Labour market incubator gone wild

As I went to work on Thurday, a new colleague of mine at the office was in a foul mood. She’ a native Nova Scotian and one of those very bright kids that left the region and was going to stay away – but some weird circumstances brought her back and now she finds herself toiling away at the same work venue as myself.

Actually, there’s a couple of bright ex-pats working where I work – whic is neat in and of itself.

But I digress.

She was in this foul mood because of John Hamm’s recent assertion that students should be charged more for their education if they leave after graduation:

Mr. Hamm, MLA for Pictou Centre, suggested Tuesday the province should “look more aggressively at saying, ‘If you stay in Nova Scotia, that’s great, but if you don’t stay in Nova Scotia, maybe there’s an indebtedness that you take on’ ” since the government earmarks part of its budget for education.

As a person with one of her degrees in Nova Scotia, she took offense to that. I think her comments, ever so gently laced with expletives, were that if Hamm and the boys would actually create an environment where university kids could get good jobs after graduation – most would stay – most do leave because of economic opportunities elsewhere.

Alec Bruce discusses it here with a wickedly personal style that does curl the hair on your arms.

For most of my career in economic development practice and consulting I have said that Atlantic Canada is the labour market incubator for the rest of Canada. In fact, there is significant data to back this up. Those that leave are normally more educated than those that stay. Universities like Dalhousie have upwards of 40% leakage of graduates in any given year.

So Hamm’s underlying concern is valid. Why should the poorest provinces bear the education costs for the richest provinces?

His mused solution, however, is silly.

But why stop at charging kids more if they leave the province after graduation? Why not charge them $5,000/year for each year they lived in New Brunswick and didn’t pay any taxes? After all, they received government services like education and health care and didn’t contribute to them? But their parents did, you say? Check again, dear reader, this region requires billions in Equalization and other transfers because we don’t generate enough taxes locally to cover these costs.

But why stop there? Why not put the kids to work while they live here? They usually leave around 22 years of age so we should be able to get around 15-16 years of tax generating activity out of them.

But even that is not a comprehensive solution.

Hamm should get the new Premier to put up a fence around Nova Scotia and not let these kids leave at all. Have border guards, dogs, etc. to ensure that no one leaves. Then force them to work in jobs that are not tied to their education. Force them to work in underpaid jobs. After all, that massive student loan debt shouldn’t matter much if kids don’t waste all their money on travel outside Nova Scotia.

Or maybe a less draconian approach is in order here.

Maybe Nova Scotia should work on getting its economy in order so the kids will stay and work because there are actually jobs.

Heck, like my two colleagues, they may actually move back here for good jobs.

I know at least two – check that three (including me) – that actually wanted to live and work in the Maritimes.