$365k to the super-elite of Nova Scotia's backroom boys to literally hold backroom meetings is not a path to prosperity
For the past four years MIT has put on workshop courses designed to help global regions do economic development better. It sounds great and probably it is. REAP stands for regional entrepreneurship acceleration program.
The problem, as always in Nova Scotia, is process, accountability and decision-making.
1/ A REAP region is 3-10 Million people. So COUNTRIES like Scotland have applied to the program. A REAP region is an economy that has economic levers to pull in trade and commerce. Singapore is another REAP region that went through the program. Clearly, the program is costed and directed to this level. Nova Scotia, as a small province of less than 1 million, should never have applied.
2/ The Capstone result of the program is a report on the economic and innovative future of the REAP region. Sound familiar? It should. IVANY. We just spent years and millions doing this exact exercise. We've already done this report exercise. Recently. Even engaging the same people.
3/ Process matters. Scotland, the country, took on an exhaustive accountable process to choose a team so that it best represented the diversity of people and regions and was seen as competitive and fair. The Nova Scotia deal is like choosing an Olympic team based only on who got together for drinks and cigars after a chamber of commerce dinner.
4/ In Scotland and other REAP regions the teams, led by a 'champion' spend two years working through the MIT course and THEN the real work starts. They've committed years to traveling the country, networking at all levels and sharing what they've learned with regional development organizations big and small. The investment was made and returned. To be straight forward; this is not going to happen with this crowd in Nova Scotia.
In April, Nova Scotia taxpayers were asked to pay $200,000 US to send Nova Scotia elite to MIT in Boston (Page 8). It's actually worse than that.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request shows a request went to Stephen McNeil’s government asking them to pay the bulk of the tuition. The total cost at MIT is $300,000 US or $365,000 CAN plus $50k in "Overheads".
The information from the FOI shows that in April, Dalhousie University went out “on a limb” (Page 10) to pay for the entire tuition fee, but was expecting to get reimbursed by the province and other government partners. As of July, it was still unclear who is officially footing the bill (Page 16).
I might be totally wrong... about this plan and commitment of effort, about the future. Educating the CEO of Emera, the CEO of Clearwater and multiple senior bureaucrats might be the best thing in the world, but surely they should pay their own way or contractually commit to a work term that would repay the investment.
If government doesn't pay and Dalhousie University is stuck paying the bill, it will be a tough pill to swallow for students who are being forced to absorb a three per cent tuition hike for 2016/17 (Section 9).
The FOI also shows that the program was supposed to be announced publicly on July 13. It’s been more than a month and it still has not been officially announced (Page 17).
One of the funnier aspects of the FOI emails is how the people involved imagine this is great news that will be well received by the public once their secret rendezvous is revealed. We all live in bubbles... but few this thick.
I'm not sure how to conclude this post. I'm of mixed minds. Education is surely the way to the future and the answer to almost every one of our economic and social problems of the day.
How can education be bad?
Here's my view. It's like the Olympics. The IOC is an internationally corrupt, criminal organization that bleeds wealth from the poorest and most vulnerable people and nations of the world by trading on the values, grace, beauty, and indisputable goodness of youth and athletic spirit. They are vampires roaming the planet. Likewise in Nova Scotia, we have to think critically about the behaviors of aggregators of capital, wealth, and resources who are trading on the unimpeachable goodness of education.
Let's begin again, with a clear end goal in mind - broad-based prosperity for Nova Scotian households. There are many means to reach this goal. This path is proven, again and again, not to get us there.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.