Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Talent Outmigration Is Not A Problem

You don't want to leave. But the lousy economy is pushing you out. Shouldn't you be able remain in your hometown if you want to stay? Failed migration happens all the time. Someone visits Portland, Oregon and decides to put down roots. Unfortunately, a lot of people do that. Jobs are scarce. It's hard to make a living. Nikki Sutton moves back to her hometown of Indianapolis. Imagine the uproar that Sutton couldn't stay. Try harder. Portland isn't worried about it. The people keep coming, stealing jobs from natives.

The local girl or boy matters more than the outsider. The talent retention anxiety is different. A city would rather keep its own than bring in someone new. Thus, we tend to work the wrong side of migration equation:

You can’t help but see irony all over New Brunswick these days.

North Dakota oil – most likely extracted using hydraulic fracturing – is being brought in by rail to be processed in New Brunswick’s oil refinery while two of New Brunswick’s three main political parties are falling over themselves to try and stop our nascent natural gas development industry in its tracks.

While our sons and daughters line up to leave for the oil and gas industry elsewhere, some of New Brunswick’s most visible mayors are serving up tasty but ultimately hollow quotes such as “our water is more important than gas” and making grand statements during council meetings about protecting New Brunswickers.

Apparently watching our kids leave to frack elsewhere doesn’t bother them much.

Who can blame our young people for wanting to leave?

Behold the brain drain boondoggle. Residents hate to see the young people go. Policymakers squeeze political gain out of the emotional tie. Allow fracking, catalyzing job creation, and they won't have to leave.

Brain drain hysteria is gripping New Brunswick. An odd spin on what seems to be good advice:

A labour history expert from the University of New Brunswick says creating entrepreneurs is one key to stemming the latest tide of regional out-migration.

About 2,000 people from across the Maritimes showed up for a job fair hosted by Alberta oilsands companies in Fredericton last week, ready to move west for work.

Bill Parenteau says people are leaving due to the declining number of opportunities in rural areas.

“I don't know that there's any resolution to this phenomenon that's really been going on for 150 years, but part of it is targeted immigration programs, which bring in people that will start businesses," he said.

Emphasis added. The title of the article is "Create entrepreneurs to stem out-migration, says expert." No, the expert didn't say that. Parenteau suggested attracting immigrants might be part of a resolution. Policy should be about encouraging inmigration.

New Brunswick desperately needs people to move there. But the obsession with brain drain reinforces parochial attitudes that forces movers elsewhere. It also paints a dismal picture that isn't grounded in reality. Prodigal sons and daughters leave every community. Lastly, the lack of newcomers makes the province more risk averse. Fracking is foreign. That's something those weirdo half-humans in Alberta do. Endeavoring to encourage young adults to stay, New Brunswick is killing itself.

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