Editorial – A good start, is all!

Jeff Burgar

Falher businessperson Jean Nicolet once said, “Give me $10 million and I will show you economic development!”

Well, he might have said a million! Or maybe it was two or three million. No matter the amount, he was absolutely right. Several million dollars in the hands of an entrepreneur with ideas is bound to create some kind of activity.

So, yes, it does sort of disparage all the work of economic development officers, and the governments that hire them. That will sound like a bad thing to some people, especially those governments who have such departments.

And of course, the people who work in them!

While such offices sound like a good idea, usually they turn into “busy work” projects. Meetings between a few elected officials. Conferences attended by development officers and more elected officials. Real results? As in “jobs, jobs, jobs?” Point us in that direction. Please.

So let’s talk about our UCP government plan to spend $10 billion. This isn’t economic development. As Premier Jason Kenney says himself, it is infrastructure creation. Roads. Buildings. Water and sewer. That kind of stuff. There should be lots of jobs. And when the money is gone, will the jobs still survive, carrying on building even more roads and buildings and waters and sewers? Pass judgment on that yourself.

To perhaps give you an idea what $10 billion gets you, consider the new Grande Prairie Hospital and the new High Prairie Hospital. Together, they cost slightly over $1 billion. Each took several years to build. Lots of jobs. Probably lots of profits made. Now multiply that by 10 – Kenney’s billions. Are you impressed? Probably not!

Now compress all that into one year of construction. There is no real reason to do so, since there is nothing said all of Kenney’s [which is actually our] money will all be spent in one year, but let’s just say it will. So multiply the GP and HP hospitals activity by, say five. This compresses the average construction time for both hospitals more or less into one year.

So that’s 50 times the hospital activity. You have to be impressed now, right?

In reality, maybe not so much. Why not? Because Alberta is a province with a gross annual product of about $350 billion per year. In relative terms to the economy, if you earn an annual salary of $40,000 per year, $10 billion is equivalent to each Albertan getting a lump sum of $1,140. Nice, but not so great, eh?

For some people, that’s one or two months of vehicle payments. One month of a house or apartment. For many small businesses these days, maybe a week of losses! Maybe not even that!

To be fair, it is still significant money when you don’t have it, or can’t put food on the table.

In terms of economic development though, and Mr. Nicolet’s thought, $10 billion can also mean 11 or 12 entrepreneurs in Peace River or the Smoky River region alone, all running around looking how to turn a million bucks in each of their hands into some real job makers.

That would indeed be development!

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