It’s easy to get distracted when it comes to economic development. I have seen this potential in the past few days. I heard a presentation from the developer of the Moncton casino talking about all the jobs and tax revenue and economic activity generated from the casino. Millions in new economic activty and taxes for government.
Then there was the study done by three of the highest priced consulting firms in Canada designed to inform government of all the jobs created and tax base associated with the convenience store industry in Atlantic Canada. I am sure that study cost at least $300,000 – why? To have a document to take to governments.
And, of course, we have the ‘retention’ projects that are in the news lately but are a key part of government economic development efforts since the recession took hold.
None of these industries will generate much ‘new’ economic activity (i.e. economic development in the active sense of that term). The developer of the casino admitted that the users of the casino will mostly be New Brunswickers. If that is the case, then there is very little net new economic activity (other than the orgininal construction activity which is funded by external capital) because New Brunswickers will just be shifting their entertainment spending from ATVs and movies to the casino. There will be a small amount of repatratiated economic activity (those who would have went to Halifax or Bangor to play in a casino) but this will be limited.
The convenience stores are ‘convenient’ – I use the one here in downtown Moncton 2-3 times a week – but obviously if I was not buying at a convenience store, I would be buying elsewhere. It is not an economic growth engine.
And the retention funding – I have argued on a surgical basis it may be necessary – but it doesn’t generate any new economic activity (by definition it retains existing economic activity).
Don’t get distracted.
We need, over 10, 20 and 30 years – solid economic growth, the build up of new industries with good paying jobs and dramatically increased own source generated tax revenue to limit our exposure to the ephemeral federal government transfer system.