Jobs Here

As Liberal MLAs speak out against the NDP’s moves to bring ship building contracts, engineering jobs and IBM’s data analytics centre all home to Nova Scotia, another prominent business voice is speaking out against the politics of negativity.

No one can accuse Halifax Chamber of Commerce Valerie Payn of being a partisan New Democrat. She has worked for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce for 17 years and has been named as one of Atlantic Canada’s top CEOs by Atlantic Business.

As Stephen McNeil attacks on job growth continue, Payn offered this letter last week:

The rash of negativity around recent announcements by Projex and IBM, and their plans to set up business in Halifax, leaves me bitterly disappointed. Let’s face it. These companies could go anywhere in our increasingly shrinking world. Yet, they have chosen to locate in Halifax.

Do we really want new jobs, to keep our young professionals here, to grow our economy? … Or do we not?

These are jobs of the future; well paying, and suited to our provincial assets. These jobs, and these companies, are a good fit for us. So, I would ask all those who have been so vocal in their negative comments, “What — exactly — do you suggest? Is there something I am missing?

One thing we all agree upon is that we cannot continue to export our young people, year over year over year — and yet expect to be a strong and fiscally stable province. Surely, we cannot expect to do the same thing …. take the same approaches over and over… and expect a different result. Seriously, can we expect change… but not actually change? Am I missing something?

Let’s not spend precious time over the next year focused on an upcoming election, when that might be, and what it might mean. We have much more important issues facing us.

And let’s not for sure, absolutely for sure, not lash out at those businesses who choose to locate here. Unless, of course, we would prefer that they, and others like them, not come. And let them take their business elsewhere.

Believe it or not, Nova Scotia, they have other options.

Graham Steele’s Jobs Budget

People tend to be more concerned about a deficit of jobs than a deficit in a budget. And rightfully so.

That’s why we think the Opposition calls to balance the Nova Scotia budget immediately are wrong-headed. Graham Steele’s 2012 budget marches the province towards a balanced budget right on schedule, while continuing to keep the economy humming with fiscal stimulus dollars, including record investments in capital and training.

The Nova Scotia Budget is a Jobs Budget.

Austerity budgets do not create jobs, as the economies of Spain and Greece prove daily. Fiscal stimulus budgets, on the other hand, put people back to work, as can plainly be seen in the United States right now. Capital spending raises capital. 

Unemployment is the biggest barrier to deficit reduction. Getting people back to work means they begin to pay income taxes again, they shop more (supporting local business) and they are happier, healthier and more empowered (especially if their shop is unionized). As economist John Maynard Keynes said: “Look after unemployment and the budget will look after itself.”

Home construction will also get a boost with the NDP doubling their First-Time Home Buyers Rebate to $3,000 on newly constructed homes. And investments in shipbuilding, farming, forestry, fisheries, and manufacturing are key to ensuring the economies of small town and rural Nova Scotia recover as well.

Many political pundits have looked at the fiscal discipline of the Nova Scotia NDP and suggested they are a provincial copy of Chretien’s federal Liberals. In an interview on CBC’s Maritime Morning, Graham Steele explained how steady economic guidance and social democracy are complimentary, not mutually exclusive:

Graham Steele: I was born and raised in the Praries, I grew up in Manitoba which had NDP governments throughout the time I was growing up. They weren’t perfect of course, but they were pretty good governments. And that kind of responsible, thoughtful social democracy is emblematic of our entire government starting with the Premier on down. You do the right thing for the province but you do it in a fiscally responsible way. There’s no contradiction between those two things…

Lets look at another icon, Tommy Douglas. Tommy Douglas balanced the budget and he did while bringing in things like public healthcare. We believe deeply, fundamentally, in the necessity of quality public services… in order to continue to deliver those sustainably in the future, the finances have to make sense.

The Bee’s Knees – Prizes for Week 1

Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.

Bumble Bee:

The Legislature opened with the Speech from the Throne, which included a fair bit of news, including the intriguing idea that not all provincial government departments – or the work they do – need be located in Halifax. There is simply no reason, in this age, for almost all government work to be concentrated in Halifax. Main Streets across the province could use those jobs and the economic benefits, especially as Halifax experiences an extended period of 5-6% unemployment.

This news seemed to unnerve Conservative leader Jamie Baillie, who had a chance to move on this file as Chief-of-Staff not that long ago, and did nothing.

Jamie Baillie: I will address right now one of the items that attracted a significant amount of attention yesterday and that is on Page 15 of the Throne Speech where the government says it will “seek locations outside this immediate area for new and consolidated agencies and offices of government.” That sounds nice … but until that day comes, what a cynical and cruel promise to make to the people of rural Nova Scotia.

New Brunswick’s Energy Department is sensibly located in Saint John. Ontario moved Natural Resources out of Toronto years ago. If When the NDP moves a department, even just one, out of Halifax before the next election, Baillie will look foolish. More importantly, his already shaky argument that the NDP doesn’t care about rural Nova Scotia will be destroyed.

So for that, Baillie wins the first Bumble Bee prize for the error prone of 2012.

Killer Bee:

After Baillie’s speech came this Killer Bee prize winning quote from the MLA for Halifax Citadel:

Leonard Preyra: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise here today and to say a few words in the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. It’s a particular pleasure to follow the Leader of the Third Party because he is such a great storyteller, particularly when it comes to works of fiction. I’m sure that speech he just delivered is going to be listed in the fiction section in our Legislative Library. I want to thank him for adding to the wonderful stories he’s been telling us about the year, particularly his reinvention of the Tory period in government. (Laughter)

Honey Bee:

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil started off well on Thursday, reiterating his support for the government’s renewable energy plan, while slyly pointing out Conservatives regressive position on energy, earning him the Honey Bee prize for good work.

Stephen McNeil: We can agree – maybe not all of us, but most of us – that the Lower Churchill Falls is an important project that I believe will allow us to move towards a more renewable, sustainable energy market in Atlantic Canada. For those who are confused about the fact that it potentially may cost Nova Scotians too much, the inaction on energy will cost Nova Scotians much more. (Applause)

Staying as far away as possible from Baillie’s attacks on green jobs is a wise move by McNeil. The Liberals may be able to eat into the progressive wing of the Conservatives’ vote by hitting them hard on their opposition to things like renewable energy and minimum wage increases.

Drone of the Week

1 drone noun \drōn\
a stingless bee that does not gather nectar or pollen
2 drone intransitive verb \drōn\
to talk in a persistently dull or monotonous tone

Unfortunately by Friday, McNeil’s performance weakened, winning him his second prize in just the first week:

Stephen McNeil: I found it interesting as I was looking and reading this document that not once in this document did we talk about literacy and numeracy. Think about that for a second, not once did we talk about literacy and numeracy.

Well, we thought about it for a second, and found two other interesting words emphasized the the speech: education and learning.

You can play all kinds of silly games when looking for ways to criticize speeches. Why was fishing mentioned four times, but forestry only two? Why did Cape Breton receive more mentions than Pictou? Ultimately though, that sort of critique is juvenile.  The Opposition Leader needs better material.

Jobs Here and There

With one of the worst economic performance records of any province over the past 20 years, previous Nova Scotia governments could only hope to boast about having the “lowest unemployment levels in Atlantic Canada.” Nova Scotia’s boasting may carry farther west, if recent Stats Canada data is any indication.

Comparing year-to-year employment rates, it shows that Nova Scotia had the strongest change in the employment rate (+0.9%), followed by Alberta (+0.8%) and PEI (+0.6%), over the past 12 months. As with good public opinion poll numbers, the NDP doesn’t tend to trumpet positive job number news. It’s good to be cautious when comparing month to month statistics, as they will show wild variations due to Statistics Canada’s sample size. However, comparing year-to-year shows a positive trend.

Since employment rates can improve when people stop looking for work, it is important to also check the participation rate trend. We did: the top three provinces to see improvement in their participation rate over the same period were: Newfoundland (+0.8%), Nova Scotia and Alberta (+0.2%).

Nova-Scotia-Job-RateMirroring these two positive statistical trends is the unemployment rate numbers. And here too Nova Scotia ranks in the top 3 of provinces that saw a dip in their respective year-to-year unemployment rates: BC: (-1.8%), Nova Scotia (-1.2%) and Alberta (-0.7%).

In sum, these stats show real positive change over the past 12 months in the Nova Scotia economy. But, maybe the most interesting fact is that Stats Canada reports that counties outside of Halifax added 3,300 jobs last year.

Here on the North Shore, jobs have passed their pre-recession peak, despite most of Canada seeing few signs of recovery. Nova Scotian manufacturing jobs fled Nova Scotia long before the global recession, vanishing from 2000-2009. Nova Scotians should be hopeful that the recent uptick in manufacturing will continue.

It will take time to get Nova Scotia’s manufacturing sector back on its feet. We will continue to see 10 manufacturing jobs in one town and 30 jobs in another as the government, workers and industry rebuild rural Nova Scotia.

As we saw in the Ships Start Here campaign, Nova Scotians are proud to be builders. We need an economy that is made to last, and that starts with manufacturing and the high paying jobs they bring. A job at a steel plant, a ship yard and lumber mill – they have long been a Nova Scotian family’s ticket to the middle class. Today, Nova Scotians can add building wind turbines, LED lights and solar panels to that list. Manufacturing towns are coming back to life.