Cape Breton Provides Pointers for the Adjustment Programs Required by the Decline of the Old Economy (Working Paper 14)
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The Cape Breton Development Corporation need not, should not, be dying in the way it is. “Devco” has been widely represented as a failure dragged out too long. In fact it had for a time considerable success in a role too difficult to be often attempted. The main failure was in the political will to stick to its purpose. This commentary is in three parts. The first, major section discusses the purpose of Devco and the policies that served the purpose quite well but were maintained for little more than a decade. It suggests that the benefits would have been greater if Devco had been started earlier in the period of postwar prosperity. The second section comments on the enfeeblement of Devco in the 1980s. The removal of its development function also weakened, and has eventually led to the abandonment of, Devco’s social purpose in the operation of coal mining. Third, a short epilogue pointing out that, while the Cape Breton case is extreme, there will be increasing need to moderate the socially disruptive consequences of accelerating economic change. There are lessons from the Devco experience: the longer remedial action is delayed, the more difficult and expensive it becomes, and the more necessary for its effectiveness is a steady political will.