Regional development strategies in Canada have failed to improve the economic structure of their target regions. One of the benefits of nationhood is the absence of barriers to the mobility of capital and labour. Unfortunately, industrial policies attempt to attract businesses to relocate to areas of surplus labour—rather than to assist people in getting jobs where their skills are in demand.
In Nova Scotia, the government has provided financial incentives to companies to operate in regions with high unemployment. Frequently these initiatives have failed—often after successive infusions of additional assistance. Those regions of the province that have received the most intense development initiatives for the longest period remain those with the highest unemployment levels and with the greatest population out-migration.
In Nova Scotians Without Borders, AIMS Director of Research Don McIver contends that industrial strategies are not a legitimate role of government and that, when they persist in attempting them, governments waste resources that could be better employed in the service of citizens. The most constructive people-oriented strategy of government should be to help create an inclusive labour force with appropriate skills and the flexibility to locate to where their personal economic and social wellbeing is maximized. If that proves to be outside the province, it may be a loss to Nova Scotia—but to those individual Nova Scotians it would be a personal gain.
Click here to read the full paper.