With respect, I feel I must comment on the article by my friend and occasional colleague Blake Doyle entitled ‘Island businesses need to attract people to prosper' (The Guardian, Jan. 5, 2013).
In the article, Mr. Doyle repeats the hackneyed refrain from the business community that our beloved Island needs to recruit multitudes of new residents in order to propel better provincial economic development. Despite its frequent repetition, this refrain is nothing more than an assumption and bears undergoing some questioning.
First of all, I have never heard an explanation from any quarter as to why our province needs more people in the face of an unemployment rate that lingers historically above the 10 per cent or higher. Are there jobs on the Island that local people won't do? Are wages too low? Or are there simply not enough jobs for either locals or newcomers?
Our provincial population has continued to rise gradually over the last half-century but Island residents remain chronically under-employed. Again, it has never been explained how just bringing in more people will improve the economy. The unspoken reality is that there would have to be incentives for immigrants and business-owners to come here and to employ people. But you could have business-friendly politico-economic policy without tying it population growth. Reducing corporate taxation, for example, might result in local businesses becoming more keen to attract and retain current Islanders by paying better wages. Other policy options might include emphasizing exports versus selling local products to local people as a means to increase revenue.
In short, I think we need to probe our assumption more carefully; we need to clearly identify the problem before determining an appropriate solution. Certainly, our society is facing demographic challenges such as an aging population, but with a global population of over six billion and counting, I think we need to factor in consideration of environmental factors in any economic development strategy. What effect would more residents have on our most important resource, the land? On our socio-cultural resources like landscape? On our dwindling water table?
I think I agree with Mr. Doyle that we need to think about these issues but I also think he needs to explain his rationale and evidence more clearly and more fully to show me that more is better. Until then, more is only more.