My little Toronto Star moment

I have to admit that reading the Toronto Star is a little guilty pleasure. I mean at least you know exactly where they are coming from. Except that whole Chantal Hebert thing.

Anyway, I had just finished reading an article about the perils of outsourcing to India. The article eloquently talks about the loss of CGI jobs (programmers) to India and the gain of hair stylists in our biggest city. As I almost always do when I read this type of Lou-Dobbsification, I was about to put it out of my mind. But I flipped on the radio and heard that GM was closing its distribution centre in Moncton and Home Depot was opening up its next big box store in Fredericton.

And I went into a bit of a brain freeze. You see in the aggregate, I think that outsourcing/offshoring, etc. is a normal progression of economic matters in a globalized world. Labour and capital move around freely and the rich countries get richer. Remember NAFTA? The unions said that manufacturing would move to Mexico and the US economy would be crushed. Well, low end manufacturing did move to Mexico and the US boomed. Don’t get me wrong, there were serious community-level paid, but in the aggregate, the US benefitted from NAFTA in ways no one ever dreamed of.

So my point is this. At the theoretical level, I am a big believer in the free flow of labour and capital. When an area or industry overheats, there is a pullback and other areas/industries benefit. Overall, the rising tide lifts all boats and some such rot.

But at the practical level, with the good folks in the Miramichi talk about replacing $25/hour pulp/paper mill jobs with tourism jobs (Miramichi in their strategy talked about the decline of the forestry sector and the rise of tourism) or GM for Home Depot, I get a little edgy.

You see, in my mind, Atlantic Canada sort of got passed over. In my Pollyanna world, Atlantic Canada would have become the outsource location for North America serving up good jobs in the back office and IT at 20%-25% lower costs than Toronto, et. al. But India sort of came in sideways (thanks for that reality check, Mr. Poitras) and beat us to the punch.

So, now we are trying ‘nearshoring’ or ‘homesourcing’ or some such incarnation to try and regain some momentum and bravo to ACOA, NSBI and the others that are trying it.

I have to believe there’s a niche in the global economy for woebegotten places like New Brunswick.

Because we all need to be clear about one thing. New Brunswick’s economy may be sputtering along now on Home Depot, government and health care jobs but when the people go – so will the Home Depots, government and health care jobs which exist soley to service local populations.