“The increase in the race’s popularity has had a tremendous impact on the local business community, and I am pleased that the provincial government’s investment of $95,000 helped make this year’s race a success.” That’s from a Monday news release by Terry French, the province’s minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development and minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation (or just IBRDTCR for short), talking about the money the province spent on last week’s Cain’s Quest snowmobile endurance race.
“Our provincial road improvement program plays a significant role in our overall infrastructure improvement strategy and our pre-commitment of $30 million will make sure we utilize the full construction season and at the same time maximize our total overall investment.” That’s from a Monday release by Nick McGrath, the minister of Transportation and Works, and minister responsible for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs (TWLAA).
Last Wednesday, it was, “These investments align with our long-term strategy to enhance economic growth through research and development. Funding of $1.9 million will support initiatives which will provide the opportunity to expand into new markets, respond to changes in market demand through innovation and technology and strengthen business opportunities” and Terry French, minister of IBRDTCR again.
What do you notice about all of them?
Well, perhaps that governments don’t spend money any more — they invest it.
Now, the verb “invest” is an interesting one. The dictionary meaning is to “expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit or material result by putting it into financial schemes, shares or property, or by using it to develop a commercial venture.”
Governments certainly put money into shares and property, and even use it to develop commercial ventures. Sometimes, they even get involved in financial schemes.
But one of the elements of the definition seems to be missing.
The profit part.
For example, one investment announced last week was, “The project tender, which was announced by Premier (Tom) Marshall in Fleur de Lys today, calls for resurfacing of Route 410 from Baie Verte to Fleur de Lys, a section of Route 414 to LaScie, and three kilometres of leveling on Route 392.”
Now, the money’s going into some sort of property — namely, asphalt on a road — but any sort of profit on the “investment” is nebulous at best. You could argue that, with improved roads, transportation will improve and business will do better and people will pay more HST and, eventually, some many years down the road, the province might find it has recovered its $30 million in this year’s roads investment and even a bit more.
It seems unlikely.
Why not just call it what it is? The provincial government is spending money on roads because that’s what governments are supposed to do: pay for public infrastructure with public dollars.
Because if spending is the government’s definition of what an investment is supposed to look like, it’s not really hard to understand why all of the province’s pension plan investments are in such terrible shape.