Sunday, March 4, 2007

Real Self-Sufficiency

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As fortune would have it, I was able to coordinate a public talk at the University recently. Dr. Denis Roumestan of Justice & Equity, Inc., talked about the real changes taking place in Rwanda. A few short years ago, the world witnessed an horrific genocide in Rwanda – 1million killed in 100 days. Now, it seems Rwanda may be a bright light in democracy; actively encouraging and embracing a truly independent media, engaging in full accountability (all government books are open to public scrutiny, and elected officials and publicly appointed officials must sign documents outlining the progress they intend to make), a complete crackdown on corruption, recognition of the vital importance of the environment, the highest percentage of women in parliament (46% I believe), and a focus on development under Rwanda's terms.

Okay, but we're here in Fundy Royal, so what's that got to do with us? There are a number of issues as I see it. First, as the Make Poverty History campaign (a campaign I strongly support) points out, there is no real reason for abject poverty on this planet. Canada can and Canada should meet it's goal of 0.7 percent of GDP spent as foreign aid. Second, a recent Senate report suggests that CIDA's Africa strategy has failed. If we are going to turn this result around, then we need to invest in a country where development has real potential … and Rwanda seems to be such a place. As an economist, I see "sustainable development" as good for us all. I also know that people want to invest where returns are expected to be high.

Despite these lofty international objectives however, I think there is a deeper message for the people in Fundy Royal, and indeed for all New Brunswickers. Look at the democratic changes that I outline in the first paragraph. A free and independent media. Very few people in New Brusnwick would consider the Telegraph Journal, Times & Transcript, or the Daily Gleaner to reflect a free and independent media. Accountability in New Brunswick is laughable – although I do like Premier Graham's call to end party top-ups to premier's salaries. Accountability was one of Stephen Harper's goals, but he forgot his own message when he appointed his cabinet. Women in parliament … or legislature … or even on Saint John City Council? Forget it, and so too forget women's issues.

Most importantly, Rwanda wants to develop and Rwanda will develop, on Rwanda's terms. Premier Graham tells us, we'll be self-sufficient if only we cut down all our trees and get behind the Irving-NB Power push for an Energy Hub in Saint John. He invites us to comment upon the self-sufficiency documents, but without the benefits of public meetings. The combined efforts of the New Brunswick Government and the Irvings will have us self-sufficient in the near future – there will only be a few thousand of us, and we'll all be gasping for air, but we'll be self-sufficient.

Dr. Roumestan incorporated Justice & Equity here in New Brunswick. Bilingualism played a big role, but in my discussion with him he also said it was the people. We, all of us in New Brunswick, have a lot to offer. If we have a lot to offer to the world, then we certainly have a lot to offer Canada. Throughout Fundy Royal we have strong communities. This is our legacy and gift to the world.

If we work together, we can create a bright future of self-sufficiency on our own terms. Having travelled most of New Brunswick and throughout Fundy Royal, I see vibrant communities filled with people who care about their world. Let's build upon our strengths, let's learn from Rwanda, and become the self-sufficient, self-sustaining community we know we can be. If you want to contribute to a growing and democratic vision of New Brunswick, check out the following site:

Rob Moir

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