Sur­vey will tell us what we al­ready know

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

It would be a great thing if we could find all of the brain power, skill and en­ergy that’s left this prov­ince, and drag it all back here.

But un­til we make some fun­da­men­tal changes, there’s no way it’s go­ing to hap­pen.

Peo­ple will leave for op­por­tu­ni­ties that — as a nearly broke prov­ince, with a high cost of liv­ing — we can’t match.

So, the prov­ince’s lat­est sur­vey on what it can do to en­tice peo­ple back here, com­plete with the dan­gling of­fer of a chance at a $300 travel voucher, may well so­licit in­for­ma­tion.

But not in­for­ma­tion we can ac­tu­ally af­ford to act on.

The guts of the sur­vey, as you might ex­pect, are about why peo­ple leave, and what would make them come back. Strangely enough, though, the lists of ques­tions are al­most ex­actly the same.

Here are the pro­posed an­swers about leav­ing:

Why did you leave New­found­land and Labrador? (Please check all that ap­ply)

Re­la­tion­ship: Fol­low/be near spouse/part­ner

Re­la­tion­ship: Fol­low/be near chil­dren

Re­la­tion­ship: Fol­low/be near par­ents Re­la­tion­ship: Fol­low/be near friends Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: To take a job

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: Change of ca­reer

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: Bet­ter em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: En­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties and sup­port

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: Trans­ferred by my em­ployer

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: Job se­cu­rity

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: Re­cruited by a com­pany out­side the prov­ince

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: In­creased ac­cess to pro­fes­sional net­works/sup­port sys­tems

Em­ploy­ment and school-re­lated: To at­tend post-sec­ondary school/ bet­ter ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties

Qual­ity of life: Bet­ter gov­ern­ment ser­vices (health care, ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, etc.)

Qual­ity of life: Avail­abil­ity of qual­ity child care

Qual­ity of life: Af­ford­able cost of liv­ing

Qual­ity of life: Health and well-be­ing (in­clud­ing bet­ter work-life bal­ance)

Qual­ity of life: More leisure/cul­tural op­tions

Qual­ity of life: Safety and se­cu­rity Qual­ity of life: Bet­ter weather Qual­ity of life: Live in a larger and more di­verse place

Other fac­tors (please spec­ify) There are only a few fac­tors that are dif­fer­ent in “What, if any, fac­tors would in­flu­ence you to re­turn to and stay in New­found­land and Labrador to­day or in the next few years?”

There’s the blunt an­swer “Noth­ing,” atop the rea­sons you might have for re­turn­ing.

Lopped off the bot­tom are “bet­ter weather” and “live in a larger and more di­verse place” — pre­sum­ably, be­cause the gov­ern­ment can’t pos­si­bly do any­thing about ei­ther of those.

But many of the ques­tions about whether or not you’d re­turn are also far be­yond what the gov­ern­ment can do any­thing about; the gov­ern­ment can’t make your com­pany trans­fer you back to this prov­ince, nor can it make you fol­low your part­ner back here. It can’t nec­es­sar­ily of­fer you a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity or a bet­ter job.

As a scop­ing doc­u­ment, the scope is pretty tight; the pri­mary rea­sons that the sur­vey will ul­ti­mately come up with for peo­ple mov­ing back will al­most cer­tainly fall into the “qual­ity of life” area — the same thing suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have tried to boast about as an en­tice­ment for years. Which makes the cur­rent study seem a lit­tle facile.

Are there ways to bring New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans back? Sure, there are — but keep in mind, it takes a lot to make peo­ple leave, and even more to bring them back, es­pe­cially once they’ve put down roots and made a life else­where.

Pay more com­pet­i­tive salaries, es­pe­cially in the pri­vate sec­tor.

Hav­ing a cap­tive work­force, trapped by ge­og­ra­phy, that you can pay less for has helped busi­ness here, but hurt em­ploy­ees.

Rec­og­nize, fos­ter and sup­port young tal­ent.

Make hir­ings based on what peo­ple know, rather than who they know in the lo­cal com­mu­nity. (Any­one who says that ram­pant nepo­tism isn’t alive and well and a crip­pling prob­lem in the hir­ing mar­ket here is ei­ther ig­nor­ing the prob­lem or ly­ing to them­selves.)

And gov­ern­ments have to do that when there’s money to sup­port their ac­tions.

And right now, in case you’ve for­got­ten, there isn’t any.

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