Encouraging a competitive economy

Derek Montague
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Richard Alexander says province can do more to grow the private sector

Richard Alexander, executive director of The Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, believes that Newfoundland and Labrador must encourage a competitive business environment for its economy to thrive.

Richard Alexander, executive director of The Newfoundland & Labrador Employers’ Council, believes that the province must be more competitive in the private sector in order to have a successful economy.

Speaking at a Labrador North Chamber of Commerce luncheon on April 8 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Alexander said he would like to see Newfoundland and Labrador become one of the most competitive places to do business in, by the year 2020.

“A vibrant, competitive business environment is critical to the continued economic success of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Alexander.

“Profitable companies invest more … they hire more people, they pay more taxes and are better able to weather economic downturns.

“Profitable companies generally pay higher wages to their employees, which those employees use to save for their retirements.”

In his speech, Alexander outlined many areas where Newfoundland and Labrador must improve before reaching this goal.

In order to become a province where the private sector wants to do business, public perception on the nature of business must change, according to Alexander.

“Some see private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot, some see it as a cow to be milked. Few of those see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon,” said Alexander, paraphrasing Winston Churchill.

 “We need to improve the public perception of business. It is the private sector that creates the wealth in our province”

Public perception is important for private businesses, said Alexander, because that perception ultimately influences government policy.

According to Alexander, a recent study suggests that Atlantic Canadians, generally, have one of the most negative perceptions of the private sector. Such a perception could create a political atmosphere where corporate tax is increased and companies are discouraged from doing business in this province.

“Public policy matters. It matters to business,” said Alexander.

“Some people in our province believe that companies are too profitable … and that we should be taxing corporations at a much higher rate.”

It’s important to remember, Alexander told the crowd, Newfoundland and Labrador is competing for business globally, not just against our neighbours in Atlantic Canada.

“We like to compare ourselves to Atlantic Canada. Governments love to compare ourselves to Atlantic Canada,” said Alexander.

“You’re not in competition with Prince Edward Island. If you’re trying to attract skilled labour, who are you in competition with? You’re in competition with Alberta.”

Alexander pointed out that businesses nationwide are facing a huge challenge with an aging population. If Newfoundland and Labrador wants to combat the problems of a shrinking workforce, he said, the province must accept far more immigrants.

“We’re not the only jurisdiction in the world with an aging population. It’s a western phenomenon. Immigration is one of the main solutions that is being implemented by all other jurisdictions that are in the same boat,” said Alexander

“We must increase immigration quotas in our province. Other provinces such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia have taken a much more robust approach to immigration.

“We need to double or triple immigration targets in our province.”

derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Organizations: The Newfoundland Labrador Employers, Labrador North Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Happy Valley, Goose Bay Atlantic Canada Prince Edward Island Alberta Manitoba Saskatchewan Nova Scotia

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