Kolybaba: Seems We Chose Never
Note: Brandon Kolybaba, founder and CEO of Cloud Brewery, posted this blog on his Koly-Blah-Blah’s Raw Blog last weekend. While I don’t agree with all of it, it’s forceful and thought provoking so we’re republishing it here. – Peter Moreira
It's starting to look to me like we chose "Never"
Over a year ago now the Ivany Report came out. In summary, Ray Ivany said "It's now or never". At the time that's all anyone I knew was talking about, but what's actually changed since then? We set up a coalition in Nova Scotia who I'm sure are all fine people with good intentions, but as far as I can tell they have not put a dent in the problem yet (http://onens.ca/about/timeline/). The problem is clearly identified: a lot of talk with little to no action = failure.
Now I know I'm likely going to get some flack for this post. Some people will paint me as a negative jerk while they promote what I would suggest is an overly simplistic view of the world where we all just need to be positive all the time. Well to them I say: just because something isn't good doesn't make it a negative thing, and sometimes you just need to face the reality of a situation to effectively make it better rather than pretending that the problem isn't real. And this problem is very real.
I think some people get critical perspective too easily confused with negativity. All the people I know who have a critical opinion similar to the main message of the Ivany Report and the news stories on the subject are not anti-Maritimers. Just the opposite, the reason I, and I suspect others, put our thoughts out there is to help people realize that the problem will not go away without significant, dramatic, and painful change. And every day we delay that change it gets worse. Proverbially, the house is on fire! It's precisely because I want to see the region do better that I want people to better understand the problem and as a result TRULY consider the sacrifice required for REAL change. If it's not uncomfortable then we are doing it wrong!
It can actually get worse, you know? It has over the past 8 years since I moved my family here to start and grow tech business in Halifax. "Today I was inspired to write this after reading this article in the Globe & Mail: "How the Maritimes became Canada’s incredible shrinking region".
By the way, no one is coming to our rescue. There is no economic swat team that can magically make it all go away. It will only get better when YOU decide to do your part and en masse the collective whole working together can make REAL change happen.
So what does that mean in tactical terms? Painful sacrifice and having the guts to do what it takes to make things better for the greater community. Here's how:
•BUY LOCAL: Every Dollar you spend counts! Every dollar spent on consumer items, business services, travel, etc. outside of the region means it has to take a long treacherous journey to find it's way back (and all too often, sadly it doesn't make the migration home). When you choose to buy local, you add a drop in the collective bucket of mutual benefit. But be smart about it. The most value for buying local comes from when you stop a dollar from leaving. Remember, if it's an imported good, part of that dollar is gone; if it's a business service, understand how it's being delivered. Are the people doing the work actually here? Is the company that profits from it here? You can reframe your thinking by asking yourself: Who has a job as a result of this purchase I'm making today?
•STOP THE WASTE: If you work in Government (or are in a pseudo government role) and you see someone spending money in a way that isn't beneficial to the greater good of the community, make them stop. Ask them to stop, or blow the whistle! This could be your boss or your drinking buddy. It will be be a very hard thing to do. If at the next Olympics Nova Scotia has a "Pavilion" that they somehow justify flights and accommodations (at astronomical rates) for a dozen or so people we've failed.
•DON'T ACCEPT THE LIES: We do it every day. Someone fudges some stat and no one ever checks the facts to promote a perception that they are doing something good when, in reality, we all know it's bullshit. Call them out. Again, this is likely your friend, someone you trust and who trusts you. Change the culture so it's unacceptable to lie like that.
•DO THE RIGHT THING FOR THE GREATER WHOLE: Every day you are faced with decisions, some big some small, but even the tiny ones matter when we all make them. You can reset your frame of reference to ask yourself: If I do X will it be of net benefit to the region? Do your best to ignore how it will benefit or disadvantage yourself as much as you can afford to do so.
•FORGET THE BULLSHIT: It's disgusting to me how many people don't like X or Y because of somebody who did something at some point in the past. forget it! It's the same with French vs. English, or New Brunswick vs. Nova Scotia. It's a waste of time. We are all people who want to be happy and make life better for our children. If we can't figure out how to work together better, that is never going to happen. Those things will help, but they are not enough on their own.
When I said DRAMATIC, I meant it. Now these ideas will sound absurd to some, even totally ludicrous to others, but desperate times call for desperate measures:
•THE COST OF GOVERNMENT IS OUT OF CONTROL: If you are in government and you needed to choose between getting laid off or taking a 15% pay cut what would you do? That's a serious question that if you were in business you wouldn't think was so crazy. It happens every day. We need a plan to cut government spending (and staff) by at least 10% every year for the next 3+ years..
•LOBBY YOUR UNION: If you think that as a result of collective bargaining you are better off than you were, consider the possibility that it just might be too good to be true. Why not collectively bargain your salary to be twice what it was last year? And then double it again the following year? They would not seriously consider that idea because it's not reasonable or sustainable. The fact is, many situations are unsustainable today and you can look to many recent examples to see what happens as an inevitable conclusion. If that isn't rectified, when the organization (or government) fails the collective labour group loses out big time! You need to think big picture. If the government is going to cut costs, you need to do your part or it just won't happen..
•SHARE THE WEALTH: If you are fortunate enough to have some degree of wealth, consider what will happen if things get worse for a minute. History is full of examples of what happens when the middle class evaporates, it's never a good thing for the wealthy. Consider investing in the future of the region where you and your family plan to live (as some have, but not enough). Yes, tax breaks are good and that is a great incentive for sure, but it should be understood that it's secondary to helping the region improve as a whole for the shared benefit of the greater community. Even if you are not in the 1% club but have moderate wealth, consider how you can fund the creation jobs here. In the best case those jobs are doing something valuable that bring in revenue from outside the region. And in the very best case, you might even get your money back with a return some day.
•FIRE THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES THAT HAVE FAILED TO GROW THE ECONOMY: This shouldn't be a tough one to figure out. In Nova Scotia alone there are 8+ different agencies all with the same basic objective that is: economic development. Well, if it's not blatantly obvious to everyone I'll say it, they all basically suck at what they try to do, and in the business world they would all be fired. How many of those pseudo government agencies occupy the most expensive real estate at the top of a building in downtown Halifax? (Spoiler Alert: all of them) How many people in total are being paid today to accomplish that goal? Isn't the measure of GDP an indisputable yard stick for how well they have done that job ultimately? What is the annual budget for all of that? If, instead we were to use that money to provide simple tax breaks for any business (new or old, big or small, without prejudice or favouritism) to create any number of new jobs they can (and maybe give an additional incentive to those locally owned companies that create jobs that generate net revenue from outside the region) would that not be a better plan? Business will drive change, not government, and I can tell you almost every business owner I know thinks these government agencies are in large part a waste of tax payer dollars but they rarely say much about it publicly because it's made very clear that if you are critical of them in any way, you won't receive any benefit from them.
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