Land locked Dolphin gasping for intellectual oxygen

Somebody sent me along this link from the Western Standard (I think you will need a username and password to view – free).

In general, I think I understand the ‘Western Standard’ and where it’s positioned in the media landscape. It is a vitriolic promoter of western Canada from the perspective that the West has been shafted by upper Canada over the years.

So, I tend to read the articles and listen to Mr. Levant and imagine that large chip on the shoulder and it helps put things in perspective.

But this article by Ric Dolphin is particularly silly and trite and probably should’ve been relegated to the blog world rather than a publication that claims to be mainstream. By the way, this Dolphin guy has a penchant for controversial remarks and basically dissing anyone (Natives, Atlantic Canadians, others) who doesn’t look like the view in his mirror.

But just to help Mr. Dolphin with his background research – as he obviously does none of this -here are a few of his points and my clarifications:

Dolphin says: Then there’s the business of bootle, the term Easterners give to the cash bestowed by politicians on businesses and industries that, presumably, would otherwise wither.

My revision: Then there’s the business of massive tax incentives to develop the oil sands. Totally unnecessary – even Alberta Conservatives are calling for changes. But some would say the oil sands, without all this cash, would otherwise wither.

Dolphin says (talking about a government grant to an agri-food producer): Why can’t a company with a 20 per cent growth rate get a bank loan? Why can’t it wait another couple of years and accumulate the money needed for the harvester? Why, given the unemployment rate, would the government support the purchase of a machine that will eliminate jobs for blueberry pickers?

My revision: Why does Alberta receive billions in agriculture subsidies while the economy is booming? Why… oh why bother… A study out in the late 1990s found that when you include agriculture subsidies and oil sands incentives – Alberta has one of the highest levels of industry subsidization in Canada.

Dolphin says: The region is overpopulated, over-represented and over-compensated. As has been pointed out in this space on previous occasions, Newfoundland alone has twice as many people as it can hope to support, and the Maritime provinces, with their dwindling resource-based economies–coal’s gone, pulp and paper are going–are probably just as overpopulated.

My revision: There’s a little interesting factoid of the Alberta migration that sort of gets lost but it was highlighted in a Stats Canada report a couple of weeks ago. The vast majority of migrants to Alberta have high school or less education levels. So while the province is spending the most money in Canada trying to educate its local population, the in-migrant population will drag down the overall education levels of the workforce. If (when?) the oil thing goes south, Alberta just may be stuck with a large and largely unemployable workforce. Hmmmm…..

The reality is this. Atlantic Canada has been systematically shut out by legislation, federal economic development activities – and some would say by Confederation itself, from the massive global investment into Canada over the past few generations. It is now primarily flowing into Alberta.

It’s easy for guys like Dolphin to glance at Atlantic Canada and then spin out all this verbal diarrhea. It’s much harder and more intellectually challenging to take a deeper view and try to understand the historical reasons for the way things are. It’s a bit a shame really. Alberta is trying to shed it’s dopey cowboy image but pumping out this stuff doesn’t show an increasing understanding of the Canadian reality. In fact, it shows a dumbing down of the Canadian reality.

The Western Standard and the think tanks in Alberta would be better off bringing in experts in regional development to provide Albertans with a more balanced view of things.

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0 Responses to Land locked Dolphin gasping for intellectual oxygen

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your response and ideas on that, David. I agree completely.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Balanced views don’t sell paper! Just to be more specific (in case anybody ever finds themselves debating this with a westerner), the $1.6 billion per year subsidy that goes SPECIFICALLY to the Tar Sands known as the ‘accelerated cost capital allowance’ was handed out when the industry was fledgling.

    Just to keep that in perspective, that there’s the ENTIRE cost of the federal contribution to New Brunswick’s budget. So if anyone should be talking about ‘self sufficiency’ it should be Alberta, who by the way still gets 10.5% of their budget from the federal government.

    As for the ‘argument’ that maritimers have, what did he call it, ‘bootle’ or ‘bootie’ (interesting how westerners always come across maritime lingo that no maritimer has ever heard before, I think he just made up a word), namely, industrial subsidies, you can check this out:

    I did a quick count and came up with close to 25 different aid packages.

    Just type in Alberta and federal subsidies, and you’ll also notice no shortage of Albertan organizations clamoring onto the federal gravy train. A collection of grain organizations, mostly albertan, clamored for more subsidies after the US upped its subsidies (they also subsidize spuds but we never hear about potato organizations clamoring).

    See here for more on agricultural subsidies:

    For those who don’t have the time or inclination, in only two years during the nineties did western farm subsidy ratio’s go below Canada’s average. Maritimers may want to look at it, since the maritimes (with no wheat board protecting their markets) have been no more than western farmers.

    What is of central interest ther e is that farm ratio’s in central canada are WAY beyond those in the maritimes and out west. Ontario has the highest, next to Newfoundland, where farming is practically non-existent.

    But who says facts have to get in the way of good journalism?:)

  3. David Campbell says:

    Anon, I’d put you on the payroll but I don’t actually have a payroll because I don’t get paid, etc. etc. etc. but your research feeds in some small way posterity.