I don’t prentend to have cornered the market on smarts. I don’t particularly vault myself up as overly bright. But I would like to think that I have at least a basic grasp of the economic challenges facing Atlantic Canada.
That’s why I am absolutely flabbergasted with all the commentary coming out of Central Canada on this new deal with Danny Williams.
Now, let me set the table on this. Newfoundland and Labrador requires hundreds of millions in Equalization and EI support payments each year just to keep their economy afloat – as the weakest economy in Canada. They lost almost 10% of their population from 1991 to2001. Whole communities are shutting down. The provincial deficit on a per capita basis is the highest in all of Canada and the U.S. The provincial debt is also the worst of the 60 provinces and states.
Want more? Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest average income, the lowest standard of living and the lowest personal networth of any of the 60 provinces and states. And to top things off, you have to wear a thick sweater in July.
Everybody knows the state of the union in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, the public outcry on the Danny Williams deal goes something like this – as quoted in the Canadian Press:
Premier Dalton McGuinty said taxpayers in his province are in effect subsidizing the agreement between Ottawa and the two Atlantic provinces. “The new arrangement is patently unfair to the people of Ontario,” he said Wednesday night in Ottawa. “What it essentially means is that we will, through our contributions to equalization, end up providing funding to the people of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia that will enable them to exceed their wealth, on a per capita basis, beyond that of Ontarians.”
Now, like me, Dalton is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed but how can anyone even breathe the fastasy like words ‘exceed their wealth beyond that of Ontarians’?
What is this absurdity?
In ten years from now, oil & gas notwithstanding, Newfoundland and Labrador will still be among the most struggling regions in North America. Without the oil & gas revenues, we may as well have just shut the province down in the late 1990s.
There is only one way that Newfoundland or New Brunswick or PEI or Nova Scotia will ever have wealth beyond that of Ontarians and that is if Ontario itself blows it. Doesn’t keep on top. Doesn’t continue its role as a magnet for investment and immigration. Loses is desire to be a global leader.
You see, if Newfoundland or any other have not province starts to have some success (and there is no guarantee of that), that will only benefit Ontario through decreased equalization and subsidization. Ontario should be the biggest cheerleader for any strategy that will bring economic success to Atlantic Canada. Where are the banks headquartered? Where are the largest national companies headquartered? How many more jobs will be created in Ontario from a successful Atlantic Canada?
Having Atlantic Canada remain on welfare drags every province down – even the mighty Ontario.
They should be the first up applauding any strategy to save Newfoundland. It’s in their own best interest.