Shovel ready

Under the current Federal economic stimulus plan, the Yukon government will be getting millions of dollars for shovel-ready projects. It looks like there will be a $48 million in extra federal transfer payments, and another $50 million for affordable...

Under the current Federal economic stimulus plan, the Yukon government will be getting millions of dollars for shovel-ready projects.

It looks like there will be a $48 million in extra federal transfer payments, and another $50 million for affordable housing.

Now usually when the words government and shovel are mentioned in the same sentence it implies a lot of verbal horse manure is being expelled by a politician or two.

To wade through all the manure and to get at the core of what is being said, a shovel is often required.

These days, though, a shovel is required to dig out from all the money being flung around.

It also means the government is very keen to provide funding for projects that are ready to go right now.

Project, of course, is defined by the old-fashioned concept of a construction project.

Some construction projects are definitely worthwhile.

The scarcity of affordable and decent housing in the North is a scandal.

Essential infrastructure like water and sewage treatment is sorely needed in many Yukon communities.

Thus the government is willing to pay for foundations to be dug, concrete to be poured, asphalt to be paved and buildings to be erected.

But only on those items that are shovel ready.

If design and lengthy consultation has to be done on a project, it will not be part of the stimulus package.

This is because by the time that is all done the need for an economic stimulus will hopefully be gone.

The object is to quickly get cash flowing into wage packets, which, in turn, will be spent on consumer items. That will drive up the stock market and all will be well.

Now before everyone runs out and buys shares in construction companies and gravel pits, it must be recognized that there are problems with this type of stimulus spending.

The implementation of shovel-ready construction projects favours male workers.

Most typical construction type jobs tend to have male-dominated work forces.

Thus this current round of stimulus spending will disproportionately benefit males, and not female, workers.

One way to alleviate this would be to provide a fiscal stimulus to industries that employ mainly female workers.

Imagine if daycares got a portion of the stimulus funding.

In a Yukon context, that could mean daycares being able to purchase their buildings, instead of renting.

Instead of paying rent or mortgage payments, daycares would be able to pay decent wages to their workers, and hire more of them.

These workers in turn would spend the money on consumer items and, just like the construction workers, their spending would stimulate the economy.

Another fiscal stimulus would be to get away from the shovel-ready concept and look at covering operation and maintenance costs for a while.

Imagine if the stimulus was applied to covering the cost of running the Whitehorse transit system.

Even better, imagine if the funds were used to expand and increase the service.

Employment would be created by the creation of more transit jobs, and more people would leave vehicles at home and take the bus.

This would decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions being emitted, as one bus when full can take up to 40 cars off the road.

This would be a huge environmental benefit.

Unfortunately, a fiscal stimulus is not meant to benefit the environment or cover all aspects of societal needs.

It is just meant to shovel as much money into the existing financial system as possible.

The exact same financial system that got the world’s economy into this mess in the first place.

Here is hoping the politicians disbursing the funds know what they are doing.

Because they certainly do not know much about funding daycares or transit systems.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

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