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Letter: Business lobby groups, look in the mirror

When Muskrat Falls power comes online in several years, ratepayers will pay substantially more for electricity, but Premier Dwight Ball says his Liberal government is working to limit that increase.
Many people will be unable to afford to heat their homes once Muskrat Falls electricity rates kick in.

The St. John’s business lobby groups have been relentless in demanding that the public servants of this province do increasingly more to solve the looming provincial financial disaster. I would like to ask, just what is it that these businesses are prepared to offer in that regard?

As I recall, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, the St. John’s Board of Trade and the provincial chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses could hardly contain themselves when Danny Williams announced plans for the province to independently develop Muskrat Falls. They then cheered vociferously when it was sanctioned by Kathy Dunderdale.

As cheerleaders and benefactors of Muskrat Falls, these groups bear a major responsibility for our financial state . Again — what is it that they are prepared to do? Here are a few suggestions.

Could it be that they foresaw that much of the $2 billion per year for the last six years that was being spent would seep past the dam and eventually trickle down to their greedy pockets? Be assured, no premier nor political party could undertake a development of this magnitude without the full blessing of the business community.

As cheerleaders and benefactors of Muskrat Falls, these groups bear a major responsibility for our financial state. Again — what is it that they are prepared to do? Here are a few suggestions.

A growing number of seniors who, if they choose to buy their prescribed medications, are forced to go to food banks. Instead of heating their homes, they hang out at malls until closing time. To avoid your valued employees from having to face these situations in their last years, consider starting a modest pension fund. The number of subsidies required for seniors such as dental care, health cards, heating supplements, etc. would be drastically reduced, and thereby cut our government’s expense.

The numbers regularly attending the Gathering Place, various food banks and homeless shelters increasingly include those who are employed but are still unable to live paycheque to paycheque. Sadly, schools are reporting that they are steadily seeing more of those workers’ children coming to depend on school-run breakfasts and/or lunches to provide their daily nutrients. You could consider paying a living wage to your employees. This would not only decrease the government spending on subsidies for the working poor, but actually decrease unemployment and provide a pool of workers to your businesses, because potential employees would no longer have to fear starvation wages by moving to St. John’s. In addition, more workers mean more taxes, which mean a decrease in the provincial deficit. As a side benefit, since women hold 70 per cent of low-wage jobs, you would greatly lower the gender wage gap.

Do I really expect the members of these lobby groups to actually take these steps back from the fiscal cliff? Not on your life. But then again perhaps some union — maybe even NAPE — will help organize the working poor to join its ranks.

Ed Downey
Marystown

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