Sustainable Economy, Sustainable Development

Throughout history Canada has been known for its vast natural resources.  These natural resources have sustained our economy.  Weather it be the beaver pelts used for fashion; lumber used for building, or oil to fuel our cars, Canada’s responsible development of these resources has lead to our success.  Much of the wealth in our great nation, beyond our talented human capital, is found in Canada’s North.  Although I do not encourage a reckless development of our natural resources, it is by far the best way to move many Canadians in northern communities out of poverty.

The bulk of these resources are found in desolate areas, areas with small towns that lack a vibrant economy.  These towns would benefit from the development of these resources- so would native reserves.  This development would provide direct employment to members of the community, and the resulting economic spin off.  Take a diamond mine for example.  This mine would employ many people within its community.  As a result of the additional income in the economy, the community’s need for a barber would rise, as would their need for restaurants and clothing shops.  People would spend more on home repairs, hiring carpenters, plumbers and electricians.  These business opportunities are a result of economic spin off. The result of a diamond mine stretches far beyond the immediate employment.  This economic growth would result in a decreased reliance on government subsidies, as the economy would be finding a way to sustain its self.

Now, I realize that not every small community, nor native reserve sits on a diamond mine, nor has access to the many excellent employment opportunities it presents.   However, I guarantee that each has a resource that if they were willing to develop could help move many members of the community out of poverty.  The operative word of course, is willing. Without a willingness, nor motivation to develop these resources many communities will operate as artificial economies supported through government transfers.  Towns that would have been vacated years ago if it weren’t for government subsidies. Many people will say that’s nothing sustainable about the development of our resources.  I counter that there is nothing sustainable about these communities.  These communities  lack the motivation to seek greater success for their people because the government continues to subsidies their costs at the expense of other taxpayers.  It is not the fault of the individual, but rather of the collective mindset that these subsidies create.

Sustainable development is an industry on to its own.  For those community members who claim development of resources is unsustainable, may I suggest they join this growing industry that seeks to find a solution to make development of certain natural resources a sustainable endeavor?  There are many willing university students who would spend a summer planting trees, and many students who study earth sciences who would be excited to help develop a manner to reclaim land after a mine is finished.  Might we consider enlisting the help of some of sustainable developments greatest proponents in finding a solution that is fitting to all?

The greatest wealth a nation has is found in the creativity of its population.  The human capital’s ability to solve problems can make or break an economy.  With a population of over 30 million people, surely Canada must have the talent needed to develop Canada’s north in a sustainable manner that reflects the values of the community.  Coupled with the incredible natural resources Canada has been blessed with, it is no wonder that our country is a leading player in the global economy.  However, we must find a way to expand this growth to include our northern communities.

If we assume that humans act in their rational best interest, this quote from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations becomes highly relevant:

“Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command. It is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of the society which he has in view. But the study of his own advantage naturally, or rather necessarily, leads him to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to society… He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention”

Evidently, society is improved by an individual acting in his best interest.  If we empower communities to do so, the results would be astounding.  The first step would be to reduce regulations on development of Canada’s resources, followed by reducing the transfer payments made to such small northern communities (and reserves).  Reducing the transfer payments over a period of time would enable the community to ease into the change, while providing an increasing incentive to find innovative solutions to create a sustainable economy.  This would also break the reliance on the government, while empowering individuals to become accountable for their own success.  Although yes, this means that some people can, and will fail, the community as a whole will be more successful when it can take ownership of its own success, and accountability to its own failures.

-Alanna Newman

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