Financial handcuffs and the future of our province

Blake Doyle
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This was the final week the thespians in Stratford performed Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”. In the play there are three witches who offer prophecies to the main character; since the three witches would soon be returning home to their bog I interviewed them and asked their prophecies for the Island. I did not like what I heard.

The only future they foretold was a spiral of increased taxation, eroding services and exodus. It sounded to perverse to believe; but when considered objectively it could technically be where we are heading.

Our systems are unsustainable. We have demanded too much, demonstrated a habitual lack of restraint and are now restricted in our abilities to provide service(s). If government(s) lacks the will to reduce services we can only expect increased taxation. With uncompetitive tax policies, rational citizens will leave.

As a society, we have been diligently crafting our financial handcuffs. With great care we have worked hard to make the shackles strong and the clasps tight. We can take comfort in our success.

Some consider capital a great evil, which maybe it is; but it is also the purest ballot of success. Money will flow to good investments, and “smart money” will avert from poo options. Securing investment will become increasingly difficult, and increasingly critical.

Personally, when I would face a seemingly insurmountable challenge, such as the consumption of a failing business; my father would remind me “it is always darkest before the dawn.” It’s a statement reflective in its profundity.

When you reach the point of greatest despair things can only get better. This is always the period of greatest opportunity. As the enlightenment ushered a period of dramatic change and innovation, so too is our province nearing the cusp of an unplanned reformation.

Who would have believed a decade ago that Newfoundland would be recognized as the third fastest growing economy, in real GDP growth, for 2013? This is an acknowledgement that transformation can occur quickly.

We need new ideas. We need new perspectives. We need to embrace divergent thinking and people who “come from away”. (Maybe they come from across the strait, maybe they come from across the Pacific.) We need to increase the concentration of people, and we need their concentration applied to our challenges.

There is one undisputed certainty of our future, the Canadian economy will steamroll our province. Our demographics will relegate us to a perennial and condemned “have not.”

Our alternative is to be bold. We can unshackle the handcuffs we have fashioned for our children and ourselves. We can attract investment capital, human capital and intellectual capital. We can build on our strengths and expand our assets.

There are many names for what we must become: creative thinkers, optimists, visionaries, entrepreneurs, leaders. What we must do is think differently. Turn convention on its head.

Evolve our thinking from exporting lobster and potatoes around the globe, look at how we extract unknown properties from our limited resources. Extend our position in the value equation. We need to consider opportunities that have yet to be conceived. We need to position for the “next” economic wave.

Change will not occur overnight, but it can happen here! We can challenge our native entrepreneurs, educate our future researchers and attract creative minds lured by what ourprovince offers.

The trajectory we are on is a lonely one. In a generation we will be demographically depleted, financially insolvent and unable to encourage physicians, educators or investors to our sandstone shores.

The foundation we lay now will determine our future. It is our collective opportunity to seize or to squander.

Blake Doyle is The Guardian's small business columnist. He can be reached at

Geographic location: Stratford, Newfoundland

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