The elephants in the room (s)

Another dire warning in the TJ this morning from a political commentator out of Nova Scotia.  He claims if we (in the Maritimes) don’t do something fast  on the economic front  ……. we are headed for disaster.

If you have read this blog much you will know I disagree with the disaster hypothesis.  It will be more like a slow burn.  Over the next 10 years governments will continue to struggle to balance the books, try and raise taxes, beg for more money out of Ottawa and continue to lose people to migration.

I’m sticking to my prediction of a Royal Commission on the Future of the Maritimes headed by an aged Frank McKenna sometime around 2026 that will recommend a forced merger of the three provinces and a consolidation of public services and infrastructure commensurate with the new economic realities in the region.  I could practically write his report now.  It would talk of re-balancing public spending to be more in line with the size of the economy.  It would take a hard line on population in rural areas – either move closer to the few remaining hospitals or don’t expect us to bring health care to you.

What I find strange is that virtually none of the commentators are explaining to people what is happening to the economy – beyond generalities.

If you think about the economic development in the region in the 1990s and early years of the 2000s – you see a massive rise in employment in back offices and customer contact centres across the region – that has retrenched  by thousands of jobs – not a mention.  The growth of offshore gas in Nova Scotia was a driver of growth and revenue in that province – that is not as much of an opportunity now.   Aquaculture grew strongly in the 1990s, moderated in the 2000s and has now mostly plateaued.  Forestry jobs were far more prolific in both NB and NS in the late 1990s and early 2000s than now.  Health care jobs expanded rapidly over the 2000s.

We need to talk specifics to people because abstractions don’t resonate.

It’s very simple.  These industries mentioned above led to the creation of probably 50,000 jobs or more in the Maritimes over 20 years or so and now, other than health care, they will either be stagnant or declining.

We need replacement economic activity – investment, jobs, entrepreneurship.

Simple.  Right?

Where are the next 50,000 jobs – not local services – coming from?

Then the conversation about natural resources development starts to resonate.  Then the conversation about IT entrepreneurship starts to make more sense.

We need an injection of economic activity similar if not greater than that driven by call centres, aquaculture, energy and forestry in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Simple.

Where will it come from?