There is no denying. Things are looking pretty good. Every shop we’ve heard from is busy and growing. The latest building permit and housing investment numbers out of the States are positive, and wood-products manufacturing in Canada is up over 10 percent over last year.
However, one thing we seem to be lacking in Canada is a competent plan to support our industry when the next hurdle appears. It’s as if we are individually playing the latest version of the video game Assassin’s Creed and collectively can’t seem to remember that dangerous waters are just around the corner.
Let’s pick apart some statistics. For example, the Spring 2016 release of Recent Developments in the Canadian Economy from StatCan is pretty rosy: “The economy strengthened during the second half of 2015,” the report says, “as household spending and exports supported growth. However, business investment continued to weigh on growth as outlays on non-residential structures, machinery and equipment and intellectual property declined.”
Why would business investment drop off to the degree it would weigh on growth?
“Goods-producing industries increased output from November to January,” the report goes on, “supported by manufacturing and oil and gas extraction…” (Emphasis added.)
The economy being supported by manufacturing is a good thing, more or less, but here is the sentence that caught my attention. Under Description for Chart 6, it says: “Employment gains during the second half of 2015 were led by increases in health care and social assistance and in professional, scientific and technical services.”
One thing we can observe is that health care and social assistance assistance jobs are about universally public-sector union jobs, and I am guessing much or most of “professional, scientific and technical services” are, too. And, as is typical of public-sector union jobs, the employees’ cheques are signed on the front by the government. That is, the money to fund them comes from taxes. So there is an increasing burden on taxes.
I have some experience in the “social assistance” sector, since while I was working my way through school I did a stint in the “income maintenance” sector as, first, an intake worker, and later as a fraud and recoupment investigator. That experience always directs my attention to announcements about social assistance. You need to know that “privacy” laws prevent you from knowing what’s going on, and confidentiality laws prevent me from telling you. I will say, however, that if you only have one form a month to fill out, you have a lot of time for such hobbies as activism.
In my view, social assistance consists of two main aspects. First, society has a number of members that simply cannot take care of themselves. These range from people that are mentally challenged, physically challenged and situationally challenged, among others. Society has a duty to care for its disadvantaged, and Canada does a pretty good job.
However, the second aspect is the jackals that circle around those that cannot care for themselves and create a real economic threat in the range ways they come up with to exploit the trusting citizens.
While I was reading about the increase in social assistance jobs, I also ran across a story in the Globe & Mail about the recent explosion in the number of veterans that are being reimbursed by the taxpayers for medical marijuana. Concurrently, now that pot is legal, people are proclaiming it is a tonic for everything from PTSD and depression to anorexia and, we assume, hangnails.
I get paid to be a skeptic and to “follow the money,” so my mind went to the apparent coincidence between an increase in social assistance workers and the advent of medical marijuana. After all, I reasoned, isn’t it necessary for social assistance workers to administer the medical marijuana reimbursements for social assistance recipients, just as it would be for veterans?
Since all of those services listed are paid by taxes, one is driven to wonder which taxed sector will ultimately create the wealth to support the new-found needs and treatments surrounding medical pot.
My guess is that it will be you.
Now, since manufacturing will continue to be saddled with costs to support society-as-sugar-daddy, doesn’t it make sense that society should consider relieving some compliance costs on manufacturing?
All we are lacking is a plan.