Kris Austin Commentary: NB Power decision to buy power poles from Quebec a snub to our local economy
It looks like we have another round of politics being played at the expense of yet another New Brunswick business. The recent decision by NB Power to award a pole contract to Quebec is the latest in a finger pointing episode playing out at your legislative theatre.
Marwood, a company based in Tracyville, has been supplying the crown corporation with utility poles for decades. They also played a big role in restoring power to regions around the province during the most recent ice storm, showing once again the benefit of having a local supplier on hand.
There is no doubt that supply contracts being awarded outside of NB to businesses in Quebec and other provinces takes a sizeable chunk out of employment opportunities for New Brunswick, and every taxpayer in the province should be concerned about this approach. When you have an unemployment rate that hovers around ten percent, every contract that is tendered out of province has a very real and negative impact on the local economy.
Let’s also not forget that not too long ago Craig Manufacturing from Hartland lost a plow manufacturing bid to Quebec because of a $1600 price difference. After public outrage the government backed out of the deal, leaving a potential lawsuit hanging over our heads.
We must also remember that it isn’t just about supply contracts affecting the local economy in NB. When it comes to available jobs in NB, this province also likes to shop outside its own borders for employees. We need look no further than our ambulance service to see our government hiring paramedics from Quebec, to fulfill unnecessary and onerous language quotas, while our trained paramedics from right here at home struggle to obtain full time hours. We can also look at Campbellton hospital that brings in staff from across the Chaleur Bay to fill shifts.
I know Quebec citizens who have moved to New Brunswick for various reasons, including employment. The difference is these folks are now working and paying taxes here and contributing to the overall benefit of our province; they are residents of NB who weren’t imported to take a job that the government refused to give to a qualified professional who was already living here. It is an entirely different scenario, and is one that my party absolutely supports.
And it is also entirely different than Quebec-based companies doing contract work at the expense of local companies, and in turn taking that money out of the New Brunswick economy and spending it in Quebec. This is a very real problem, and the People’s Alliance is determined to strike a reasonable balance between protectionism and open trade. We believe all factors must be considered when awarding contracts, and protecting NB’s economy must be an equal factor to the lowest bid.
As annoying as this reality is, what truly annoys me as much is listening to the Tories kick and scream about it, when in reality they also gave multiple contracts to Quebec when their party was holding the reins just a few short and painful years ago. It was the Alward government that hired a Quebec consulting firm, at a $6 million price tag, to tell DTI to take plows off secondary roads at night to save money. But now that they are in opposition, the PCs are quick to point out this flaw in the system and blame the current Liberal government for doing the exact same thing they did when they were in power. Mr. Pot, let me introduce you to Mr. Kettle.
History clearly shows that both the Liberal and Tory parties govern the same way in New Brunswick. When it comes to ideology, principle, and vision, there really is no difference between the two parties because both of them are severely lacking in those traits. And in the end, it is New Brunswick businesses, and by default NB citizens, that suffer.
People’s Alliance Party