I have always been looking for the right phrase to capture the spirit of the inverse of economic development. That being policies or direct efforts by government that lead to plant closures, disinvestment, etc. I also include in this category efforts to buy out firms to stay in your province a few years more to satisfy a short term political need while not spending a nickel to address the long term structural economic development challenges. In my opinion, except in very rare situations, the government should not be bailing out companies that fall on hard times.
What is a good phrase for this? Here are the antonyms for the word ‘development’:
decadence, decay, decaying, declension, decline, degeneration, descent, deterioration, downgrade, ebbing, weakening, regression, retrogression.
Which one makes sense?
The truth is that this is a no win situation. AbitibiBowater is looking for the biggest subsidies and they got it from Newfoundland. $150 million in subsidies to keep 1200 people employed. AbitibiBowater has stated that these mills are not profitable so by definition the government funding is a direct subsidy to keep an unprofitable mill up and going.
New Brunswick tried to pony up the big cash. $16 million to save 400 jobs for a few more years. That’s $40,000/per job which is a vast amount of money but it pales in comparison to the $125,000/per job ponied up by Newfoundland to keep Abitibi in Stephenville.
And what did Newfoundland get for that? They bought 10 years. Danny Williams and his cronies will be long gone. I would have preferred $150 million invested in something that had a shelf life of at least 20-30 years.
I realize how stupid this sounds. I am making an academic argument while 400 people have lost their livelihood in Dalhousie. Easy for me to make judgements with my salary coming in and plate full. I realize the hypocrisy.
But at the same time, why doesn’t somebody look at the Dalhousie/Campbellton area and think through what their economy should look like in the 21st century context? And what role should the government play to help make this a reality? Because, for me, slowly letting the area bleed to death is not good policy. Bailing out firms that don’t have an economic reason to be there anymore is bad policy. Propping up EI to help folks that are trying to cobble enough weeks together is not good policy.
And then people say to me, what industry would ever want to go to Dalhousie?
Exactly my point. What have community leaders done? What has the government done? What investments and effort has been made to truly redifine Dalhousie for the 21st century?
Well, you say, it’s predominately a low skilled, blue collar area. Exactly. And the government played a significant role in this by subsidizing the development of most of the major blue collar industries up there. The mine, the power plant, the mills – all the result of direct government policy.
And, somehow, we aren’t supposed to take the same approach for the 21st century. Somehow it was good government policy to build through subsidy, royalty reduction and direct action a large blue collar economy and as that economy starts to wane, we don’t want to think about what could be next?
I am fascinated by the lack of imagination in government these days. Our guys were willing to anti up $40k per job to keep 400 mill jobs for a couple more years but wouldn’t think of putting that kind of dough into a 400 person animation studio for Dalhousie. Or at least they aren’t even thinking in that direction.
And to top it off, the TJ story leads with “We Will Overcome” as a quote from the Premier. We shall see. We shall see.