- Thermal Audit
Buy Local Policies
for Newfoundland and Labrador
Unemployment is high in Newfoundland because there is virtually no industry left; its population is a remnant from a bygone era. The rural population thrived during the peak of a fishery that was ruined long ago by overfishing and gross mismanagement. Unemployment is lowest in the city of St. John's primarily because of government spending. If St. John's didn't have Memorial University, seventeen thousand university students and numerous provincial government jobs paying middle class wages, there wouldn't be a city in the province.
The government has been trying to solve this problem for generations. Countless studies have been produced looking at potential industries for the province, but nothing has been able to stop the slow decline. This is not just a Newfoundland problem -- it is everywhere and it has a root cause.
In order for there to be local jobs, goods and services need to be produced in areas that people live. We have exactly the opposite. Consider the following:
- Food: Other than Purity brand biscuits, Mount Scio farm savory, milk, eggs, chicken and a few dozen other items, almost everything in a Dominion or Loblaws store is imported.
- Fuel: Oil for heating and oil used to produce electricity at the Holyrood generation facility for winter electric heating is all imported.
- Housing: Virtually all building materials other than perhaps Kento and Acan windows are imported.
- Clothing: Are you wearing anything made in Canada?
- General Stuff: Wallmart has tens of thousands of items for sale -- try to find something local, or even Canadian.
How can you have a population of consumers that produce almost nothing and expect anything other than having it go into debt?
The Economic Recovery Commission (ERC) laid out a plan decades ago to address the problem of employment and made hundreds of recommendations. A wise policy would be to finally adopt them and purge the system that thwarted meaningful change. The book "Against the Tide" should be required reading because it explains the bad actors in the system that thwart progress.
Below are some contemporary thoughts, nowhere close in scope to the hundreds of man years of work by the ERC and Royal Commission on Employment and Unemployment.
The first crack at a solution is to create manufacturing jobs. There are two huge problems though. The first problem is human behavior. We want whatever is cheapest and don't care where it comes from. The second problem is competition. The recent disaster in Bangladesh is an excellent example:
"Last month's disaster killed more than 1,100 workers and highlighted the hazardous working conditions in Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry and the lack of safety for millions of workers who are paid as low as $38 a month."
Much of that $20 billion would have gone to US, Canadian and European textile mills and factories once, but is now part of globalization. Think of it as a race for the bottom. Can anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador live on $38 month without freezing to death in the winter? The same holds for almost any industry. No civilized community can complete with slave like conditions where lives are disposable.
In order to create a functional society, we need to find a way to recirculate wealth fairly.
Step One - Made right here labelling and promotion
The government cannot just apply duties to imported goods to protect without causing trade wars and inviting endless litigation. However, there is nothing to stop communities from organizing buy local campaigns and for local stores from having NL, or Canadian Maritimes sections.
Step Two - Enable specific industries
The wood pellet industry needs to get jump started by offering consumer rebates on wood pellet stoves and by converting public buildings to biomass boilers. This will make it safer for local companies to invest in the necessary facilities. The source of wood for pellets would be: saw dust from mills, bark, tree thinning and one-time sources like deforestation of hydroelectric dam reservoirs.
There importance of this step is to divert money spent on the huge cost of heating in the province into the local economy where it can be recycled.
Step Three - Rework the Fishery and Aquiculture Models
The only practical way to restore the fishery is with marine sanctuaries so that fish can grow to old age and produce large quantities of eggs. Mapping out these reserves is a task for government.
All fish caught in provincial waters should be processed locally. Employee owned cooperatives are the ideal way to do this since profitability isn't as important as paying everyone good wages. Large international corporations are not required to exploit this resource and residents should not care if they complain.
The government can assist by running a marketing board, much like the Government of British Columbia does for the greenhouse industry. This allows cooperatives to concentrate on producing high quality product.
Step Four - Rework the Agricultural Industry
Newfoundland doesn't have much agricultural land, but what is available can be better used. The government can assist by:
- Enforcing a ban on the conversion of agricultural land into subdivisions.
- Streamlining the granting of agricultural leases
- Continuing research to produce better seeds for the climate, developing more strains of disease resistant potatoes, etc.
These steps would result in a large portion of household budgets being recycled in Newfoundland, as well as ensuring that natural resources are processed in province.
There will be arguments that this is "not efficient". It isn't efficient if your goal is to become rich of the backs of others, but it is highly efficient if you include everyone and not just business owners. We have to spend money to survive, so we might as well ensure that it creates local employment.
A Call to Action
This isn't something a government can do in a vacuum. The most important point is that everyone must participate by purposely buying local products on a matter of principle. Your long term welfare depends on it.