I have heard or read a number of economists, journalists and politicians talk in the past few weeks about New Brunswick’s ‘strong economy’ generating low unemployment and pushing up wages.
It may have been true in the early 1990s that ‘low unemployment’ was considered a measure for a ‘strong economy’ but today? I don’t think so.
I am no economist (MBA by trade) but it seems to me to be way to simplistic to equate ‘low unemployment’ with a ‘strong economy’ in the New Brunswick context.
So, I suggest we redefine our terms.
To me, a ‘strong economy’ is one that can generate enough economic activity to keep its people and in fact actually grow its employed workforce. Over 70% of New Brunswick communities are losing population. How can that be called ‘strong’? To me another aspect of a ‘strong economy’ is one that is generating enough taxes to pay for public services. New Brunswick is not. Every year we required hundreds of millions more taxpayer dollars from other provinces to pay for our public services.
You may say this is just semantics but I beg to differ. If we continue to talk about New Brunswick’s strong economy, there will be no urgency to support economic development. After all, why support economic development? We have ‘low unemployment’ already. Cripes, if we bring in another firm, the local firms already short on labour will complain even more.
We need more jobs, more tax generation, increasing wealth generation and we need to attract people to the province. All we have done is added more complexity to our problem.
In the 1990s, we needed to attract companies – there were lots of people around to work for them (relatively speaking).
Now, we need to attract companies – and many of the workers needed to work for them – and that’s a lot harder.
But we really have no choice. Without growing the employment base of the province, the vast majority of our communities will continue to shed population leading to a whole host of problems. Without growing the employment base we will continue to require increasing amounts of Equalization and Transfers which puts our future at the whim of the Federal government and the increasingly cranky have-provinces (I think Daulton McGuinty is about to blow his top over this fiscal imbalance thing).