Labour market incubator gone wild

As I went to work on Thurday, a new colleague of mine at the office was in a foul mood. She’ a native Nova Scotian and one of those very bright kids that left the region and was going to stay away – but some weird circumstances brought her back and now she finds herself toiling away at the same work venue as myself.

Actually, there’s a couple of bright ex-pats working where I work – whic is neat in and of itself.

But I digress.

She was in this foul mood because of John Hamm’s recent assertion that students should be charged more for their education if they leave after graduation:

Mr. Hamm, MLA for Pictou Centre, suggested Tuesday the province should “look more aggressively at saying, ‘If you stay in Nova Scotia, that’s great, but if you don’t stay in Nova Scotia, maybe there’s an indebtedness that you take on’ ” since the government earmarks part of its budget for education.

As a person with one of her degrees in Nova Scotia, she took offense to that. I think her comments, ever so gently laced with expletives, were that if Hamm and the boys would actually create an environment where university kids could get good jobs after graduation – most would stay – most do leave because of economic opportunities elsewhere.

Alec Bruce discusses it here with a wickedly personal style that does curl the hair on your arms.

For most of my career in economic development practice and consulting I have said that Atlantic Canada is the labour market incubator for the rest of Canada. In fact, there is significant data to back this up. Those that leave are normally more educated than those that stay. Universities like Dalhousie have upwards of 40% leakage of graduates in any given year.

So Hamm’s underlying concern is valid. Why should the poorest provinces bear the education costs for the richest provinces?

His mused solution, however, is silly.

But why stop at charging kids more if they leave the province after graduation? Why not charge them $5,000/year for each year they lived in New Brunswick and didn’t pay any taxes? After all, they received government services like education and health care and didn’t contribute to them? But their parents did, you say? Check again, dear reader, this region requires billions in Equalization and other transfers because we don’t generate enough taxes locally to cover these costs.

But why stop there? Why not put the kids to work while they live here? They usually leave around 22 years of age so we should be able to get around 15-16 years of tax generating activity out of them.

But even that is not a comprehensive solution.

Hamm should get the new Premier to put up a fence around Nova Scotia and not let these kids leave at all. Have border guards, dogs, etc. to ensure that no one leaves. Then force them to work in jobs that are not tied to their education. Force them to work in underpaid jobs. After all, that massive student loan debt shouldn’t matter much if kids don’t waste all their money on travel outside Nova Scotia.

Or maybe a less draconian approach is in order here.

Maybe Nova Scotia should work on getting its economy in order so the kids will stay and work because there are actually jobs.

Heck, like my two colleagues, they may actually move back here for good jobs.

I know at least two – check that three (including me) – that actually wanted to live and work in the Maritimes.

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0 Responses to Labour market incubator gone wild

  1. Anonymous says:

    That again assumes that provinces AREN”T doing what they can. Again, there is MORE data to back up the assertion that the region struggles because of federal policies, not regional ones. That doesn’t mean they do all they can, but Nova Scotia certainly isn’t New Brunswick and they put a heck of a lot more into their business infrastructure than NB does. And of course NB provides the perfect example of why low corporate taxes are not the way to go.

    But blaming a maritime Premier for what is national policy is no help. Of course we did USED to have a deal to at least help defray the costs-it’s called ‘equalization’. As so often mentioned, it is the rest of Canada that helps pay for education and health care when they come home to retire. Then that got gutted and led to the current poverty of the area-no, not just that, but the feds going back to 50’s era spending and raising gas prices certainly played a big part, as well as gutting EI.

    And that is set to continue. A look at Ontario can show exactly what state Canada will be in in eight years as our current finance minister says he will do the exact same things he did as provincial finance minister. If you think that’s GOOD, then obviously you earn more than 100 grand a year.

    It IS a stupid idea, but I suspect its one of those ones that are so dumb that its intention is to bring up the issue, not resolve it. Of course politicians are pretty dumb, but I suspect its a way to shake maritimers out of their lethargy and actually get angry. The first stop is of course when people say why doesn’t the provincial government do more, however, the buck ultimately stops with those who set policy, tax rates, and have the deep pockets-and that’s Ottawa.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I know a guy who went to UNB when they first started a Co-op program-back when tuition was still reasonable. He got all kinds of training, now lives in the caribbean making ten times what he would here and all tax free. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea. But not everyone who leaves is that lucky.