The need for helpful economic indicators


November 01, 2021

The need for helpful economic indicators

by Sandra Finley, Leader of the Green Party of Saskatchewan

Our ways of recording economic growth prevent us from creating a healthy

Our current system of measuring a successful economy is to report each
expense or product as a unit of economic growth.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is reported as a success regardless of its
effect on public health or the natural environment.

For example, if a new hospital is built for children because of the rising
number of children with cancer, asthma and developmental problems, that is
economic growth.

If we pay a million dollars to treat a person for cancer, we have economic

If there is clean-up after a large spill in a uranium mine, this creates
employment, consumes goods, and is measured as economic growth.

In our society "Growth" is seen as success.

In this system, a corporation is required to report and pay for its internal
operating costs only.

If it depletes or pollutes the water supply, it is allowed to avoid these
" external" costs.

Expenses resulting from environmental degradation, including health and
medicare costs are paid for by ordinary citizens from the public purse.

Yet is it recorded as "economic growth".

In the early 1980's northern Saskatchewan lakes were healthy.

Today, lakes in Northern Saskatchewan are dying, as reported in the spring
publication from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment

Despite the consequences of the sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions
from the tar sands developments, there are proposals to increase production
in Alberta and to develop the tar sands in Saskatchewan.

Acid rain from petro-chemical projects in Ontario and Quebec is a well-known
outcome of the work of Suncor and other transnational corporations. The
abnormal birth statistics, cancers and other problems created by their
operations in the corridors from Sarnia to Windsor and London, Ontario is
currently in the news.

When the exploitation of resources is complete, they will return to the
U.S., Europe and Asia with their profits, leaving us with the ill health
effects and badly damaged land and water.

"I am saddened by the deaths of my friends from cancer," says Harold
Johnson, Green Party candidate for Cumberland. "Two of my brothers have
also died from cancer; they all worked in the uranium mines."

By allowing corporations to pollute in the name of falsely-measured economic
growth, we are allowing health risks and environmental damage to continue
and to escalate.

Both ruling and opposition parties have failed in their stewardship role
during the past 25 years.
It is the job of the government to protect air, land and water - "the
commons", that upon which we all depend for healthfulness and survival.

In a democracy, it is the job of citizens to call the government to account.

The first step is to re-define our indicators of "growth" and health.

The indicator that should be used for health is the trend lines for disease
and developmental problems in Saskatchewan. If those lines are in a
relentless upward trend, then obviously our healthcare dollars are being
spent in the wrong place. "Wait times" tells us that we have an excess of

The Earth is man's only friend. When we poison her, we poison ourselves.

Sandra Finley
Leader, Green Party of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon 373-8078