07 October 2014

The Vision Thing #nlpoli

The St. John’s Board of Trade is about the only business advocacy group in the world that doesn’t actually believe in free enterprise.

The Board doesn’t believe that government should control public debt.  They claim they are worried about it, but in practice the Board will shout with joy the more the government spends.

That sounds ridiculous, but it is true. 

The Board of Trade supports the Muskrat Falls project, for example.  The project involves a massive increase in public debt. There’s no evidence it is the cheapest way to meet the provinces electricity needs.  The only way it can work has been to create a complete monopoly in electricity production in the province that will force locals – including businesses – to bear the full cost plus profit, so that the provincial government’s energy corporation can sell discount electricity everywhere else except inside Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Board of Trade likes Muskrat Falls for two reasons.  Above all else,  the Board’s members want a piece of the construction phase for the project.  It’s pretty simple.  Right behind that,  the Board is notoriously sycophantic. It doesn’t actually advocate for business – like you might expect - as much as follow whatever line the provincial government lays down.

Bizarre, yes.  But simple to understand.

The Board is also a pretty funny organization, too.  Not funny as in bizarre or weird, aside from that anti-free enterprise thing, but funny as in roll on the floor and pee your pants laughing.

The Board of Trade has a weekly column in the St. John’s Telegram.  The column goes under the name of the president of the board but the article is probably written by the staff at the board.

In the latest column, president Sharon Horan warns that the provincial government needs a plan to sustain the current prosperity in the province.  That means the provincial government will need to have a way to produce workers,  argues Horan,  because in this province we are headed for a big problem with lots of old people and not enough young people.

The politicians have to produce a vision says Horan.  The vision “must include a strategy for increasing our population and the courage to see that our unemployment numbers can’t overshadow the facts that confirm we need more people.”

“Effective leadership matters,”  writes Horan, “and we want a leader to win the next election.”


Deep breath.

This population thing is not new.  Regular readers of these e-scribbles know about it and what it means for the provincial government and the economy.

Nor is the “prosperity” thing new either.  Again, regular readers know that one of the main drivers of the local economy is not free enterprise and sustainable economic development but excessive  - and unaffordable - government spending.

Basically,  Newfoundland and Labrador is a place where the economy is heavily dependent on government spending,  the source of government revenue is not reliable, and the government is already burdened with huge debt and growing expenditures.  About two thirds of the tax filers in the province make less than $32,000 annually, before taxes.  The population numbers are dropping and the population that is here,  will be a lot older, on average than they are now.  This isn’t really prosperity as most people would sensibly understand it, but these days the government line is that we are officially “prosperous”.  So the Board tells us that we are prosperous.

One of the things that you would not do in that situation is increase the public debt massively and depend on those people on fixed and low incomes to bear the debt.  Sensible people wouldn’t, but that is exactly what Sharon Horan and the local Board of Trade has done with their support Muskrat Falls.

They apparently think that is leadership.

They want more of it.

They call it vision.

That’s funny.

What else could it be?