Walking past a line up at Money Mart the other day I was struck as to why this business survives and thrives. With charges on money borrowed set at $21-$25 per $100, they must be making a killing off some pretty desperate people. Thinking about the perverse nature of this arrangement in an economy as strong as Canada’s made me think about what the late John F. and Bobby Kennedy said about how we use GDP to measure the success of economies.

“It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile…”

Don’t get me wrong, variations on GDP like GDP/capita do have a connection to quality of life, but if a growing economy doesn’t catalyze increased community well-being and economic resiliency for all residents then what is a growing economy good for?  Has a growing economy helped Money Mart’s customers who use the service to bridge the cost of living between pay days? My guess is no or not enough.

While Canada has a fairly good social safety net compared to the rest of the world, there are more things that we can all do to grow local wealth on the revenue side of the ledger to build more successful and resilient livelihoods. Faced with the challenge in changing taxation policy at the Federal and Provincial level, or convincing organizations to spread the wealth through wages, local communities are finding more home grown solutions for building local incomes and welath. For example, Bellingham, WA has the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, Hinton, AB  has ‘shift $50 to 3 locally owned biz’, Seattle has Local Biz Investment Clubs and Valemount, BC has the “Love Valemount” Project. Economic development planning, land use zoning, transportation/transit planning, learning initiatives, development approvals and purchasing policies are other more policy focused levers for driving local wealth creation.

Did you know that  $1 dollar of resident spending at a local owned business can keep up to 3 times money in the local economy  than $1 spent on a non-local big box business?

Local living economies, local financing mixers, buy-better-buy local programs, job banks, sharing economies, co-operatives, social enterprises etc.. are the tactics of vibrant and resilient economies, and I think we would all get ‘more well’ by participating.

By Dan Wilson