I forced myself to listen the whole federal government budget speech delivered yesterday. I knew full well that it has become a marketing effort but I thought there would be some clues as to the mindset of the government.
That’s why I was encouraged to hear the Finance Minister use the words ‘self-reliance’ over and over again. He talked about providing support to Aboriginal communities to help them become financially self-reliant. He talked about funding support for families with children that have disabilities to help them become more self-reliant. And so on.
However, there was no talk about self-reliance in Atlantic Canada. Nada about helping rural communities become self-reliant. Zip. In fact, they have increased the welfare to these communities by inflating the EI program.
As I have mentioned before, I see real parallels between the aboriginal communities twenty or thirty years ago and Atlantic Canada today. Back then, the government thought that if it poored enough money in, the problems would go away. But they didn’t. Economic problems persisted and then came the resulting social problems including low literacy, high rates of suicide and the worst health outcomes of any group in Canada.
Wait, I said back then. Remarkably the last three sentences of that paragraph apply to a place like New Brunswick today – the government poors more and more in – taking the form of EI and Equalization and the economic and social problems get worse. Atlantic Canada has the lowest rates of literacy and the worst health outcomes in Canada (New Brunswick is dead last).
What’s our response. Crank up the Equalization and the EI (at the behest, I might add, of the provincial governments).
At some point in time, somebody in the Federal government (usually spurred on by some international condemnation) will notice this trend. More money in worse economic and social outcomes. Then maybe in 2030, the Liberal Finance Minister will read his budget speech and talk about the need for self-reliance in Atlantic Canada.
Unless Daulton McGuinty or Ralph Klein crack the whip for other reasons…..