Alberta will thank us, truly they will

I had to chuckle when I read this story in the TJ this morning: Creating a baby boon. Here’s the first sentence:

The first week of public consultation by the province’s population growth secretariat has delivered one resounding message: ‘Make it easier for us to have kids.’

And it goes on from there.

This is exactly why I have called for the government to take a holistic view of things. It’s not that hard, really. In fact, I was under the impression that this was the role of Brian Dick, the new head of Self-Sufficiency.

The population of New Brunswick is dropping because the economy can’t support it. Traditionally, highly mobile folks (new graduates, etc.) have left New Brunswick in droves. Now, it’s the chronically under and unemployed moving to Alberta to work in the oil biz.

Spending tens of millions to encourage people to have more kids will do two things:

1) add considerable more cost to the system with no offsetting revenue. Children are expensive to society as a whole. The collective ‘we’ pays for their education, health care, etc. and when they become productive (i.e. start paying taxes) – a good lot of them have moved on down the road and are paying those taxes in Ontario or Alberta.

2) accelerate the out-migration. We have already had 14 straight years of net out-migration (more people moving out than in). How could anyone in their right mind think incentivizing folks to have more kids will help address this?

As I say, that is why there needs to be a holistic view of things. We need to have an economic development strategy that focuses on growing key, high value, good wage industries and we need to have an education plan, immigration strategy, infrastructure approach, tax policy, etc. that supports the economic development strategy.

This is a constant theme in this blog.

We can’t attract/retain immigrants because the economic environment is not right for them. Look at the immigrants that stay here and prosper (U de M professors, doctors, etc.). Fundamentally, their economic situation is strong enough to keep them here. So, if you need workers in the call centre industry, scour the world for immigrants that could work in that sector.

We can’t keep our population because there aren’t enough good jobs.

Upwards of 40% of our university graduates leave the province because of the lack of alignment between who we are graduating and the jobs here for them. Cripes, we have talked about this many times. The N.B. community college hosts job fairs for Ubisoft in Montreal! We pay for their education (NB taxpayers) and Quebec gets them to pay taxes – and we grease the wheels that carry them to Quebec by paying for the job fairs.

Alignment, folks. The economic development folks should have a clear plan to grow, let’s say, the animation industry in New Brunswick. They should report they will need 1,500 animators within five years. The education sector should graduate animators. The immigration group should attract animators. Parents should encourage their kids to go into animation (if they want them to stay here). Friends should call up their expatriate friends that work in animation, and encourage them to move back to the booming animation sector in New Brunswick.

We can talk all day about subsidized daycare, baby bonuses, free diapers – but if we don’t have a real plan for economic development, we will end up with all the pain with no real benefits.

Hey, that kind of sounds like parenthood…..

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0 Responses to Alberta will thank us, truly they will

  1. NB taxpayer says:

    The Opposite

    Good point, David. However, clever economic developers, like yourself, are few and far between in NB. To be honest, the ideas you tout on this blog are sually ignored by the so-called braintrust in the premiers office.

    That is most likely because, in retrospect, New Brunswick is like the Seinfeld episode where George does the opposite of what he usually does because the usual doesn’t work.

    In other words, no matter how many times you blog about what economic developers should be doing to set us on the right path, it is probably safe to say they will do the opposite. Because in this case, the opposite doesn’t work.