Singing a Different Tune and Embracing the Unknown

Cape Breton Island has a rich culture and fascinating history, matched only by its scenic routes and picturesque landscapes. The Island is highly sought after by vacationers searching for a new spot and golfers looking to play a few rounds at the famous Highland Links Resort. In addition, it is renowned for delicious seafood, hearty people, and, perhaps most importantly, the infamous “East Coast Kitchen Party,” which is an organization that promotes Atlantic Canada’s art scene.

Tourism Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada touts this embellished description of Cape Breton Island, however, it conflicts with a harsher reality: 16 per cent unemployment rate, reliance on government transfers, and a median income well-below the national average–in 2012, $26,160, compared with $31,320 nationally. Furthermore, several rural towns have disappeared, poverty is on the rise, and thousands of Nova Scotians have left the province for a better future.

Fixing these issues requires a momentous shift in the mindset of Nova Scotians and their elected officials. A different approach to natural resource development, for instance, may be the most helpful.

Cape Breton Island, and, in general, Nova Scotia, have a tremendous supply of natural resources, from oil in George’s Bank to natural gas in the Lake Ainslie area, not to mention coal deposits spread throughout the province. There are multiple local groups, however, that have convinced the public that natural resource development is not worth the risk, culminating in the decision to extend the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing indefinitely. Prohibiting all things that carry risk is a dangerous mindset, though. On one hand, residents of Nova Scotia demand jobs, and on the other, shun opportunities that would produce them.

Cape Bretoners must begin to sing a different tune. Industry experts suggest that hydraulic fracturing–colloquially known as “fracking,” could generate nearly $1 billion annually in the province. Former “ghost towns” in Pennsylvania, for instance, have begun booming due to natural gas development in recent years: the unemployment rate in the state is 5.6 per cent, compared with 6.1 per cent nationally, and as a whole, the industry supports roughly 1.7 million jobs in the country. Moreover, natural gas is a much more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to coal and oil. Lastly, the correlation between fracking and earthquakes is weak and instances of pollution occurred due to breaches of government regulation.

Although there are risks associated with fracking, as is the case with any venture, those who are concerned about them exaggerate their scale and probability. Instead of banning the practice, the sensible approach would have been to mitigate the chance of disaster through sound regulation. Furthermore, natural resource development can provide support for local communities. In the United Kingdom, for example, the chemical firm Ineos offered local communities 2 per cent of profits from wells in the area to support hospitals and parks, and 4 per cent of profits to residents who own land near drilling sites. Greenpeace described this practice as a “bribe,” however, it is a common one in the United States that has delivered massive benefits to local communities. A similar approach in Cape Breton Island, and in Nova Scotia, could benefit communities tremendously, and a sound regulatory regime would reduce the risk of environmental damage.

In addition to the picturesque landscapes in the Tourism Nova Scotia commercials, the province should hoist an “Open for Business” sign. At least we could then start to improve the lives of Nova Scotians. In the meantime, however, shunning all, and every, opportunity to create jobs and generate economic growth will reinforce the status quo.

Corey Schruder is an AIMS on Campus Student Fellow who is pursuing an undergraduate degree in history at Cape Breton University. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies

Ontario’s Throne Speech: The Coming Budget

It has been said that Liberals ask, “How can government solve the problem,” where as Libertarians ask, “How can the individual solve the problem?”  If it is any sign that there is truth in that statement, one need only look at the Throne Speech from Kathleen Wynne.  After having expanded her cabinet to include 27 ministers, it is hard to see how anyone can believe she will actually make the tough decisions needed to get the economy back on track.

Some of the most interesting phrases in this speech included, “The tools of progress must be forged in the fire of our collective will” (On twitter @LukewSavage questioned if that was an intentional shout out to Lenin).  She speech also said, “We all gaze upon different skylines.” Another beautiful image, though I question its relevance.  There was also mention of a new youth advisory council.

In short, the speech had many beautiful words and symbols, but lacked on meaningful content and solid plans.  As the new Premier-Agriculture Minister her speech lacked real content about agriculture.  The Liberals did not tell us how government would solve the problem, however they vaguely alluded to job creation, and various changes that would be good for Ontario.  Unfortunately, they did not leave much room for the individual to solve the problem either.

Tim Hudak, leader of the official opposition said his party would vote against the speech: “A little bit of PC, a little bit of NDP and a whole lot of Dalton McGuinty isn’t going to get us out of this mess … we’re not going to be supporting the throne speech.”  Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP, seemed open to compromise.  Regardless, the deciding factor will be the budget.  With a shaky minority government, and a new Premier, Ontario could be headed into an election any time now.  We know that Tim Hudak wants an election, as the PC’s have nominated most of their candidates.  We certainly know that Kathleen Wynne wants to hold onto power.  The only question is the NDPs. Do they want to pick up a few seats, or exert their influence over the Liberals and shift the budget to the left?  Horwath is seeking a job-subsidy program for youth employment, corporate tax reform, a reduction in car insurance rates, and improved home care for seniors.  Over the next few weeks Ontario will see if she is asking too much, or if it’s the cost of compromise for Ontario’s Liberal Party.

-Alanna Newman

Ontario’s Ravenous Puppetmasters

The reins of power in Canada’s most populous province reside with whichever party holds control over Queen’s Park. There’s nothing overly controversial with that statement, most people would agree with it, I mean, it’s a fact isn’t it? The reality that political parties comprised of politicians elected by us run our affairs is one which we all consciously or sub-consciously accept and understand to be true. Now, what if that wasn’t true? What is the reality was far different?

In today’s financially drought stricken Ontario, the real rulers aren’t the governing Liberals precariously holding on to the illusion of power. Ontario’s McGuinty-Wynne band of public dollar arsonists have long since auctioned themselves off to private interest groups, mostly to satiate their addiction to power. The big bosses behind the scenes are the public sector unions, who, more so than any other group, are best equipped to rule behind the scenes.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, along with the OSSTF, OPSEU, and CUPE rule the province. By reinforcing and supporting McGuinty’s rise to power these unions have helped secure a 300,000 staff boost to the size of the public sector, resulting in huge increases in member’s fees. Almost every demand for heightened public sector benefits, pay, and pensions demanded by the unions has been given by the government. The effects of this dark relationship have been significant. Ontario has suffered under three terms of OLP waste and corruption, and a period of almost surreal, unbridled prosperity for unions has occurred. Who paid for all of this? Well the Ontario taxpayer of course, at a cost of $12 billion for this year alone, and over $110 billion for the last 9 years.

The governing Liberals handed out so much money that when they eventually ran out of it, the bacon for votes relationship collapsed. The unions awoke from their complacent slumber and immediately waged war, resulting in a long end to extracurriculars, instability in the school system, strikes, and the selection of a new Premier. The Liberals under Premier Wynne are now desperately trying to appease the unions and rebuild the golden relationship which served both groups so well. Wynne says she won’t hand over any ‘new’ money, but can we really trust the same woman who played a role in the $1 billion gas plant fiasco, among so many other scandals?

The truth is that the unions have it easy from a political perspective. With both the NDP and the Liberals eager to do their bidding, they can pick and choose. If the NDP cannot be counted on to obey, support can be shifted to the Liberals. The only threat to the public sector union agenda of bigger government and higher public spending, regardless of the costs to the taxpayer, is the Progressive Conservative Party. Keeping the Tories out of office is all that it takes for the province to continue its slide towards a $30 billion deficit and eventual bankruptcy.

By funding the Working Families Coalition’s misinformed, negative, one-dimensional ads, the public sector unions can target the Tories anytime they please. The political war chests of these behemoths are truly enormous; the ETFO alone has a $150 million ‘Defense Fund.’ According to the ETFO Constitution, if this fund dips below $150 million, members’ fees are automatically raised and maintained until it is restored.

The reality is that government’s must govern for the general public, not for individual private interest groups, of which the public sector unions are by far the most powerful, most affluent, and most addicted to never ending pork. Regardless of the state of the economy or the public finances, Ontario’s public sector unions will never lose their entitlement to more benefits at the expense of everyone else. These hypocritical groups, which claim to represent working families, are in fact destroying the hopes of average people by bankrupting their government and destroying the competitiveness of their economy.

It’s time for Ontario to be run by a political party not beholden to the greedy unions; it’s time Ontario families voted for sustainable public finances and economic competitiveness.

-Dino Alec