Business in Nova Scotia is afraid. Yes, afraid to speak up on important issues of public policy in our province.
Why? Because there is legitimate concern their business might be shut out of what has evolved into our alternate economy. The economy of government expenditure. For some business, speaking out against it could be crippling.
It is a perverse, parochial and counterproductive outcome of our regional reliance on government.
Our economy has become so dependent on the decisions made by provincial bureaucrats and politicians that they now wield power over the private sector that is well beyond their wheelhouse of responsibility.
Companies that have been critical of government policy find themselves blacklisted, hobbled or punished.
What is the result? An important voice driving the direction of this province is effectively gagged.
I’m not talking about shriveling wall flowers here, these are successful business people who simply won’t speak out about stupid municipal and provincial decisions. Instead they talk in hushed tones at cocktail parties and plan workarounds.
For example, why is the development community not more vocal about the way the municipality has handled growth. Because there is a legitimate belief if they were to speak up, the result could be devastating for their bottom line. This wouldn’t happen through public process, these decisions affecting private business are be made deeper in government…by people we don’t vote for.
Joe Metledge, a socially conscious, responsible developer literally tip-toed through the St. Patrick’s-Alexandra fiasco like he was walking on egg shells. He was well within his rights to call out HRM and bitch slap them publicly. Instead, he sucked it up, took a deep breath and started to devise a strategy to make up for the cost of HRM’s ineptitude.
There are organizations built to offer a collective voice for private sector interests. Where are they?
When was the last time you heard a Chamber of Commerce lambaste the provincial government? Even when the NDP was imposing its ill-conceived first contract arbitration, the response was muted at best. And that effort might be the most memorable organized opposition by business to any government action in a very long time.
Cheer leading is great, but sometimes you just have to stand up and call bullshit.
Business people, with occasional inspiring exceptions, don’t want to rock the boat. They’re afraid of being locked out of opportunities stemming from the flow of public cash.
It’s wrong and it’s dangerous.
Entrepreneurs should be able to speak freely, publicly and loudly about the direction of this province…without fear of retribution.
At one time, business could contribute significantly to political parties through donations. This provided some leverage in the development of policy. The decision to do away with large donations by corporations and unions was the right one. We can all agree it’s wrong to allow influence of government to be bought.
On the other hand, the voice of the private sector mustn’t be gagged. What we are left with is an ethos in this province that the only things worthy of support emanate from the public sector.
The saviour of this province is not our government. It is our entrepreneurs, the start-ups, the small businesses looking to innovate and create wealth. They are the people, who will drive this province into prosperity…let’s hear them speak loudly and clearly without having to fear the wrath of some bitter bureaucrat or vengeful politician.
If you have a story, let me know.