Groundhog Day, starring you and me.

groundhogday

Yes, I know it’s not for another 10 days.

Groundhog Day with Bill Murray remains one of my favorite films. Maybe it’s because I spent a few years as a TV weatherman at the CBC and understand the vacuous, repetitive nature of the job, or perhaps it’s because of the film’s important message about occasionally applying some critical thinking to our perspective on life.

The plot of the movie has our narcissistic weatherman, Phil Connors, off to Punxsutawney to cover the annual Groundhog Day goings on. He then finds himself locked in a time loop, forced to relive the same day over and over. Eventually our hero examines his priorities and makes changes.

After reading some of the latest offerings generated by the provincial Liberal communications machinery I’m beginning to feel like Bill Murray, opening his eyes as the clock radio flips to 6:00, Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” fades in and the announcer prattles, “Okay campers, rise and shine…don’t forget your booties cause it’s cold out there today.”

Re-examining the obvious is only marginally better than the previous government’s practice of stumbling over the obvious and deeming it a complete surprise. My question, what does this government still not understand about our population decline and lagging economic indicators? How many more studies are required?

For more than 10 years, labour market experts have been calling for measures to deal with our declining labour force. I distinctly remember attending one of those facilitated “world cafe” type brainstorming exercises in 2004 at SMU dealing with exactly this issue.

The principal take-away from that discussion? If Nova Scotia does not quickly address the declining population and labour force, any hope for an economic turnaround will evaporate.

This isn’t rocket science. If jobs can’t be filled due to a lack of people, there isn’t much hope that businesses will choose to locate in Nova Scotia to grow and flourish. A declining private sector tax base is bad for everyone.

Statistic Canada released its latest Labour Force Survey last week and hopefully the Premier and the folks at Finance are deeply concerned. While the Canadian picture is nothing to write home about, Nova Scotia’s outlook is downright bleak.

Stats Canada Labour Force Survey January 10, 2014
Stats Canada Labour Force Survey January 10, 2014

In a recent piece in the Nova Scotia Business Journal’s by John Soossar, Premier Stephen McNeil outlined a “to do” list addressing our serious labour force, employment and economic issues.

There’s not much meat here, but the bullet points were as follows;

  • Increased immigration.
  • An emphasis on assisting existing Nova Scotia businesses both large and small.
  • An examination of what government is doing to grow the economy and how things can be done differently to improve the outcome, including offering supports and incentives for small businesses through term loan guarantees.
  • Examining the Canada-European Union Free Trade Agreement to determine the opportunities for Nova Scotia and ensuring that the province is “first in the door.”
  • Tackling youth unemployment by acknowledging that young people want to go and experience other provinces “but ensuring we have something for them to come back to.

These are all nice thoughts. But beyond the reference to the CETA there is absolutely nothing in this that we didn’t all didn’t wake up hearing 10 years ago.

Immigration remains a problem because of broken fundamentals in this province. If someone is moving to Canada, they have a choice of where they want to live. Many are entrepreneurs and they will choose to go where they are most likely to succeed.

Retention rates of immigrants in Nova Scotia during the 90’s were deplorable. Of the few that came, over half of them left. The numbers are a little better because of some government and community efforts in the past decade but the overall result still remains poor.

Premier McNeil says he will push to have the cap on immigration removed by the feds and added, “Our job and my job as premier is to push the message that immigrants are not taking our jobs. They are employing Nova Scotians and enhancing our province.”

As much as everyone should be pleased the Premier understands this, it’s not Nova Scotia residents that need to be sold on immigration, it’s the immigrants that need to be sold on Nova Scotia.

Immigration can’t be fixed with messaging or government knob twiddling. The fundamentals must be addressed and addressed now. How many more “examinations” are necessary to have the completely obvious sink in?

In a nutshell…

  • We pay among the highest personal income and corporate taxes in the country.
  • We pay the highest consumption taxes in the country..
  • We pay among the highest power rates in the country
  • We pay the highest workers compensation premiums in the country.
  • We have been paying the highest municipal tax hikes and service fees in the country.

Immigration is only one small piece of this puzzle, the remainder of the Premier’s comments are extensions of a list of reasons not to move to Nova Scotia. Want to help small business and encourage people to move to here and invest?

Try fixing the fundamentals first. They don’t need “examination”. They need fixing. Create an environment for entrepreneurship in this province and we’ll all be better off.

Otherwise it’s just another day of rolling over to hear Sonny and Cher

One Reply to “Groundhog Day, starring you and me.”

  1. Nova Scotia is one of the worst places to be an immigrant starting a business.The proof is clearly there with the recent history you lay out Jordi . Problem for the McNeil government are cabinet ministers like Andrew Younger putting their feet in their mouths like the statement yesterday on Alstrom withdrawing form the tidal energy trials in the Minas Basin. Paraphrase They withdrew because they only have so many finanacial resources . Come on now the same Alstrom that competes with GE , Seimens and other global energy giants making about 20 billion Euro
    S in revenues last year ? Immigrants probably bang their heads against the wall dealing with some of the ignorant people I. The province who seem to rise to the top in this province .

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