Revel in the prosperous present
Signs of prosperity everywhere but no credit coming to premier or provincial government
Driving through Prince Edward Island this summer it is hard to believe it is still considered one of Canada’s havenot provinces. Everywhere you look, in the cities and towns, along the highways and down the back roads, there are signs of prosperity.
New houses being built and old ones renovated. New cars. New trucks. In Montague, as an example, there are new businesses being established and old ones expanded.
For some, good times are hard to deal with. Like the fisherman down east, who, while acknowledging the season was a good one, says all this means is “we’re one year closer to a bad one.”
That aside, it is likely that today’s Islanders are experiencing the best economic conditions in the province’s history. Forget about the past, it’s not the good old days, it’s the prosperous present.
In the past year, all four engines of the province’s economy; agriculture, fishing, tourism and manufacturing were firing on all eight cylinders, all at the same time.
In agriculture, last season’s potato crop saw high yields, strong demand and good prices. This summer, Island dairy farmers had their quotas increased by five per cent because of an increased demand for their dairy products. Overall farm cash receipts on the Island increased over two per cent in 2016, four times higher than the Canadian average.
Total manufactured goods shipped in 2016 increased by four per cent to a total of nearly $1.7 billion, an all-time high for the Island. There are 6,000 Islanders employed in the manufacturing sector producing everything from french fries to brew pubs to truck trailers.
In tourism, the number of room nights sold increased by nearly 10 per cent in 2016, and camping sites sold were up over 12 per cent. And this summer could be even better.
But, the economic sector showing the most dramatic increase was the fishery, chiefly because of the increased value to the lobster fishery. In 2016 lobster landings actually fell by about five per cent, but a hike in prices saw the value of the lobster fishery increase by 28 per cent to more than $193 million. In 2013 the PEI lobster catch was about $90 million.
So far this season, the lobster landings in most ports were up from last year and the price on the wharf increased to the $6.50 - $7 per pound range, up from last season. With about 80 per cent of the landings completed it looks like the lobster industry is heading for another record year.
Though it seems counter-intuitive, in some ways the fishing industry is now the backbone of rural Prince Edward Island. A greater percentage of the fishing receipts are spent in the province.
Farming is capital intensive. It requires expensive machinery, mostly made elsewhere, imported fertilizers and chemicals, expensive buildings and costly land.
With the exception of the engines and the electronics in their boats, most of a fisherman’s requirements can be met locally. Most fishing boats in Island waters were built on the Island; the lobster traps are either made by the fishermen themselves or bought locally. Their fuel, rope and nets would be imported.
A new contributor to the Island economy is the federal government’s Canada Childcare Benefit. In October 2016, the CCB sent $2,300,000 to the province’s smallest riding, Egmont. The money went to 3,600 families to help support more than 6,500 children. That’s an average of $640 per family for that one month, all tax-free.
It’s likely that similar payments are being made in the other three federal ridings. This means, in addition to the increases already mentioned there’s another $120 million flowing annually into the provincial economy.
Some of this money was spent in the retail trades, the service sector and some went to the provincial treasury, all of which also recorded increases in 2016.
All this prosperity, and neither Mr. MacLauchlan, nor the provincial government seems to be getting any credit for it.