Monday, April 14, 1997

What our economy really needs is jobs

When 21st-century economists look back on the mid-1990s, they will almost certainly note our obsession with deficit-cutting.

Federal, provincial and territorial governments did little else during those difficult transition years, they will say. Too bad about all those unemployed people.

Too bad indeed. Do our politicians really want to be remembered for the relatively simple task of chopping budgets? Have they no more lofty goals?

Now that the end of the deficit years are firmly in hand, it is time to rethink our approach to job creation, a "priority" that has for too long been relegated to the campaign promise list, rather than government agendas.

Even now we hear the Premier's panel on employment the economy talking about giving Northern companies tax breaks and other incentives to stimulate investment and generate capital.

But recent history has shown that investment and the generation of capital are not sufficient incentives for companies to hire more people. The tax system must be used as both a carrot and a stick to encourage job creation. Perhaps tax rates could be tied to employee rolls -- the more a company hires, the less it pays in tax.

Similarly, those companies who insist upon laying off employees even while enjoying rising profit margins should be penalized for their selfishness. The banks and telecommunications industry, for example, operate in the North and could be subjected to such innovative Northern tax regimes.

Another tired cliche coming from the panel would have us believe what the North needs is more independent entrepreneurs. National trends suggest these self-starters may be responsible for half the 750,000 jobs the Liberal government claims it has helped create since 1993.

But there is no evidence these new businesses are attracting much real business or much for our economy.

Let's make history. Let's try some new ideas for a change.

End the delay

Nunavut comes into being in less than two years. An interim commissioner to oversee the monumental task of creating of the new territory's government was to have been appointed last year.

What's keeping Ottawa? Is the cabinet too pre-occupied with dithering over when to call a federal election or have they simply forgotten about the North?

Nunavut's MP, Jack Anawak, should be demanding an immediate decision. Unfortunately, he's a leading candidate for the job and had found himself in a conflict of interest. Sadly, he appears to have chosen not to rock the boat rather than stand up for his constituents.

Health matters

It is becoming clear that cancer in the North is much more than a disease or condition, it is an indicator of many other health-related problems that continue to plague our unique corner of the world.

An unhealthy diet of junk food -- rather than traditional country foods -- surely contributes to our lack of health and having medical facilities located outside of communities breaks up families, if only temporarily. Our Northern health system continues to get more and more costly every year.

There are many reasons to strive for better health. Healthy people are more industrious. They have a better outlook on life, they cost the health system less and are more likely to raise healthy families. Who could ask for anything more?