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Retreat from Growth - by Fred McMahon


Comments on "Retreat from Growth" by Link Byfield

UI started sensibly enough, but in 1971 it was ramped up into a gigantic vote-getter, especially in rural Quebec and the Atlantic.

The idea was to save small towns by using EI to subsidize “seasonal” jobs in fishing and forestry --jobs which hitherto had not qualified for benefits. This became known locally as “Lotto 10-42” -- work 10 weeks and loaf for the next 42.

In his excellent book “Retreat From Growth,” maritime economist Fred McMahon documents the devastating effect UI inflicts on the Atlantic economy.

During the 1960s, before the feds showed up to “help,” the region had almost caught up to the rest of the country. Unemployment was only slightly higher than the Canadian average, private job-creating investment was the same, and education and skill levels were rising.

Then came Lotto 10-42, along with a raft of bogus “job creation” grants to help people get their 10 weeks to qualify for benefits.

It didn’t matter what the jobs were, and still doesn’t -- fixing park benches, counting cars, making fibreglas caskets in Cape Breton. Atlantic political careers are won or lost on the delivery of EI make-work grants.

A maritimer who “hoards” a make-work job longer than the EI qualifying period is considered selfish. The wage rates of these bogus jobs are set exactly high enough to deliver the maximum EI benefit.

Meanwhile, real jobs frequently go begging for lack of anyone willing or skilled enough to do them, private investment lags, and Atlantic skill levels have dropped, because you can’t collect pogey in school.

Ottawa might as well have handed out heroin. In some towns 90% of the people are addicted.

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