Careful what you wish for, you just might get it. In recent years there has been a trend for young entrepreneurs to publicly embrace so-called progressive values and new urbanism. Once those policies are implemented and negative effects on their businesses start to take effect, those same people suddenly complain about the very governments enacting those policies. This has happened across this country and others, and at every level of government.
There are classic examples of people who think they know what’s best for everyone, so long as it doesn’t apply to them.
Here in Winnipeg, the Downtown and Exchange BIZ (along with their members) glowed in support of the current Mayor’s urbanist agenda during the last election. That agenda included building more downtown bike lanes, opening Portage and Main, pretending that downtown is safe to walk around in, increasing parking rates while reducing availability, discouraging driving, and increasing taxes.
And everything was great, that was until it started affecting the Downtown business community’s bottom line.
Recently, a group of business owners (though not the BIZ itself), led by Obby Khan and including former Mayor Glen Murray, have been (very loudly) complaining that the very policies they supported during the Mayor’s election campaign are now hurting their businesses. The hypocrisy is palpable.
The clash between reality and what American economist Thomas Sowell refers to in his book, “The Vision of the Anointed”, repeats itself at all government levels. Young people face diminishing prospects for home ownership because environmentally woke governments restrict housing supply by imposing zoning restrictions, green belts, and other policies to combat “urban sprawl”.
Canada’s federal government proposed changes to the way in which stock option benefits are taxed, over concerns about income inequality. But when young entrepreneurs in trendy industries discovered that those changes might negatively impact their ability to reward themselves and their staff, those same entrepreneurs pressured federal Liberal friends to withdraw those proposals pending further study.
The embers of Western separation talk hail directly from federal climate change policies, that are now suffocating the energy sectors of Alberta and Saskatchewan (BC coastal oil tanker ban, “no more pipelines” legislation etc.).
Entrepreneurs love progressive politics when the government is funding everything under the sun and they can get their hands on pots of public money. But, when the chickens come home to roost, they begin to realize their folly. Now maybe they are learning what is meant by the phrase, “bad public policy hurts people”.
We all have a say in choosing our governments, so next time let’s all put trendiness aside and think about supporting what’s really in society’s best interest.
Switching back to Winnipeg, our downtown business progressives have finally realized that we can’t continue to increase parking fees, reduce parking spaces, and pretend people don’t drive cars. For their businesses to be successful, they need customers; customers who very often arrive at their businesses in a car. Every decision the city makes about downtown must be viewed through the lens of the needs of downtown business. If downtown business finds itself successful, only then will our Downtown be revitalized.
And then we – Winnipeggers, businesses, politicians – all will win.
Jenny Motkaluk is Manitoba Director of Private Partnerships and Engagement at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.