A press release from Rodney MacDonald's office announces the creation of a "Premier's Economic Advisory Panel." The panel is
made up of 14 men and women from across the province. They represent a range of sectors including construction, retail, education and banking. The premier says their experience will be invaluable as the province works through economic challenges.
Such a panel is a good idea---we're facing unprecedented, and enormous, challenges, and our political leaders need all the help they can get navigating forward. But we should also recognize that the problems we face today in large part were created by business leaders who not only did not anticipate the mess we're in now, but also helped create it. What we need now is people who have worked on creating a sustainable economy that doesn't rely entirely on resource depletion and cheap credit. Alas, Rodney's 14 advisors are mostly the same old-same old; some of the very same names would have appeared on an advisory list 10 or 20 years ago, and all of them are cut from a mold that would have applied pretty much anytime in the last half-century. They are:Joel Shannon---owns Seaboard Transport—which started in the 1960s as a distributor of petroleum products, expanding into mining in the 1990sJohn Risley---founder of Clearwater Seafoods, presently facing huge challenges based in part on the global financial collapse, and in part due to a decrease in demand related to the overall economic crisis Colin Dodds, Saint Mary's University---whatever Dodds' abilities, it's unlikely he'll offer any advise that differs from that of SMU's main patron, the Sobey's CorporationJohn Bragg, Oxford Frozen Foods---deals in conventionally grown blueberries for exportIrving Schwartz, Schwartz and Co. Ltd.--- cape Breton guy, does a little bit of everything, started with furniture, then into nursing homes…. Paul Sobey, Empire Co. Ltd.John Chisholm, Nova Construction---in 2006, Nova Construction was the largest corporate contributor to Rodney MacDonald’s campaign, $7,500, and Chisolm is director of Pioneer Coal, which is at the heart of a controversial strip-mining operation in Cape Breton David Hennigar, Annapolis Basin Group Inc.---perhaps the largest housing developer in the provinceTim O'Neil, former executive vice-president, Bank of Montreal Dianne Kelderman, Nova Scotia Co-op CouncilValerie Payn, Halifax Chamber of CommerceJP Deveau, Acadian Seaplants Ltd.---exporter of seaweed productsWadih Fares, WM Fares and Associates---large Halifax developer, now building the Trillium project on South ParkAl MacPhee, Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association---the perfect example of an out-dated business modelUnderstand, I'm not saying that these people shouldn't be part of a consultation process---they should; they represent large industries that will remain a big part of the provincial economy, at least for the near future.But there are no "outside the box" thinkers on the list, no one who has given serious consideration to restructuring our economy to face the coming challenges. Batting the concept around the office for the last 20 minutes, I've come up with a short list of additional representatives who would make excellent contributions to a Economic Advisory Panel. They are:Ron Colman, president of GPI Atlantic, which works to measure the real value of an economy, and to suggest ways to improve economic health for everyone.Harold Nicholson, president of Transport 2000 Atlantic, an organization dedicated to moving our transportation system away from imported oil.Kevin Veinotte, vice-president of the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producer Association but more important, an honest-to-god grass farmer who understands what local, sustainable forestry and grazing is all about.Dan Roscoe of Scotian Windfields, a firm trying to create an alternative to traditionally fueled power generation.Patricia Bishop of Noggins Farm a long-running valley ag outfit that has pushed for the development of a locally grown food distribution system.Susanna Fuller, an advocate for sustainably caught seafood, who has great expertise in both the health of fisheries and in the health of the industry that exploits the fisheries. Jeff Moore of Just Us Coffee Roasters, who has built the most successful fair-trade cooperative in North America.Larry Hughes, of Dalhousie's Energy Research Group, who perhaps more than anyone has studied and written about the coming energy crisis that Nova Scotia will face as off-shore natural gas fields deplete and oil imports become more expensive.That's just off the top of our heads, here at The Coast. I'd welcome your suggestions for others.
Adding: another obvious missing part of Rodney's advisory group is a representative of labour groups. The Economic Advisory Panel has 14 people who represent maybe five percent of the population, while the working population of the province is completely unrepresented.