January 07, 2007

Predictions for 2007

Problems and possibilities: predictions for 2007
By Chris Arsenault

N.B. will pass more gas

Stephen Harper wants to make Canada an "energy superpower" and New Brunswick's business elite have jumped into a bed that will put us in the company of nations with less than austere character. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, is an apartheid state when it comes to gender and a brutal theocratic U.S. protectorate that scoffs at individual rights. Iraq... well, enough said. Nigeria, Iran Azerbaijan, and most other countries dependent on oil exports aren't so great either.

Yes, a handful of stable countries in Scandinavia and elsewhere depend on oil exports, but they also have Ikea. We may succeed in exporting oil, but it's doubtful Canadian Tire franchises will start opening in Europe.

Scandinavia is also a ship building powerhouse because of public investments and active industrial policy. With air quality in Saint John already some of the worst in the country, we would be better to follow Norway into ship building rather than Nigeria into crude exports. Let's emulate Scandinavia, not Saudi Arabia.

Prediction: The new LNG terminal and other developments in Saint John won't get off the ground this year but plans will continue with greater force and even less foresight.

Mountains around Kandahar will dominate the media landscape

As soldiers stationed at CFB Gagetown head off for Kandahar, New Brunswick and the country, will be watching closely. Likely, we will be receiving most of our printed news about their activities from Canadian Press stories syndicated in every city paper across the country. Don't expect the Irvings to foot the bill for an Afghan correspondent.

Prediction: The Afghan insurgency, wretched and religious as it is, will grow in 2007. Canadians will stagger through a mission that cannot be completed.

Canada's top solider Rick Hillier made headlines in 2006 when he bombastically announced that, "We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people... there are things worth fighting for, there are things worth dying for, there are things worth killing for." Expect the dying and the killing to continue with greater ferocity this year.

Agent Orange Vets will receive paltry compensation

It looks like veterans affairs minister Greg Thompson will announce a long awaited compensation package for New Brunswickers poisoned by dioxin based defoliants sprayed in and around CFB Gagetown early this year.

Federally, the Tories are talking a lot about toxic chemicals, attempting to bolster their lackluster environmental performance. Compensation is a fundamental matter of justice for average people who had their lives ruined by poisons military and civilian supervisors said were, "safe enough to drink."

Prediction: Minister Thompson will line up with veterans to announce a compensation package, reported at $24,000 per victim, which will neglect the vast majority of people poisoned by the government. Stay tuned to this column for the gory details.

MLA Pay Raise looms like dark clouds over Hampton

A commission led by Lorne McGuigan recently decided that N.B. MLAs ought to be earning more money. Ontario's Liberal Government under Dalton McGunity just voted itself a major raise boosting the Premier's salary to $198,620, compared with Shawn Graham's measly $130,000. Following the logic of our ever so wise older siblings from Ontario, us defeatist East Coasters ought to do the same.

The correlation between higher salaries and better performance is all but taken for granted in the psychology of modern capitalism: but is it correct?

In 2000 Nortel Networks' former CEO John Roth, exercised options worth a whopping $135 million as his company's stock value began to plummet faster than George Bush's approval ratings. The same trend, decreasing profitability and increased executive compensation, plays out in plenty companies across the Fortune 500.

Most of humanity's major artistic, scientific and, arguably, political achievements, were pioneered by people who made little or no money for their work; think Vincent Van Gogh, Alberta Einstein and Che Guevara. If we want our leaders to paint proactive politics like Van Gogh, rather than rob the people like John Roth than perhaps policy solutions more creative than a pay hike are the proper prescription?

Prediction: MLAs will vote themselves a pay raise in 2007. You'd vote yourself a raise if you could; I know I would.

Chris Arsenault is in Vietnam working on the Agent Orange file. He writes for the betterment of humanity, not the money. Whatever.

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