Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Value of a Mill Job

What's the value of a job at one of Nova Scotia's paper mills? I am amazed to discover that it is much more valuable than my job. I'm self-employed. I developed a product, built a shop, bought all of my equipment, engaged in all of my own marketing, development and product improvement. All with my own money. I have a big investment, on which I am taxed handsomely by the municipality.

What did the mill workers ever do, besides show up for work at 8:00 am? Did they invest in their workplace? Upgrade their skills at their own expense? Work to make their plant more productive or more relevant? Nope. They just drew down industrial incomes, and they voted NDP. I did too, until I discovered that the NDP is not the party of the people. It's the party of people whose income can be protected and supported by government. The teachers get a raise while the school boards get a cut. The health workers in HRM get a big raise while the health authorities get a cut in funding. You can be sure that the support workers at school boards and health authorities will be the first to feel the pain, while the teachers and nurses feel the benefits.

Those paper mills are the 2012 equivalent of the Sydney Steel plant. That little bit of government support added $1 billion to the provincial debt before it was done. This entry in Wikipedia is well worth reading. This government could never take over the mills as the people wouldn't stand for it, so they are doing it by stealth.

Every time a plant changes hands we the people take a little more of the plant's liabilities onto our backs. We are responsible for environmental cleanup, site restoration, decommissioning. We have long been on the hook for the cleanup of Boat Harbour, which we resolutely refuse to do, to our shame. Support for the woods workers. A bit of cash ($5 million) to help the Resolute plant generate more electricity, which NSP buys back from them . Resolute pays less than you or me for the power they buy from NSP, and we other ratepayers make up the difference. And then they sell power to NSP at five times the price NSP sells it to you and me.

The Municipality of Queens County gives them a tax break, and that money has to be made up by all other Queens County taxpayers.

There are pulp mills closing all over the continent. Those jurisdictions let them go because they know that propping up dying industries just causes more pain, and the end result is still a closed mill.

Here's a modest suggestion. Let's put all of the mill workers on the public payroll and pay them to stay home until they reach retirement. It will be so much cheaper in the end.

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