On babies and old timers

I just read the T&T story about New Brunswick’s population challenge. Apparently the government is looking at baby bonuses and other incentives to encourage more procreation.

Sigh.

Spending more money to incubate Ontario and Alberta’s future workforce. I hope they appreciate it.

Alberta has the youngest workforce in Canada. Why? Because of ‘baby bonuses’? No, I’m afraid it’s because there are more than enough jobs for young people to move there.

Maybe policy makers should start connecting a few dots. 14 straight years of net out-migration. More people moving out every year than moving in.

The economy, despite all the exhortations of LeBreton and Hogan, has not created enough jobs to just sustain the people that are here – let alone attract positive in-migration.

I have said it here on dozens of occasions. Enough so that most readers will be sick of it. But citizens are the most expensive to society at two phases of their lives: youth and old age.

Now we have policy makers seriously looking at incentives to encourage more baby creation. Heck, why not encourage senior citizens to move here as well? Why not tax breaks for the old timers? We know all their pension, RRSP and RIFF money is invested in companies in Toronto, Chicago and Beijing but what the heck, they’ll need to buy bread.

That’s great public policy. Create more people that take more out of the system than put in.

How, exactly, is this related to self sufficiency?

Let me give you my vision of the thing.

Why not let Ontario, Quebec, heck, Alberta – pay for the kids while they are in public schools, using public health care, a cost to society and when they graduate from heavily subsidized universities in those jurisdictions, then have jobs in New Brusnwick for them. We’ll turn the tables. Let Ontario become our labour market incubator for a few decades.

Of course, this is all my not-so-successful attempt at tongue in cheek. But the underlying principle is valid. Unless we see serious structural changes to New Brunswick’s economic development any attempts to create more babies or attract more immigrants or any other ‘population’ activities will be futile.

And as I said a couple of blogs ago, the Population Secretariat boss and the economic development boss should be bed buddies (in the plutonic sense). The economic development boss should say he/she is expecting New Brunswick to create employment for 1,500 animators over the next five years. The population tzar should then go out and find them.

As for longer term strategies like baby bonuses? They brag about Quebec’s program but out-migration from Quebec has been almost as high as New Brunswick. It’s great to create all those little Quebeqois but if they all end up in California what’s the public policy point?

POSTSCRIPT:

I just wanted to add another point here. The T&T article talks about how Acadian groups are trying to get these ‘baby bonuses’ and other similar incentives. They want the population strategy to recognize the importance of family at the centre of community.

I agree with them. But I think they need to get the focus back on the economic revitalization of Acadian communities rather than some stimulative population strategies. From 1991 to 2001, we know that the population of New Brunswick that is mother tongue French dropped by 2% while mother tongue English actually rose 1%.

On the youth population side, this is even more stark. The population of persons with French as their mother tongue and aged 25 years or less dropped from 84,000 in 1991 to 67,500 in 2001 – a drop of 19.5%. Imagine if there was Dieppe. That number would be considerably higher.

So my point is even more valid. Acadian groups need to redouble their efforts to revitalize the economy. The fact is that while the vast majority of Acadian youth would prefer to stay in New Brunswick – they are moving out for economic reasons at unprecedented rates. They may move back some day to retire but by then it may be too late in more ways than one.

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