The employment - education disconnect (Part 2)

saint john 2012 r4
In New Brunswick, even the NDP blame unemployment on the unemployed, blame poverty on the poor - and suggest a little more learning will sort everything out.

Yesterday, Jim Stanford wrote a short post on Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, speaking to a union audience at the most recent CAW convention (Spinning Mr. Carney).

Among the things that caught my eye was this:

He noted (citing previous Bank of Canada research) that Canada had the second worst export performance of any G-20 country in the last decade (measured by the decline in our share of world exports).  Two-thirds of that weakness, he argued, is due to the structure of our trade: the fact that we export primarily to the U.S. and other relatively stagnant markets, rather than faster-growing emerging economies.  One-third of the poor performance is due to competitiveness.  Within that latter category, the high dollar has been the dominant factor (explaining two-thirds of the erosion in competitiveness).  The remaining one-third of the one-third is due to the combination of faster-growing labour costs and slower productivity growth.

Mr. Stanford discusses some particulars about the Canadian dollar, and about whether free trade agreements help or hinder economic growth.  Then he writes:

It was Mr. Carney’s comments (after his speech) about the growing hoard of idle corporate cash that generated maximum media attention, however - including front page of the Globe and Mail the next day....  Carney called it “dead money” and urged corporations to either spend it on capital, or give it back to their shareholders.  (That’s not my favoured solution, by the way … since much of that hoard is directly attributable to corporate income tax cuts, I’d prefer giving the money back to governments, who could then spend it on public capital and infrastructure projects, thus generating far more economic benefit than would be derived from pumping more money into the chequing accounts of wealthy investors.)

"Mr. Carney’s appearance," writes Stanford, "thus sparked a useful and timely debate about whether corporations are indeed adequately doing the “job” they’re supposed to under capitalism."


Today, Brad Woodside, mayor of Fredericton (New Brunswick's capital city), was quoted in a regional CBC story reacting to news that the "Marriott Global Reservation Sales and Customer Care centre will be closing its doors in February, putting 265 people out of work" (CBC).  In fact, his reaction was similar to the one he had a few days earlier when hundreds of NBers flocked to an Alberta job fair held in his city:



The CBC also got a reaction from provincial NDP Leader Dominic Cardy for that same Marriott story:

The Marriott has received more than $750,000 from the provincial government — $324,000 in a forgivable loan from the Liberals in 1998 and $427,500 from the Conservatives in 2000, said Cardy.

“Marriott is not going out of business, they are getting out of New Brunswick, and taking our tax dollars with them,” he said in a statement.

And the Marriott is not alone, he said. Since 2000, New Brunswick governments have given at least $15 million to call centres that have closed.

“This money should have been spent on building the strength of our education system, to make sure our workers have the essential skills they need to compete in a global economy,” Cardy said.


Okay.  Let's connect some dots.

Banker Mark Carney says - and autoworkers' economist Jim Stanford agrees - that our economic woes have a lot to do with the fact that our trade ties are to shrinking European, US and domestic markets "rather than faster-growing emerging economies."  According to these two, our economic woes also have a little to do with "competitiveness" - by which they mostly mean the competitiveness of the Canadian dollar, but also mean (the "remaining one-third of the one-third") faster-growing labour costs and slower productivity growth.

Now, like "competitiveness", the noun "productivity" is a plastic word (Poerksen or here) which needs be defined.  I'm guessing it means something like 'cost per unit of production' or 'how much can you make given how much you spend'.

In either case, neither the bourgeois Bank of Canada Governor, nor the proletarian unionist, labour-centric economist, suggested that the problem is that Canada's workers are too poorly skilled and under-educated to make a buck.

No... that suggestion came from our own NDP leader Dominic Cardy: “This money should have been spent on building the strength of our education system, to make sure our workers have the essential skills they need to compete in a global economy."

I understand the pickle NB's economy is in.  And I understand the temptation faced any leader of the NDP to combat a reputation for being a "tax and spend" party by promoting a "theme of fiscal responsibility," as Cardy stated for another CBC news story.  I understand the strategy of seeming more "progressive conservative" than the PCs themselves.

I understand.

But I cannot accept - and will certainly never support - a party that explicitly blames the misfortunes of New Brunswick workers on the workers themselves.

Nor do I recognize as an employment and economic development strategy, "Send everybody back to school."


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