Healthy debates needed on New Brunswick’s future
Despite the fact that New Brunswick seems to be in a period of great flux in terms of the economy and a variety of other issues such as the future of health care, demographic shifts and the environment, it’s encouraging to see that at least one of our most experienced and prominent citizens is taking the time to articulate his hopes and plans for the province’s future. I’m referring to Donld J. Savoie, longtime Chair of the Université de Moncton’s Public Administration and Governance Institute. He has been publishing a series of articles in both the Times&Transcript and L’Acadie Nouvelle.
I may have serious difficulties with his philosophical position and many of his ideas, but the very fact that he has contributed to what will hopefully become a public discussion on many difficult and sometimes taboo issues has to be applauded and encouraged.
Donald Savoie identifies the problems we face here in New Brunswick and raises the spectre of economic ruin on the scale of countries such as Greece and Spain. He also proposes solutions such as raising the HST, lowering the tax burden on companies and encouraging private sector entrepreneurship. He thinks certain « sacrifices » need to be made in environmental protection, notably reducing some financial costs associated with pollution prevention.
Again, I think Mr. Savoie’s vision and reasoning on some of these issues is short-sighted and flawed. But the very fact that he is offering his views is important. It is important because at least he is raising the issues. Too often, business and political leaders – including many leaders in the environmental movement – fail to even attempt to engage the public in honest debate.
Our democracy must rest on public engagement and dialogue. If not, we will not have democracy; we will have what I will call idiocracy, or governing by ideology (a second, more humorous definition of ideocracy is government ruled by idiots).
Debate must be reasoned (with little doses of humour permitted) and open to criticism. What we hear too often though are platitudes and even hi jinx; essentially, true debate is avoided by simply side stepping the real questions. Often this is done out of fear of admitting that the answers to many of those questions are uncertain or perhaps that they fly in the face of strongly held ideologies and positions.
I’ve noticed that L’Acadie Nouvelle, in particular, seems to have turned the corner in recent months from being a strictly reporting based newspaper (“he said, she said”) to one where analysis is being provided. The newspaper is also inviting debate and calling on the leaders of our communities to state their cases openly.
We need more of that in New Brunswick.