Gallant's draft jobs plan has 'high-growth' entrepreneurs, think tank

The Gallant government has been working on a job-creation plan that includes encouraging “high-growth” entrepreneurs and creating a “think tank” within the government to develop new ideas to spur economic growth.

Progressive Conservatives obtained a draft copy of the jobs plan, which was created in November 2015

A draft report prepared for Premier Brian Gallant proposes a number of steps to get the economy growing again, including establishing the in-house think tank. (CBC)

The Gallant government has been working on a job-creation plan that includes encouraging "high-growth" entrepreneurs and creating a "think tank" within the government to develop new ideas to spur economic growth.

The draft November 2015 report, "New Brunswick's Economic Growth Plan," blames the province's stagnant economy on a drop in private sector investment, a reduction in federal transfer payments and a decline in the number of young workers and traditional industries.

And it proposes a number of steps to get the economy growing again, including establishing an in-house think tank.

"We will be establishing a small team of focused researchers to help government better understand the challenges and opportunities" coming from demographic and economic trends, the draft says.

"This think tank will be also tasked with helping to incubate new ideas and generate potential new growth opportunities," it adds.

It also says Premier Brian Gallant's Jobs Board will help develop economic development plans and goals for every government department, even those that don't seem to have a direct role in employment.

You'd think a government that said jobs and the economy would be the number one priority wouldn't be sitting on a jobs plan for seven months.- Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch

The departmental plans will be put together to set overall job creation, tax revenue and gross domestic product targets for the government, the report suggests.

The draft report, prepared by the Jobs Board Secretariat, was obtained by the Progressive Conservative Opposition. The Tories gave a copy to CBC News.

Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch says the plan sounds "similar to some of the other reports that have come out: let's see how much we can throw at the wall and we'll see what sticks."

Fitch says it's odd the plan doesn't mention cybersecurity, a sector the government has been promoting for job growth in the last few months, or its election promise to create 10,000 jobs.

Job losses

Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch says the plan sounds "similar to some of the other reports that have come out: let's see how much we can throw at the wall and we'll see what sticks." (CBC)

Last month, New Brunswick had 3,400 fewer jobs than when Gallant took office, according to Statistics Canada.

It's not clear when the revised plan will be released publicly or how much of last November's draft will be part of the final version. The section on early childhood education is empty except for the note "NEED CONTENT HERE."

"You'd think a government that said jobs and the economy would be the number one priority wouldn't be sitting on a jobs plan for seven months," Fitch said.

In a statement, Treasury Board President Roger Melanson says the plan will be finalized based on consultations that wrapped up only last month.

Melanson says in the meantime, the Liberals have been creating jobs and launched its cybersecurity initiative based on feedback it got during the jobs plan consultations.

The draft says that "the primary objective of the New Brunswick government is to get the economy back on a path to growth and job creation now."

The report says the long-standing model of providing job creation grants and loans to businesses makes it "hard to determine" if the money is creating economic growth "or just replacing a traditional source of private sector funding."

It says the new system of payroll rebates will require that the province always recoup more money in income tax from new jobs than it spends helping create them.

'High-growth entrepreneurs'

Treasury Board President Roger Melanson said in a statement to CBC News the jobs plan will be finalized based on consultations that wrapped up in May. (CBC)

The 57-page document proposes a wide range of measures, including trying to encourage "high-growth potential entrepreneurs."

Small businesses are important, but their markets are often limited to their local area, the report says, so the province also needs "a few ambitious entrepreneurs to step out of the pack and leverage innovation and new business models to build global businesses."

And it asks if New Brunswick should try to lure "a Tier 1 player" in the aerospace sector, pointing out that Boeing has a manufacturing plant in Manitoba and Lockheed Martin has an engineering office in Nova Scotia.

The plan sets ambitious targets, aiming to return population trends to a "solid rate of growth" with an expanding workforce and more jobs by 2018, when the Liberals will be running for re-election.

Long-term goals for 2040 include a "demographically balanced" population with a growing economy, "multicultural, diverse and thriving communities," and sustainable government finances.

But it warns even some jobs that now exist in New Brunswick are vulnerable.

While call centres employ 18,000 people, such positions could easily be moved to lower-cost countries unless the province does more to help develop new kinds of centres.

And it estimates the private sector has been investing $1 billion less per year between 2012 and 2014 than it was between 2006 and 2011.

The report says resource development has dropped in New Brunswick, from eight per cent of the provincial economy in the late 1990s to about four per cent in 2014.

The value of Saskatchewan's resource industries are now ten times per capita those of New Brunswick, the report says.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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