By Alex Whalen, Operations Manager
If you Google search the terms “Newfoundland” and “equalization”, the second result is the title of a CBC article from a near-unrecognizable past. From November, 2008, it reads “Have-not is no more: NL off equalization”
Those were days of a hundred-dollar barrel of oil, billions of dollars in offshore revenue, and relative prosperity for the province. What a difference eight years can make. It goes without saying that the current economic situation is dire.
Tim Powers of VOCM radio (St. John’s) reported recently that the Newfoundland Progressive Conservative Party is proposing that province seek a return to equalization. Powers invited AIMS President Marco Navarro-Génie as a guest on the show to address the matter, and you can hear the interview here.
The notion that any province’s economic salvation comes from a greater handout from Ottawa is troubling. To be sure, it is a necessary condition of our current Federal structure that provinces receive cash from Ottawa. Yet, focusing on a return to equalization indicates the wrong attitude toward solving economic problems.
The goal for Newfoundland & Labrador and other Atlantic Provinces needs to be self-reliance. If help from Ottawa comes along the way great, but it cannot be the priority. Atlantic Canada, and specifically Newfoundland, need to grow their private sectors, GDP, and population. These are the only answers to the current economic malaise.
The solutions are not easy, but among the items for which AIMS has advocated are several policy proposals that would contribute to a better economic climate. Among them:
- Better managing resource revenues
- Improving provincial service delivery
- Managing the size and cost of the public sector
- Greater regional energy cooperation
Solutions such as these are where the focus should be: sound public policy here at home, to create the conditions for economic prosperity. Ottawa can play a supporting role, but as Atlantic Canadians we cannot simply turn to the federal government for a greater handout each time we face economic troubles.