$50-million taxpayer dollars for Bowater and $25-million in taxpayer dollars for Cooke Aquaculture. Both companies asked for these handouts and both received from a smiling NDP government who then sent out pamphlets and held press releases to gloat about their decisive and cunning decision making. I would now like to point out that Abitibi Consolidated (Bowater’s parent company) earned $5.342 billion dollars in 2011 while Cooke Aquaculture generated nearly $570 million dollars in revenue in the same year. Both companies have substantial resources to not only inject cash into the protection and expansion of their respective companies, but they also have the means to attract and raise money through investors. The government then handed over money to both companies not as an investment (which would entitle the province to shares and thus revenues generated by profits) but as a donation. Corporations are not charities.
So what can governments do to keep these companies in the province; expanding, producing and providing growth for the Nova Scotia economy? The answer does not lie in blindly handing out our hard earned tax dollars in the form of cash charity, but instead lies in creating an environment in which companies can thrive. Commercial tax-free zones, expedited service through red tape, new infrastructure and cheap energy are just a few of the options governments have at their disposal. Yes the government still ends up spending some money but at least if the company were to go belly up the cash flow stops there and we potentially have something to show for it in terms of infrastructure.
Here in Shelburne I noticed that the Historical Society is looking for money to fix the Cox Warehouse in order to provide a space for the Dock Street Brewing Company. This is a great example of where government (in this case the local Town Government) has a chance to step in with tax dollars to boost our dismal local economy. The Town of Shelburne should find money in the budget to fix the Cox’s Warehouse to a point where it was to code (between $70,000 and $200,000 as rumour has it). They would then use this space as a business “Incubator.” Business incubators are spaces created by Towns, Cities and Municipalities to offer rent and tax free spaces to businesses for a 1 or 2 year time period. This allows the business to sink or swim. After this ‘incubation’ period, if they are still successful, they can then start to pay rent and revenue is generated for the town. Or they move to another space within the town and start paying taxes. If the business fails the business operator suffers minimal loses and the town loses nothing as the space is easily re-filled. This investment thus helps the town create more jobs, attracting additional residents who pay property taxes who then spend more money in local businesses. If the town did that we could have a potentially successful business such as the Dock Street Brewery up and running in an integral part of the town.
Fortune favours the bold and in recent years it is rare to see such bold political leadership in Shelburne County. The only example might be Lockeport who, despite its diminutive size, manages to build stages, spaces for festivals, boardwalks and tourism centres to help their economy expand. I hope in the next municipal and provincial elections we can elect those who are forward thinking and bold so that fortune favours us.
D. Seth Renaud