putting on the record in Hansard.

The key to the Ships contract, like the ships to be built, is scale. Large industrial projects drive economic growth because they are big. Lots of ships built, lots of jobs, lots of consumer spending,  lots of tax revenue, lots of houses built, lots of cars purchased, etc. Big projects encourage the small, spin-off, local business development. In the Ships context, there’s even a word for it: supply chain.

The Liberal logic is twisted: they are in favour of small companies operating in the supply chain, but against the company that’s at the end of the supply chain paying the bills?  It makes you dizzy.

The Ships opportunity is real. Missing it is not an option. Would the Liberals scrap the loan agreement and sacrifice those 10,000+ jobs and the $25 billion dollar contract?

1,565 QP Qs by the NSLP and NSPC

Two distinct strategies suggest themselves in a review of the one thousand five-hundred and sixty-five questions asked by the Liberals and Conservatives in 2012.

The Liberals used a spray-paint or roller technique to try to colour the government on broad topics, while the Conservatives used a smaller brush to give detailed work to delicate issues.

Credit must be given to the Conservatives for getting stories like Talbot House (50 questions) and the Home for Coloured Children (21 questions) into the press. Spending a lot of time on a few stories can make a difference. But there is risk in this approach as well. Asking no questions on universities, agriculture, doctors, crime rates, or rural roads, but 22 questions on First Contract Arbitration legislation, suggest this focused attack can result in forgetting other core values.

A word of caution: as the Official Opposition, the Liberals ask approximately 60% of the questions. It would be unfair to suggest that because they asked two questions on Immigration in 2012, and the Conservatives did not ask any, that they care about that issue more than the PCs. With 313 more questions, the Liberals could hit more targets.

For the NDP, it is worth noting that the topics their supporters seem most interested in – universal health care, climate change, income assistance, root causes of crime, and the minimum wage – received no questions from either the Liberals or the Tories.

Digging down into the numbers on health also yields a point of interest. Instead of wait times (9 questions total) and ER closures (15 questions total) dominating the discussion as they did under previous Liberal and PC governments, the number one health issue raised in Question Period in 2012 was the NSGEU and Collective Bargaining (57 questions).

Write to us with your observations at pictoubee@gmail.com

The Question Period Priorities of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal Party.

The Question Period Priorities of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal Party.

Jobs Here

As Liberal MLAs speak out against the NDP’s moves to bring ship building contracts, engineering jobs and IBM’s data analytics centre all home to Nova Scotia, another prominent business voice is speaking out against the politics of negativity.

No one can accuse Halifax Chamber of Commerce Valerie Payn of being a partisan New Democrat. She has worked for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce for 17 years and has been named as one of Atlantic Canada’s top CEOs by Atlantic Business.

As Stephen McNeil attacks on job growth continue, Payn offered this letter last week:

The rash of negativity around recent announcements by Projex and IBM, and their plans to set up business in Halifax, leaves me bitterly disappointed. Let’s face it. These companies could go anywhere in our increasingly shrinking world. Yet, they have chosen to locate in Halifax.

Do we really want new jobs, to keep our young professionals here, to grow our economy? … Or do we not?

These are jobs of the future; well paying, and suited to our provincial assets. These jobs, and these companies, are a good fit for us. So, I would ask all those who have been so vocal in their negative comments, “What — exactly — do you suggest? Is there something I am missing?

One thing we all agree upon is that we cannot continue to export our young people, year over year over year — and yet expect to be a strong and fiscally stable province. Surely, we cannot expect to do the same thing …. take the same approaches over and over… and expect a different result. Seriously, can we expect change… but not actually change? Am I missing something?

Let’s not spend precious time over the next year focused on an upcoming election, when that might be, and what it might mean. We have much more important issues facing us.

And let’s not for sure, absolutely for sure, not lash out at those businesses who choose to locate here. Unless, of course, we would prefer that they, and others like them, not come. And let them take their business elsewhere.

Believe it or not, Nova Scotia, they have other options.

Cutting Steele

We know not everyone has time to tune into Legislative Television, particularly the Late Debates.  But we did not want anyone to miss these gems from Allan MacMaster, the Tory from Inverness, as he waxed philosophic about capitalism and “freedom” on Wednesday:

Allan MacMaster: I believe in capitalism. I have a business degree. I’m very much a believer in the free market, but this kind of activity where companies are just asking for handouts really bothers me, especially when we compare them to people who, say, fought for our country, who really gave us the freedom so that those companies could operate here with the freedoms they have here and be in an economy that is solid, where they can make money. That’s a blessing that they should be appreciative of. Instead, they don’t seem to be, because they just come to the government looking for a handout. 

Sadly, in addition to the strange juxtaposition of economic growth and supporting our troops, MacMaster joined the Liberals in attacking a specific company, in this case the Halifax Shipyard:

Allan MacMaster: What was particularly galling to me was Irving, because they won a taxpayer-funded contract. The taxpayers are already paying for this work to build those ships, and they need another $260 million. That equates to an extra 1 per cent profit margin on that contract for them. 

We expect better from the Tory backbench.  We do not see how joining the Liberals in this nasty business of slagging companies and their employees makes any political sense, no matter how much they might believe in the fanciful world of pure capitalism that MacMaster imagines.

More importantly, MacMaster shows that he, like Stephen McNeil, forgot how Nova Scotia won the ships contract. On Thursday MacMaster turned his attack to the government role in the bid:

Allan MacMaster: There was no need to pay Irving $260 million in terms of a forgivable loan. They won the tender to build the ships. They’re going to be making an enormous amount of money off that project. It’s a tremendously lucrative project for them- $30 billion over 25 years…taxpayers in Nova Scotia didn’t have to spend that money but this government chose to spend it for them.

Graham Steele: You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.

Not very polite of the former Finance Minister, we suppose. But Irving would not have won the contract if the NDP government did not invest in their yard. Does MacMaster actually know about how the bidding worked? Sadly, if you look to Hansard for an answer, you will be disappointed:

Allan MacMaster: From what I have heard, if you look at the examination of the bids, there was a factor – I believe it was worth seven points on the submission they made – that had to do with the company could have asked the federal government for money to help spruce up their infrastructure to complete the contract, and it was worth seven points. Well, Irving won this bid by more than seven points, so they didn’t need the handout that they got from the government.

Aside from the faulty logic at work (it was a competitive bidding process), is MacMaster right? Was it really only worth just seven points?

You don’t spot the other team 20 points on a $25 billion contract.

Not quite.  The “Cost to Canada” component counted for 20 out of 100 points in the bidding process set out by the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.  By MacMaster’s logic, Nova Scotia would have given up 20, not 7, points. And lost the bid.  It is like spotting another team a 20 point lead and expecting to come out on top.

We do not doubt Allan MacMaster believes the ship contract was a great win.  We just do not think he understands how the ships were won.