The Canadian Press is running a story (picked up here) about seven firms that have received funding from ACOA for the past 20 years.
This is a classic case of what I have been talking about. Read the article and then cross-reference it to everything I have been saying about journalism, the need for transparency and the need for a ROI on public investments in company expansions.
First, it is blindingly missing in this story any reference to the thousands of companies that have received assistance maybe one or two times over 20 years. The intent of the article is to discredit ACOA and its funding without any balance. Now my journalist friends keep telling me that ‘balance’ is not their job but I think in terms of public policy it should be.
The other thing the journalist missed is any reference to the benefits of the investments in these firms. There may be none but there may be substantial. We will never know from this article. My point is that if those investments in seven firms ($41M in total) had led to 50,000 new jobs and $500 million in new tax revenue, most reasonable people would be highly supportive of the deals. How could there be a story about loans to industry without any reference to the potential benefit to the taxpayer from making those investments?
Of course, CP might say that ACOA wouldn’t share that information which brings me to another main point. ACOA should be showing directly what the rationale is for investing in these firms. Ideally there should be a direct ROI to the taxpayer (as I have said $1 invested by the Crown should lead to $3 new tax dollars or some such metric). There may be other reasons to invest in these firms but all economic development organizations should be clear about it.
They should also be clear that everyone is doing it. It is hardly fair for CP to slam ACOA without mentioning that these types of grant, loan and tax-incentive programs exist in almost every province and state in North America.
I could go on but I think you get my point.