Strange Bedfellows

What do Brian Lee Crowley, John Manyard Keynes and Karl Marx have in common? Brian Lee Crowley is the head of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, an organization that believes that the market, and only the market, should decide labour and capital flows. In other words, they seek a very minimal role for government. John Manyard Keynes was the father of unemployment insurance. In the early 20th century, his ideas shaped the policies of the New Deal. He felt that during times of economic crisis, governments should spend more, not less. He believed in a very active government playing a major role in the economy. Karl Marx needs no introduction. He believed that government should control the economy.

So what, you say, could these three possibly have in common? I’ll tell you. They all share a passion for Pepto-Bismal or some other form of stomach acid relief – most notably after another Federal budget (Keynes and Marx in spirit only as they have been dead for years).

Beyond the bubbling stomach acid, however; these three share one major thing in common. Crowley believes in the value of work. The workforce is at the heart of the economy – it is its engine. He believes that market forces, if left to run on their own, would allocate labour and capital in such a way that the workforce would be the most productive. Keynes also believed in the value of work. In fact, he suggested that during a depression, the government should pay men to dig up holes one day and fill them in the next. He knew full well that if you take work and the work ethic out of the picture, the economy is headed for ruin. Karl Marx also was a big believer in the role that work played in the economy. He believed that people should not be paid for different types of work but for need. In fact, the communists were known to shoot people who would not work.

That brings us to Canada. Canadian politicians (and economists allied with the NDP and the Bloc) have actually fashioned a new economic model – not free market, not socialist and not even communist. The Canadian model is to pay people not to work. To actually put in place financial incentives for people not to work. And, as I have stated many times before, this has led to whole communities and regions of this country where 25%-50% of the entire workforce actually works only 14 or so weeks each year and the rest of the year are paid by the government not to work.

And in yesterday’s budget, they rolled out another $300 million to sweeten up the EI pot and make it even more attractive not to work. So we are in this weird neverland where many of these communities have unemployment rates of 20% or higher and small businesses can’t find workers. They are bringing in Mexicans to harvest strawberries on PEI. They are bringing in the Dutch to drive trucks in Northwestern New Brunswick. Call centres paying $10/hour and offering on site daycare can’t get workers in rural New Brunswick. And the Liberal response? Not to provide incentives to work on-season and off-season jobs. Not to find ways to extend the seasonal jobs. Not to set aside money to attract year round jobs to rural New Brunswick. No, our strategy is to spend another $300 million (on top of the billions) to encourage people not to work.

Crowley, Keynes, Marx? No, the ‘economist’ leading the economic development of Atlantic Canada is Yvon Godin.

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