Power Structures II
A query was made as to why Bernard Lord gets such good press from the Irving paper. So I thought I'd go into a little more detail. Businesses want two things-a healthy business environment, and political stability. This former is obvious, that latter is because as any business person knows, the 'market' is a fickle and dangerous place, it's always nice to have a safe and secure 'back yard'. While the 'status quo' is never quite good enough for us lowly folk, and usually involves cutting services and raising fees, nobody ever really challenges the 'status quo' of capitalism. What exactly does that mean?
A good way to look at that is to look at the states, the so called 'bastion' of capitalism. In 2001 if you looked at the Fortune 100 of the largest corporations in that country you'd find some interesting figures. Out of that 100, 80 of the companies recieved sizeable subsidies and tax concessions from government, while 20 of those were bailed out completely by the federal government. That 'cut throat' economic system of the states is often referred to as 'tough love', meaning, love for the wealthy investors and owners, tough for everybody else!
In the US companies are highly subsidized by various ways, most directly through the Pentagon system which routes enormous amounts of taxpayers funds to various companies, notably high tech and weapons manufacturers. In Canada it functions a little different, instead of a Pentagon there are various government agencies which route a hefty 40% of our economy directly through government. Direct payouts are usually a thing of the past, you see, it was discovered that ordinary folks with a business plan wanted some of that money. This was a worldwide problem so it was written into trade agreements-no more handouts!
For corporations it is something else entirely. You will notice, for example, the complete lack of american or british banks in Canada. The country is effectively run by the insurance and banking industry which were 'protected' by government regulations letting anybody else into the country. What does this have to do with Irving? We're getting there.
The 'right environment' for business consists of many things. When a politician provides the right environment, then they get the praise of the press. In the rest of the country you will note that the business community wasn't completely happy with the Globe and Mail, Canada's largest business paper was just not strident enough, it just wasn't Canada's printed version of 'Fox News', also known as 'propaganda'. So to fill the 'toxic conservative' void "The National Post" was brought on the scene to lower the IQ level of Joe Canuck. When the Post first came out it made aggressive moves to penetrate all the canadian markets, all....except for New Brunswick. They found that there really was no need since 'The Irving News' essentially provided that service already. It consists of a minimal amount of international news reports from media wires, with some local headlines, but composed primarily of 'opinion' pieces and sports. There is virtually no investigative work and no real political coverage. It's doubtful that the average New Brunswicker even knows who may be the Governor or even what type of government is held by the area with which it shares it's longest border (meaning Maine). I"m pretty well read, and I don't know. Of course even more aggregious is the complete lack of information on the basics of how our own government works.
That brings us to the Lord government, with it's policies it has shown that it knows how to 'tow the line'. When it comes down to balancing books and freeing up cash you hit the services that affect people-like social programs, education and health, you don't interfere with business concerns unless it's to lower corporate and business taxes to levels unheard of before.
To return to my argument about Irving and business, 'loan guarantees' are the favoured vehicle. You see, as we saw with the Fortune 100 in the states, corporations are very happy to make the profits, but they don't like to take risks. That's where loan guarantees and other environmental bailouts come it. For example, we see the Irving oil damage done in Fredericton, this is a cost that Irving doesn't maintain-it passes it on to the government and so it doesn't become a fixed cost. We saw the same thing with the Irving Whale which sank by PEI and the Irving's refused to clean it up even though it was laden with PCB's, so again, Joe Taxpayer fronts the cost. In Saint John we see it again with a land gift that is sure to bring a NAFTA challenge which the government, not Irving, will have to pay for.
Yet another example is when Irving registers a new 'stand alone' company. It is not actually standalone-it benefits from the connections and salesforce of all the other Irving companies. Here I am referring to Irving Personal Care Ltd. This 'new' company manufactures diapers. The outlook, we are told, is very positive. However, just in case it isn't the province of New Brunswick fronts a 35 million loan guarantee. This means a more favourable interest rate for the borrowed money, and as a standalone company if they so choose they could always import larger front end costs so that the company initially loses money-meaning that the government would pay for their loan, while they used the freed up money elsewhere. Loan guarantees are worth their weight in gold, but you won't see them for us lowly folks. Say, for example, I wanted to switch my house to solar and electric power. This would be a front end cost of about $30,000, however, the savings I would keep from power bills would pay for it in about ten years-IF I could get that favourable interest rate that comes from a government guarantee. But that isn't likely to happen.
So the Lord government knows how to conduct itself, if it didn't then it would get much worse press. We see that displayed very eloquently whenever somebody dares to mention privatizing the TCH, which would affect Irving's bottom line. As with most opposition parties, you will note far better coverage as Mr.Grahams' 'outlook' is more inclined to agree with the 'business first' philosophy. In New Brunswick there is really no choice, because you would essentially be blackballed from all the provncial papers, making an election campaign extremely difficult to say the least.