Nfld. & Labrador

Resettlement and amalgamation don't have to be dirty words, says financial planner

A financial planner says it's time for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to start speaking frankly about the state of the province's finances.

Larry Short says if people in Newfoundland and Labrador can't make tough decisions, someone else will

Larry Short is a financial planner who thinks it's time for Newfoundland and Labrador residents to have an open and frank discussion around the province's future. (CBC)

A financial planner says it's time for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to start speaking openly about the state of the province's finances, if they are to stay masters of their own destiny.

We can't keep our kids, and we can't keep the immigrants.- Larry Short

In a recent presentation at Memorial University, Larry Short used words that have long been taboo in political discussions in the province — resettlement and amalgamation.

"Any politician that comes out and says the magic word 'resettlement' will lose the election for their party for the next two or three elections," he told the St. John's Morning Show. "We need to stop that. We need to be able to have a frank discussion."

Resettlement

In a CBC NL story last month about the cost of the ferry service in the community of St. Brendan's, a member of the ferry users committee told reporter Terry Roberts, "Don't mention the word [resettlement], or someone will have you in the freezer for lobster bait next spring."

Short said people need to move on from that kind of thinking.

Many in Newfoundland and Labrador look at resettlement as a sad aspect of the province's history. However, Short says, it's an inevitable process in some cases that people should be more open to talking about. (Stories of Resettlement website)

He said it's time to realize that the biggest resettlement challenge for the province is actually the loss of young people to the mainland.

"It's ironic that we have one word for resettlement from small towns to St. John's or Corner Brook, but another one for when people leave the province. We call that outmigration," he said.

"We can't keep our kids, and we can't keep the immigrants. We have to change our society, and in order to do that we have to be allowed to discuss all of these matters."

Amalgamation

People also need to stop running away from talk about amalgamation of communities, Short said.

He said amalgamation can help retain people and business by simplifying home building regulations, for example.

If a company wants to come and build in Newfoundland and Labrador now, Short said, they face different planning departments and rules for each town they deal with.

He said the important thing is not to use amalgamation as an excuse to downsize.

"When you amalgamate, you make the interpretations simpler," he said.

"Simplify the process, prepare the grounds, make it simpler. Not just on the amalgamation side, but also on the provincial government side."

Window of opportunity

Short said if Newfoundland and Labrador doesn't take charge and have uncomfortable conversations now about how to deal with the economic situation, others from outside the province are going to end up making the hard decisions instead.

He suspects that if things don't change, sometime between 2022 and 2025 bankers and decision-makers in Ontario are going to start taking more control.

"We have a window here where we can make decisions and we can do them compassionately, and make those choices for people to say what our society will look like in the future," he said.

Stopping young people packing up and leaving Newfoundland and Labrador should be the top priority of government, Short says. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Short pointed to Ireland, which was faced with bankruptcy twice in recent years but was able to restructure itself to slow the loss of young people leaving the country.

"They sat back and said, 'How do we readjust our society?' and they made the necessary changes, and now they're booming and leading Europe in growth at six or seven per cent," he said

"We have a major problem here and we have to identify what the real goal is, which is more than just avoiding bankruptcy. It is how do you actually get the children of the province to stay here?"