Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"How Canada's 'haves' get had"...

On the weekend past, I had occasion to read the "National Post" from the Friday prior. I picked it up from my neighbor, who gets it delivered and reads it religiously. I scanned it and realized that it is about as far right from a political point-of-view as one can get... and certainly not something I would put on my preferred reading list.

I made a point of reading each of the commentaries and the editorial... as well as many comments. Yesterday, as I was about to trash the paper, I had a look at the front page... and there was a long article titled "How Canada's 'haves' get had". The sub on it was "equalization a formula for stagnation.

The article was by a Calgary (remember I said this seems to be a right wing paper) writer named Kevin Libin. The writing is really quite good IMHO, and was based on a study published recently called " Dollars & Sense: A Case for Modernizing Canada’s Transfer Agreements " I decided to scan it, and found the article very interesting... ultimately searching for the original published report and finding it thorough and well researched.

But I wasn't as interested in the tact that the writer of the article in the Post was taking. Rather, I looked at it to understand what has happened on the east coast of Canada as a result, partly, of these transfer funds. It seems to me that we want to believe that Nova Scotia for example is a "have not province". As a Bluenoser myself, I have often argued that it is important that the people in Upper Canada should remember that it was Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces that were financially able to donate needed funds to build the St. Lawrence Seaway, and many of the infrastructure projects in the late 40's and 50's... isn't it time that the middle of the country support the east in that the east has lost much of the natural resources... fish, lumber, coal and so on... that was fodder for the provinces earlier in the 20th Century.

Well, a couple of years ago I read some history that indicated these transfer payments have been going on for more than the 50+ years that the author discusses and were based on the strategy promoted by James Buchanan, the Nobel Laureate economist. And it seems to me that what has happened is that the off-sets have spawned a culture that seems to need motivation to get it off the lamb. No one will argue that Halifax, St. John and now St. John's haven't jumped forward... industrious, successful and so on. But there are so many people rooted in the mindset that we can have a rustic, peaceful life style, and we are owed a living... that many parts of the provinces are literally rotting from the lack of initiative.

There needs to be some leadership in the east that will convince people that much of what they want in life is unsustainable if they don't change their ways of life. No one in this world is going to hand them a loaf in the future... yes, the fish are gone... yes the coal is gone... yes the pulp and paper and lumber is gone... knowing that, what are you going to do now? Modern health care in Cape Breton... unsustainable for less than 100,000 people living around the coast line, and no one owes it to anyone. Perfectly repaired roads, great schools, universities, day care, palliative care and so on can not be sustained in the villages and towns in areas that do not have adequate population to fund them.

What is the next move... the government has to ensure that the centers are well supported... the large cities especially. Like a living organism, if it is in trouble, nature ensures that most of its resources protect the heart and major organs. The government needs to recognize the importance of sustaining the organs... redistrict the voting mechanism and ensure that the major centers have appropriate representation. Consolidate universities and reduce the number of marginal students, increase the community college spaces for trades training. There are many things that can be discussed, most "have to be done" and soon.

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!