Photo: Irving shipyard. Credit: John Douglas/flickr

“The business of government is not to prop up businesses,” harrumphed Marco Navarro-Genie, president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), the Halifax-based right-wing think-tank that rarely encounters a government program (or government for that matter) it does not think should shrivel up and die. “The real point,” he continued, “ought to be whether government should be engaged in doling out public money to money-making industries.”

Navarro-Genie was ruminating on the debate over the Liberal government’s plan to eviscerate the provincial film tax credit and wipe out the province’s film and television industry.

But let’s expand this interesting discussion, shall we?

Marco, meet John, and John…

First, there’s John Risley, the billionaire president and CEO of Clearwater Fine Foods, all-round capitalist curmudgeon and — not coincidentally — chair of the AIMS board.

Then there’s John F. Irving, member in good standing of that Irving clan, a director of J. D. Irving, owners of the Halifax Shipyard and — not coincidentally again — AIMS past chair.

Given Navarro-Genie’s concern about “doling out public money to money-making industries,” there must be some interesting conversations around the AIMS board table.

J.D. Irving is the money-making, hand-over-fist 2012 recipient of more than $300 million in public largesse ($260 million of it forgivable) to gear up for the federal shipbuilding contract.

One can argue whether the investment was necessary, or wise. One cannot doubt the “money-making” Irvings asked the then-NDP government to “prop up” its business.

Let us also consider John Risley, who — never one to miss an opportunity — piled on in the film tax credit debate, declaring the McNeil government “cannot afford to be subsidizing any industry to this extent.”

Except, of course, when the industries are his. Social media has gone giddy this past week calculating just how often Risley has tapped government money trees for millions in direct grants and/or loans, indirect funding for scientific research and here’s-our-resources-for-your-profit giveaways.

And Risley calls the film tax credit “nuts”?

What is nuts is the stunning hypocrisy of the likes of AIMS, John Risley and Marco Navarro-Genie.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber’s Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Irving shipyard. Credit: John Douglas/flickr