A Rising Tide Lifts All The Boats...

Posted on Monday November 05, 2018 at 01:05PM

"The Rising Tide Lifts All the Boats" is a phrase made popular by JFK but was not original to him. The phrase is used most often by politicians to make the claim  that if one area in an economy is prosperous, then we can assume all people benefit. I don't think it is that simple. I think that in order to be beneficial, community economic plans need to be designed to deliberately improve the circumstances of all who live within that community. Good economic planning needs to include the well off and the not so well off; the business sector and the non-profit sector; the seniors and the youth. In fact all ages and all denominations and all races need to be considered and they need to be consulted.

This is a challenge to economic development practitioners who must be able to navigate all of these systems.  Sometimes the rising tide doesn't do much on its own for the boats that have already sunk, and are laying in decay on their sides at the bottom of the bay. We need to do deal with those boats too. 

We have great opportunity in Carlyle and area where I live. I know I am not alone when I express gratitude for  a huge volunteer base who can be credited with much of the good things that happen here. The community as a whole has not yet hit peak population. Council  and administration (generations of them) have done the community a good service through proper stewardship of infrastructure. That means its safe to build here without fear the infrastructure will collapse before your mortgage is paid.

Services we all enjoy do not come cheap. Taxes everywhere are seen to be high, and everywhere people complain. While I was doing my research, I was amused to find out that the first complaint I could find aimed at Council was a complaint about taxes.  Did you know that when Carlyle was incorporated and late into the 1950's the mill rate was 38?? Compare that to now when the mill rate is somewhere between 7 and 8 mills. So in fact, relative to income, taxes have actually dropped. Service costs have at the same time, gone up and up and up. The same system that cost a little over $100 k to build in Carlyle cost over 3 million to far, not including the ongoing maintenance and operations costs.  I'm not great at math, but even I can look at that and figure out the population growth did not keep up with the costs. Our current lifestyle is not sustainable, unless we make efforts to sustain it. As communities we need to figure out how we want to live, and how we are going to pay for our lifestyles, not just to build the 'thing' but to maintain the 'thing'. Did you know in most (if not all) communities your tax payers dollars are already heavily subsidized? To be clear, what you pay in taxes is not enough to maintain the services you have now, never mind allow for the nice to have things we all enjoy.

Growth for our communities is championed because for many communities, the revenue generated from growth is necessary to pay the debts of aging infrastructure. Growth only happens through increased population. Population increases occur due to employment opportunities,  increased birthrates and immigration. In fact, the majority of Saskatchewan was populated through deliberate immigration strategies put in place by the government in the mid 1920's. The first people allowed to immigrate were American farmers and English speaking European countries.  As the need for more people became apparent, the borders were loosened up...Hungarian (my heritage) was pretty low on the list, but I remain grateful that we made the cut. 

I think in order to sustain our communities, there needs to be careful consideration to create an atmosphere where people are welcomed, are supported to set up businesses and to grow our local economies. We need to create an atmosphere where local businesses stay, and grow, and hire more people. We need to create a rising tide that is designed to lift all the boats. We need to create a rising tide capable of lifting all the boats. And we need to do it soon.

Author: Solomon Matthewson Consulting


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