Happiness doesn't pay taxes
I got a little feedback on this throwaway line from my latest column in Brunswick News (or Post Media?). I have a little stump speech I have been making to various audiences making the case that New Brunswick needs to get back to at least a moderate level of economic growth if we want to ensure we can sustainably fund public services, among other benefits (such as thriving communities).
After making that speech to a Rotary audience, an older gentlemen confronted me and complained about my focus on ‘growth’ suggesting we should be focused on happiness instead.
That’s when I made the offending line that “happiness doesn’t pay taxes” to which I received an above average harumph.
Of course I was just trying to be funny but after receiving several other messages, I should clarify things.
If you listen to my speech or my writings on the subject I certainly do not say that growth (economic/population) is the only thing nor do I say it is the most important thing in life. My point is that for New Brunswick at this point in our history could really struggle if the economy and population stagnated or went into outright decline.
And by struggle I mean it would be harder to pay for public services like health care without raising taxes. It would be harder to find workers to do home care or work in restaurants. It would be harder to find truckers or production workers. Eventually a lot of industries that do not have to be here to service a local market would downsize and ultimately leave the province. Even now, in 2021, there are a growing number of jobs for which the starting wage in Toronto is the same or lower than in New Brunswick.
For me, and many others, that is not a future we want to see so we are pushing for a growth agenda and we are getting traction. Since 2016ish things have been trending upwards - the pandemic was a hiccup but the overall direction of travel is positive.
We need to double down now and make sure we are geared for growth. As I state in the column, the health care system was increasing its focus on servicing an aging population - not a growing one. Now it needs to do both. The education system was focused on consolidation in many parts of the province. I believe it will need to focus on growth. Homebuilders were chugging a long at a few thousand new builds per year across the province. We will need to double or maybe triple new starts.
If we don’t gear for growth, the nascent growth spurt will come to a grinding halt (sorry for all the ICE engine references, I’ll have to update them for the EV world).
As for happiness, that’s above my pay grade. That’s is about serving others. Self-sacrifice. Living for more that just dopamine hits. About being a good person.
No matter how good the economic situation is in your community or how full your personal bank account, if you are looking for true happiness, you will have seek counsel elsewhere.
My focus in life is helping communities build strong economic and demographic platforms on which individuals and families can pursue their own ambitions and dreams.
And, right now, things are looking up for much of the province