"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Competitive Advantage 

Well, waddya know? Maybe a cut-rate educational system and a cruel, laissez faire approach to health care isn't the best way to attract business investment, after all (emphasis supplied; humiliation in the original):
Acknowledging it was the "worst-kept secret" throughout Ontario's automotive industry, Toyota confirmed months of speculation Thursday by announcing plans to build a 1,300-worker factory in [Toronto]....

The factory will cost $800 million to build, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $125 million of that to help cover research, training and infrastructure costs.

Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.

He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.

In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.

"Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage," he said.

I'm not sure whether this scares me more than it makes me angry, or vice versa. As a nation, we seem to have decided that public investment in infrastructure, be it physical (roads and bridges) or social (education and health care), is either (a) something we can't afford, or (b) creeping socialism. (By the way, you did know that Congress is moving towards advocating more privately owned toll roads in place of public highways, didn't you?) Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs are moving offshore. This is unsustainable. Until we recognize that we have to spend money if we want to make money, the long slow decline into the economic ghetto will continue. But by all means, buy that RAV 4 now, while interest rates are still low - the well-educated, healthy workers of Toronto will thank you for it.




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