A comment Stephen Harper made before he became prime minister has rankled Maritimers for more than a decade. Mr. Harper suggested we in Atlantic Canada have a “culture of defeat”. The label stung and while the word ‘defeat’ may have been harsh, we believe the last 30 to 40 years have shown we at least have a ‘culture of dependence’.
An essay published by two of Canada’s leading think-tanks–the Fraser Institute and Atlantic Institute for Market Studies–suggests New Brunswick and Nova Scotia dependence on federal equalization money is acting as a disincentive for natural resource development in those two provinces. New Brunswick has received $14.5 billion in equalization over the past decade and this gift of cash funnelled from the more prosperous regions of Canada still represents close to 40 per cent of provincial revenues.
We think the two institutes have it right: the incentive to develop our own source of revenue is lower when we continue to get easy cash from Ottawa. The essay shows a long list of economic indicators pegging our province near the bottom of the pack in every measure — average household income, unemployment rates, and private sector investment, to name a few. We seem stuck in an economic lethargy, unable or unwilling to kick-start our economy and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
*This article appeared in the Telegraph Journal on 11 December 2014