Slow start, slow finish

Published on August 8, 2014

In a report out this week, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council says economic conditions were slack in all Atlantic Provinces in the first half of this year.

The Halifax-based think tank says there was a general weakness in the labour market, retail spending and new home construction in the whole region.

One bright spot, says APEC, was in exports.

That should be a good thing for us living on the west coast of the island who depend heavily on newsprint and fish sales to much of the world. But even strong exports aren’t boosting the economy on the west coast.

Everything positive economically in this province remains on the east coast and is built almost entirely on offshore oil activity and government spending.

Anything else that prospers in the St. John’s region is based on those economic generators.

This week, interim premier Tom Marshall, MHA for Humber East, lamented that the economy in the western region hasn’t prospered as he had expected when he first entered politics a decade ago.

He’s not the only one lamenting the lack of new business and industry in this part of the province.

Marshall, and his predecessor and MHA for Humber West, Danny Williams, did combine to attract plenty of government projects for the Bay of Islands.

While a new courthouse, modern long-term care facility, a new regional hospital and expansion to Grenfell campus were critical after years of neglect, those projects can’t replace major industries that would bring with them tax money and well-paying, lasting jobs.

It’s a miracle — or close to it — that our lone remaining industrial operation, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, keeps producing newsprint and providing employment with dedication and help from the company, employees and the provincial government.

APEC may be recording general economic malaise in the first six months of 2014 in Atlantic Canada, but people and communities along this coast have lived it for decades and nothing much is on the horizon to change the outlook well into the future.