Coun. Donovan Cavers makes the point that we are shifting toward being a service-based economy, reliant on tourism, TRU and health care and other services provided by upper levels of government (Will Ajax be Lost In Election Politics?, The Daily News, Jan. 7).
While I greatly appreciate the fact that people like to come and visit here, and that we have a first-rate university, hospital and an enviable lifestyle, that shift comes with substantial problems.
Many tourism jobs tend to be minimum wage or seasonal and the workers rely on client generosity in the form of tips, just to get by. These jobs do not pay, by and large, the salaries required to be able to live at anything more than a subsistence level.
Vacations and other day-to-day things that many of us take for granted are out of reach, leave the employee no discretionary income whatsoever, and often result in the employee relying on employment insurance to get them through the off-season.
While government services and institutions are important and contribute substantially to our local economy, it must be remembered that these organizations are net-receivers of tax dollars.
They do not generate as much as they use. I am in no way suggesting that they are not valuable assets but the money to operate schools, universities, hospitals, and other public services comes initially from private enterprise, a net contributor of tax dollars.
Private enterprise can take many forms, such as the dozens of small private businesses that provide employment in our area, including CN Rail and CP Rail, Domtar, Tolko, Lafarge, HVC, New Gold, and yes, potentially KGHM/Ajax.
Perhaps Cavers should not be so quick to extol the virtues of public institutions and dismiss Ajax. I cringe every time I hear the phrase "the government paid for it" or "this project was funded with government money."
Governments have no money of their own. The only money governments have to work with is what they obtain through taxes, fees and royalties.
Without a thriving private sector generating the funds to operate public institutions, the public sector withers.
Schools, health care, other public programs and the arts come up short. We can't just print money. It comes from the sweat of hard-working people. And trotting out the old dog-and-pony NDP routine of raising taxes on the wealthy won't work either.
There aren't enough wealthy people for that idea to make any meaningful difference. The best way to increase available funding is to grow your economy by getting people to work in well-paying private sector jobs that grow the tax base.
That's assuming the private sector will be allowed to operate under appropriate guidelines and regulations without being taxed to death.
I expect KGHM to be held to the most stringent of environmental assessments both initially and on an ongoing basis if the project ultimately is approved.
I'm not that thrilled about the location either, but you have to mine ore where the ore body is found. Let's not dismiss this project out of hand and in the next breath ask for - indeed demand - more "government money" for our schools and hospitals. Right now that money is in the ground, and if some people have their way, that is where it will stay.
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