Much media dialogue of late has been around what the government can do to address the $2-billion deficit and mounting debt. And rightfully so, as it’s government who controls the coffers, and their spending has risen almost 50% in the last ten years.

There are also parallel economic issues making it tough for businesses and charities in our communities. And the government coffer is simply our money being spent on services for us. So that government debt of almost $8-billion is really all of ours, at $15,000 a head.

But What Can We the People Do?

Is there anything a single person can do to help their community get through the next few years? That’s not a question I have an answer to, but I can think of a few easy places to start.

  1. Buy local: Buying local goods and services keeps more of your hard earned dollars in your community. Where you buy your morning coffee matters. Think about the big items too, from food to banking.
  2. Be a business: Make something. When you create a product or service you capture more share of wallet for your community, you buy more goods and maybe even employ people. Whether it’s a table at the farmer’s market, an online business, music lessons, or a small business, you’re helping yourself and the community.
  3. Be healthy: Almost 35% of the government budget goes to health. And while many aliments are not within our control, lots are. So a healthy diet, some exercise and a few less vices will help you live better and also be less of a strain on the health system.
  4. Give your time: The government will have no choice but to reduce services in some areas. So it’s up to individuals to pick up the slack. Volunteering with something you’re passionate about feels great, helps to meet people, and breaks down barriers. Whether it’s helping the less fortunate, schools, arts, sports, youth, seniors, or whatever you’re passionate about.
  5. Participate: There will be consultations held by the government and other interested organizations. You should attend and participate. That might mean just listening to become more informed, or if it’s something you’re passionate about you may wish to share your views. Democracy is about much more than voting every four years.

Will these steps solve the problem? Not a chance. But it might ease the pain for some, and make you an active participant in the process.

The road to a sustainable future will not be an easy one. As a province we seem to always be searching for that silver bullet. Some external panacea that will make everything okay. But no mega project is going to change the structure of our economy, our low literacy rates, poor health, or unsustainable expenditures. The health of our economy must be based on the intelligence and ingenuity of our people and not what non-renewable resources we can extract from the land and sea.

Government Not the Only Agent of Change for Fate of the Province

We need to stop waiting for others to create solutions. Some problems are simply too big, or too politically sensitive for government to take on. Nor should government be relied upon as the only agent of change. In fact grassroots and broad-based community action is what government needs to have the “permission” to tackle the big issues. They will need our support to tackle our sacred cows.

In other regions of the world, the voice of one person is seldom heard, but for rare exceptions. However our province is so small, that one person can be heard, start a movement and create tangible change. It’s up to us as individuals to stop waiting for permission and just act. People with passion and reason can create powerful coalitions and effect social, economic, political, environmental change. And by breaking down the barriers between the private, public and not-for-profit worlds, quick and tangible solutions can be created.

Here are some thought starters on possible changes needed:

  • Education: Comprehensive new programming that promotes intra/entrepreneurship, citizenship, life skills, and 21st century knowledge.
  • Health: Shift resources from infrastructure to prevention. Through proactive measures we can reduce the future burden on the system.
  • Taxation: Restore the planned HST increase and increase the highest personal tax bracket to the national average.
  • Natural Resources Royalty Revenue: Allocate funds only to debt repayment and a Prosperity Fund.
  • Alternative Service Delivery: Social enterprises can bring efficiencies to public services, with added public good.
  • Population: New, aggressive program to attract immigrants, including a three-year retention agreement.
  • Regionalization: Continued support for a regional hub policy and mandated regionalization of services on the Northeast Avalon.

Article by Jon Duke (@DukeNL)