Date April 26, 2004
For immediate release
Five Big Ideas: AIMS’ Roadmap for Atlantic Prosperity
Think tank seeks to inspire federal party leaders to rethink policy for Atlantic Canada
HALIFAX – With a federal election looming within months if not weeks, Atlantic Canada’s public policy think tank is inviting the leaders of all the federal parties to respond to its non-partisan home-grown policy roadmap for Atlantic Canadian prosperity. AIMS is today releasing that roadmap, entitled, You Can Get There From Here: How Ottawa can put Atlantic Canada on the road to prosperity.
The paper is co-authored by AIMS president Brian Lee Crowley and AIMS Director of Research, Don McIver. Based on the Institute’s extensive body of research on the impact of federal policies on the region, You Can Get There From Here is an invitation to all federal political parties to re-examine their past policies and declare how they intend to bring Atlantic Canada back into the nation’s economic mainstream.
“AIMS’ research has consistently found Atlantic Canada has the natural and human resources necessary to succeed, but that the region’s progress in closing the gap with more prosperous parts of Canada is retarded chiefly by bad public policy, including by Ottawa. The good thing about bad policy is that it is in our power to change it, and this paper invites the leaders of all the federal parties to respond to a new policy package that would remove many of these man-made obstacles to this region’s prosperity,” said Brian Crowley.
The paper makes five key recommendations:
1. Dismantle expensive, politicized, and distortionary regional development programs, such as ACOA, while using the savings to finance competitiveness-enhancing tax reductions for individuals and the business sector;
2. Fundamentally revamp the equalization program so that it does not encourage economically perverse behaviour by recipient provinces;
3. Restore employment insurance (EI) to its original objective of protecting workers from unpredictable short-term interruptions in life-long attachment to the workforce and use some of the savings to finance a comprehensive job-training initiative;
4. Develop a business climate and regulatory structure that promotes strong growth in industries, such as the fishery and offshore energy, in which the region has a comparative advantage;
5. Build a new, strong, and committed relationship with the US, Canada’s most important international partner, reflecting the interests of Atlantic Canada as well as those of the country as a whole.
Ottawa’s policies of regional development spending, equalization transfers, and regionally
extended employment insurance benefits are well-intentioned failures. They have left Atlantic Canada with a per capita gross domestic product that is no more than three-quarters of the national average, well below average productivity levels, and unemployment that is high even as the region suffers from increasingly significant labour shortages. Moreover, excessive federal regulation and shortsighted bureaucratic interference have prevented key industries in the region, such as the fishery and offshore energy, from acting as catalysts of economic revitalization.
Co-author Don McIver noted, “We have seen the past — and it did not work. Misguided federal policies not only have failed to close the economic discrepancy between the Atlantic provinces and the rest of Canada; they have, in fact, held back the natural process of convergence, which could have closed the gap relatively quickly. This paper is designed to provide concrete proposals that would act as a foundation for a new policy approach.”
AIMS will be writing to each federal party leader asking them to react to this policy document and the picture it paints of the federal policy obstacles on the road to economic growth in Atlantic Canada. Their replies will be posted on the AIMS website.
You Can Get There From Here: How Ottawa can put Atlantic Canada on the road to prosperity is available online at www.aims.ca.
For further information please contact: