Can anything save New Brunswick?

The province’s economy is in free fall, it has more deaths than births and an ugly language war to rival Quebec’s

An elderly man walks through Saint John, N.B's empty downtown on Sunday morning, March 6, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese )

An elderly man walks through Saint John, N.B’s empty downtown on Sunday morning, March 6, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese )

Katherine McDonnell, aged 104, moved to the Mount Saint Joseph Nursing Home in Miramichi, N.B., four months ago. She was born in Rogersville, a mostly francophone town 50 km south of where she sits now, and lived most her life in nearby Nelson, in a home overlooking the river. She’d still be there were it not for an accident. “I fell on the floor and never walked again,” she says, chuckling in her wheelchair. She and her husband, John Dolan, had three children; a great-grandmother several times over, she has outlived John by a quarter-century and counting.

Along with her demeanour, McDonnell’s age has made her something of a legend in Miramichi—and for good reason. She is among the oldest people in the province, and her memories stretch back to when New Brunswick was an economic powerhouse driven in no small part by what was cut down, dug up and fished out of Miramichi.

Today, Miramichi is a microcosm of New Brunswick’s myriad social and demographic challenges. The closure of most of its mines, lumber and pulp and paper mills, along with the air force base in 1996, spurred an out-migration of its younger residents. The average age of the residents of the region of Campbellton–Miramichi, encompassing roughly a third of the province, is 49.4—the second-highest amongst Atlantic Canada’s 15 economic regions, according to Statistics Canada.

One of the few growth industries in the area is the housing and caring for those, like McDonnell, who have stayed behind. Last May, the government announced Miramichi would be the site for a 240-bed nursing home, which will add to the 4,500 existing nursing home beds in the province. The home, which will be the largest of its kind in the province, “will achieve our goals of creating jobs, growing our economy and supporting families,” Premier Brian Gallant said at the time. He said roughly the same thing a few days earlier about a government investment in a shipyard. Wood, metals and fish used to be New Brunswick’s economic staples; now, more and more, it is old age.

Present-day New Brunswick is testament to the well-worn adage that the story of Atlantic Canada is one of leaving for other places. Nearly 21,000 New Brunswickers—about the population of Dieppe, the province’s fourth-largest city—have left the province since 2005. Though Maritimers often yearn to come home, increasingly more New Brunswickers won’t do so in this lifetime. 2014 marked the first time in its history that there were more deaths than births in the province, a dubious honour shared by Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Nova Scotia.

It doesn’t help that New Brunswick is more drive-through than fly-over; thanks to successive governments and their vote-friendly promises of building roads, it is now possible to drive from the border of Quebec to Nova Scotia on a single tank of gas. The current Liberal government briefly considered installing tolls on its borders; a cynic would say it was to capitalize from the steady outflow of its residents. (The government eventually reneged on the idea.)

Discarded tires and tow boats are seen as the Irving Pulp & Paper mill billows steam in Saint John, N.B. on Sunday, March 6, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese)

Discarded tires and tow boats are seen as the Irving Pulp & Paper mill billows steam in Saint John, N.B. on Sunday, March 6, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese)

Those who stay are faced with these hardening economic and demographic realities, along with a burgeoning language war and a political culture steeped in linguistic tribalism arguably rivalling even that of Quebec. As a result, governing New Brunswick often means pitting north against south, French against English and urban against rural, amidst a stumbling economy and crippling debt, projected to hit $13.5 billion at the end of the fiscal year. (Other provinces like Quebec and Ontario may carry more debt per capita, but they’re better positioned to manage that debt.)

Meanwhile, Brian Gallant’s Liberal government has cut the number of days for debate in the legislature to historic lows, and limited media access to the premier and his caucus. (Despite repeated attempts, Maclean’s was unable to secure an interview with Gallant for this article.)

“You’d think small would be simple, but New Brunswick is the classic example of how that really isn’t true,” says Robert Campbell, president of Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. “For a little province like this, we just can’t get our act together.”

Twenty years ago, New Brunswick was in enviable financial shape. Former premier Frank McKenna’s government produced successive surplus budgets and made a significant dent in the province’s debt. “A lot was done to restructure the province during the McKenna years,” says federal auditor-general Michael Ferguson, who held the same position in New Brunswick from 2005 to 2010.

Fast forward to 2015, when economist Richard Saillant published Over A Cliff?, a compendium of New Brunswick’s various economic and social ailments. As the title suggests, the picture isn’t pretty. Saillant invokes the possibility of outright bankruptcy for the province, which has posted five straight budget deficits. An aging population, out-migration, diminished economic opportunities and at times profligate governments put New Brunswick in the dubious company of Greece, Portugal and Italy, only with more trees and less Old World charm.

“I’d say that New Brunswick, and Atlantic Canada more generally, have missed the urbanization boat,” Saillant says. “While there are individual successes in the Maritimes, world-first innovation is disproportionately concentrated in large urban areas.”

About half of New Brunswick’s population lives in rural areas, more than double the number in neighbouring Quebec, according to Statistics Canada. For the government, it means services are more expensive, particularly in the areas of health and education, which together make up 60 per cent of the provincial budget. It also means fewer higher-paying jobs and more reliance on an extraction economy and the federal government. Federal cash transfers make up about 36 per cent of the province’s budget, the second-highest percentage in the country, behind Prince Edward Island.

It also means rural areas have outsized political clout. Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton, the province’s three largest urban centres representing a total of about 188,000 people, have a combined 16 seats. The remaining 33 are mostly rural ridings, which tend to jealously guard their services and institutions even as their populations diminish.

The result, according to former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Kelly Lamrock, is a continuation of New Brunswick’s unsustainable status quo. “We’ve targeted our policies on just getting re-elected and so we prop up failing industries and we bail out failing companies. Atlantic Yarns went under and lost an $80-million loan. The government I was a part of lent $70 million to [Miramichi-based] Atcon, a failing construction company that went under a year later. The Marriott call centre closed. It turns out they were subsidized to the tune of $20,000 a job and just left when the subsidies ran out. And the list goes on. We have generally been about keeping the majority of people comfortable rather than attracting new people.”

New Brunswick’s electoral map reveals another latter-day truth about the province. Following the 2014 elections, with a few exceptions, it is divided between Liberal red in the north part of the province and Progressive Conservative blue in the south. Not coincidentally, this is the rough divide between New Brunswick’s French and English populations. There are 10 sitting anglophone MLAs amongst the Liberals government’s 27 members. The Progressive Conservatives have exactly one francophone MLA in their ranks.

As the country’s sole officially bilingual province, New Brunswick is often held up as the closest thing to that hoary Canadian ideal of compromise and compassion, with the two solitudes living in harmony on the same chunk of rock. Certainly, operating in both French and English has had economic benefits. In the mid-1990s, attracted by the bilingual workforce and government subsidies, call centres and office-support operations began to set up in the province. Today, these industries employ roughly 15,000 people, according to a 2015 government report. It also says bilingualism has helped foster business with Quebec, to the tune of $3.9 billion in yearly export revenues between 2007 and 2011.

But New Brunswick has also seemingly imported some of Quebec’s language woes, complete with sign laws, absurdist legal battles and doomsday-style rhetoric from linguistic camps. The most recent kerfuffle involves the busing of school children.

Last spring, New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy suggested French and English students should be allowed to take buses together, if only to save on costs. (French and English schools are operated separately from each other, but in a few cases, one bus was able to serve both schools). Education Minister Serge Rousselle expressed his anger at such a thing, and was further angered when he learned that a handful of francophone students in Richibucto (pop. 1,965) were being bused to school on English rolling stock. In a statement to the National Post, Rousselle promised to rid his department of what he called an “administrative anomaly.” The issue of whether being bused in one’s mother tongue is a Charter right is currently before New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

A blank advertising board is seen off the Trans Canada Highway near Sussex, N.B. on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese)

Nothing to see: A blank advertising board off the Trans Canada Highway near Sussex, N.B. on March 5, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese)

In actual fact, busing children according to the language they speak doesn’t appear to be more expensive. According to its 2015-16 budget, the province spends about $57 million a year to bus nearly 98,000 students, or roughly $580 a student. In contrast, Nova Scotia spends about $910 a student.

For English-language advocates, the issue is less about cost than what they see as favouritism of French New Brunswickers. According to Statistics Canada, 71 per cent of French New Brunswickers are bilingual, while only about 15 per cent of the province’s English can speak French. “More than 70 per cent of the province is disqualified from a majority of government positions, and a growing number of private sector positions,” says Sharon Buchanan, the president of the Anglophone Rights Association of New Brunswick (ARANB).

There are other insidious effects of French in New Brunswick, Buchanan says. The city of Dieppe has issued fines to businesses that neglected to put French first in their bilingual signage, and an attempt was made to change the name of Moncton’s Robinson Court to honour Acadian poet Gérald Leblanc.

Buchanan, 47, herself a unilingual English manager at a call centre, says her kids can’t get work beyond Tim Hortons because they don’t speak French well enough. She says she’s been threatened. “One of our members was spit on while passing out ARA flyers in front of Wal-Mart in Moncton,” she says.

Language issues aren’t particularly new in the province. There was once a fledgling separatist Acadian party, Parti Acadien, which had similar goals and socialist sensibilities as the Parti Québécois in Quebec. There was also the Confederation of Regions Party, an anti-bilingualism party that sent several elected members to the legislature in 1991 before the party self-imploded four years later.

“I think [tension over language] is at a level not seen since the 1980s,” says Christian Michaud, a constitutional lawyer who has worked for the New Brunswick government on language cases in the past. Part of the blame falls on the francophone minority, he says. “We put too much weight on the court system. As francophones, we’ve evolved through the courts, and we’ve won. But we’ve lost touch with the population. We seem to think the way to get things moving is to attack it in the public sphere.”

At the same time, “everything in government happens in English. There needs to be more francophone spaces within government.”

Michaud sips his cortado and looks out at downtown Moncton. It’s a bustling place, with the traffic jams to prove it. Moncton is the fastest-growing region in Atlantic Canada, thanks in large part to the francophone migration from the north. For English rights groups, it’s another sore point. Moncton is booming largely because it is bilingual, and therefore home to many of the call-centre and public sector jobs. “Yeah, nobody is happy here,” Michaud says, laughing. He’s joking, of course.

For the last decade, New Brunswick has had two successive one-term governments—an anomaly in a province known for political dynasties. Premier Louis J. Robichaud served for 10 years. His successor, Richard Hatfield, was in power for nearly 17. McKenna also served for 10 years; he came to power in 1987, when his Liberal government won every seat in the legislature.

Players take part in Saturday night bingo at Union Bingo in Saint John, N.B. on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese)

Players take part in Saturday night bingo at Union Bingo in Saint John, N.B. on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Photograph by Darren Calabrese)

Former minister Kelly Lamrock says the recent, quick-change governments are a result of poor leadership. “We’ve had a lot of premiers who don’t meet the basic test of, ‘If you are not scripted by your advisers, can you explain why you’ve decided what you’ve decided?’ As a result we’re getting them out of any situation where they might be unscripted,” Lamrock says.

Coincidence or not, the Gallant government has reduced the number of days in which he and his caucus would be forced to face such scrutiny. In February, the government shut down the legislature, which will allow the provincial budget to move through committee without daily opposition questions. Media access to the premier, meanwhile, “is becoming increasingly scarce,” says New Brunswick press gallery president Adam Huras. Limiting access is old hat, if only because it’s so successful—just ask Stephen Harper. The downside, as Lamrock sees it, is a general erosion of the regard for the political class, exactly when New Brunswick needs strong political leadership.

“We’ve got some incredibly creative people doing some very good things. But there’s a sense that politics isn’t where you make a difference. You make a film, you start a small business. You don’t go to the legislature,” Lamrock says.

Greg Hemmings has done both, 115 km south of the legislature in Fredericton. In 2007, Hemmings set up his film production studio in Saint John. The gritty counterpoint to Fredericton’s staid bureaucracy, Saint John’s mix of cheap rent and industrial decrepitude has sparked an East Coast artistic mini-renaissance—like Detroit, albeit with a heartier social safety net.

Hemmings House, the film studio, has produced documentaries about computer coders in Estonia and youth orchestras in Venezuela, among others, from its offices in the city’s uptown district. He is relentlessly bullish about the city. “I dare say, it’s thriving,” Hemmings says. He feels about the same about New Brunswick in general. “There’s a scrappy entrepreneurialism here,” says the usually bearded and always smiling 39-year-old. Today, Hemmings House employs 10 people. “In 2002, Enterprise Saint John [a government-funded entrepreneurial initiative] gave me a loan, an apprenticeship and then an award. It was like a hot knife through butter to get interest in what I was doing.”

Hemmings’s optimism for his home province is heart-warming. Given the state of New Brunswick, hopefully it’s contagious as well.


Can anything save New Brunswick?

  1. The two biggest problems with New Brunswick is that we have small population and three small centres.
    As a result of these logistics New Brunswick is a province that is disabled and always will be.
    Why are we trying to be Ontario or other Have Provinces? It will never happen.
    Once we accept we are a disabled province only then can we move forward.
    We need an Atlantic Union, but it will never happen.

    The white elephant in the room bilingualism!

    New Brunswick is not a bilingual province, we say we are but we are not.
    If we mean it, we would ensure everyone that graduates high school in New Brunswick would get Bilingual Certification.

    If we are going to continue to be a bilingual province we must afford everyone the practical and free ability to become officially bilingual in New Brunswick. If can’t do that we not a bilingual province and we should get rid of bilingualism.

    I moved to New Brunswick when I was about 15 years of age. I moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg, Manitoba is not New York or Paris. It is a smaller market to.
    Though if someone asked me when I lived in Manitoba was I from Manitoba ? I would say YES.
    If someone asks me if I am from New Brunswick, I say NO. Why is this ?
    Bilingualism and it’s blood line.

    The so called bilingualism debate is not about language issues it is about one’s blood line. If one is not of Acadian decent or Loyalist decent you don’t belong here and never will.

    Don’t get wrong me I actually belong to a heritage board that deal with New Brunswick history.
    History great and I love it.

    Though this being said New Brunswick needs to do two things to be taken seriously.

    First of all, stop the xenophobia against people who are not of Acadian or Loyalist decent!

    Second of all. To be a bilingual province we must afford everyone the practical and free ability to become officially bilingual. We must practice what we preach!

    Sincerely, Demian Hammock of Sackville, NB.
    Email demian.hammock@gmail.com.

  2. I’m somewhat optimistic about Saint John’s trajectory. The city’s beautiful old core has very, very gradually been experiencing urban renewal and the influx of young professionals. The recently announced consolidated Irving Oil headquarters – to be built on a long-time parking lot in the heart of the city, on the edge of a beloved square next to a beautiful theater and steps away from the city market – will, I think, be a massive catalyst for next-level urbanization/gentrification. What Saint John needs is for the managerial, educated public service, entrepreneurial and knowledge worker classes to cluster together and create a self-sustaining urban community with a lower cost of service delivery. It’s happening, but it will take time and good policy.

    • Statement above By: Amugsgame – I Agree.

      The PLACE it – self is becoming the economy, e.g. Richard Florida.
      The job for life is gone, so the PLACE is more important than the job, at least that is my opinion.

      Richard L. Florida is an American urban studies theorist. Florida’s focus is on social and economic theory. via Wikipedia.

      I have a small radio show called – HR Philosophies & Why PLACE Matters ! It’s on CHMA radio 106.9 FM on the dial at 3:00 pm every Wednesday. CHMA radio is a small community radio station in Sackville, NB. I talk about this very issue, why the PLACE it – self matters so much.

      Also of all the three centres in New Brunswick, Saint John’s with it’s harbour core is the most aesthetically pleasing.

      I believe that Saint John’s has all the right elements to be the next Austin TX, or Portland OR. It has the charm and it’s price point is right. Saint John’s has the ability to be on the next Bohemian Index, e.g. Richard Florida, index charts the concentration of working artists, musicians, writers, designers, and entertainers across metropolitan areas.

      You want the most talented to people self- select into your community. As oppose to just corporate subsidies with the hope the most talented people will wish to stay or move into your community.

      Sincerely, Demian Hammock

      Diploma of Advanced Studies Human Resources Management.

    • I am a newbie to New Brunswick, with no family here, as is my husband. I hail from Vancouver, educated with 2 degrees, several certifications and very “city-fied”. I came to Moncton after a month long summer touring the Eastern Seaboard, and I saw/felt something very real here, and decided to move to the Maritimes. I agree with your statements regarding St. John (a place we considered for our move), and I love your statement “massive catalyst for next-level urbanization/gentrification”.
      I love change, and I love urbanizing environments for more function and quality of life. I feel this is happening in Moncton, though it has a long way to go, before it can really truly call itself, Metro Moncton. I feel the entrepreneurship spirit in Moncton and surrounding areas and I think its really important to focus on this. Where I came from, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, it is massive invitation of immigration and encouragement of entrepreneurs that have seen the awesome changes and growth in Vancouver in the 30+ years I witnessed. It should absolutely be encouraged here.
      One impediment to NB’s success is the language issues. I find it hard to believe that required bilingualism is necessary in every job position. You can’t have incredible skills, talent, growth, and this bilingualism requirement. I also find it hard to believe, that bilingualism requirement is not taking away from my rights, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, through discrimination of language. Language being a barrier to my employment. How can a single province dictate this, over a whole country, who’s requirement (as a citizen born here) that I have either one of the official languages, English or French. Not both. Somehow, the little province is dictating over the country. You want immigration and growth, then turn back the clocks from the ’70s when this bilingualism issue became official. I hope to have a career here (been here almost 5 months, no success) and then to begin my entrepreneurial plan in opening a business. I still feel optimistic and I will involve myself in any organization that can help keep up the optimism and forward moving change.

      • I have lived in Moncton in the past. Of all the centres in New Brunswick it does try the hardest. One does have to give Moncton an A+ for effort !

        Sincerely, Demian Hammock.

      • Hi, I’m not sure if you’ll see this as I notice you posted last year, we too are looking at moving to New Brunswick from Vancouver, likely Moncton. We won’t move until I secure a job, did you get one yet? We love the thought of buying a house, living in a smaller community and everything we read about New Brunswick is delightful, plus there are beautiful beaches only 20 minutes away (huge plus for us, I was raised in New Zealand). I was wondering if you have any advise? even if you have advice on how you moved your furniture across country? It looks like it could be more costly than moving overseas… thanks for any help you can provide!

  3. New Brunswick needs unification. Current government policy fosters division and hostility. French and English schools in the same building with children sharing buses, sports teams and friendships would go a long way towards harmony and achieving a bright future for the province. No one would “lose” their language. To the contrary, a greater appreciation of one another’s cultures would develop. Bilingualism in it’s current form is so negative. Bilingualism as the only issue governing the province is also a huge error. New Brunswick should be so much more than that.

    • I absolutely agree with your sentiments on unification. Put all schooling together, like in BC, under the same roof is called “French immersion” there (it doesn’t have to be called that at all, it just is in BC) and students wishing to do all of their studies in French are given that opportunity, and those choosing all of their classes in English can choose that. Segregation always fosters “us and them” attitudes. My son who took English taught classes, met his girlfriend now his fiancee, and she took mostly French-taught classes, a few of her classes she chose English, like Drama class where she and my son met. A very nice blend.

  4. In respose to your article I thought you might find my comments, published on March 1 in the telegraph Journal of interest.

    Although I was born and raised in Saint John, forty years ago my wife and I left the province to pursue our careers. It was a good move on our part as we were able to grow and prosper professionally and economically. Almost exactly 40 years later, we made a major decision to move back and eventually occupied the home my parents built in 1958. During those years away we visited frequently. Since we were only visiting, your “problems” were not ours. Every time we left we could not help but feel what an economically depressed area this is and wondered why it has to be that way.
    Since arriving back I have attempted to find ways where I could put into play some of the skills I have developed in my career to help improve the economic stance of this community. To this end I embarked on a mission to meet and talk with various civic leaders, economic development agencies, port officials, university staff, business leaders, young entrepreneurs, and politicians Researched numerous economic studies emanating from City Hall, multiple publications produced by various agencies and local newspaper articles and Atlantic Canada publications. From this due diligence these are my observations:
    1. Where’s the Vision: So far I have yet to identify what Saint John’s key vision is. There are numerous reports outlining activities and projects covering a wide variety of areas, IT, Health Care, Transportation and so on but nowhere is there a clear vision The key components of any strategic plan is the identification of a clear vision, for example… Saint John will be the entrepreneurial hub of Atlantic Canada in 5 years. From that, all objectives and strategies follow. Yet, Saint John seems to have taken the reverse process by putting as many possible activities in play then hoping something will stick. In my experience this rarely works. Bottom line Saint John, you have studied issues more than enough; it is time to focus on actually accomplishing one or two key projects. You know your strengths and weaknesses and you should know what it takes to compete in a global marketplace. Now decide once and for all what you want to be and then, Just Do It.

    2. Hard Luck Syndrome: Saint Johners’, by and large are delightful people. They are unfailingly polite, willing to help at the drop of a hat, giving and caring but there is also a sense of “hard done by”. Perhaps it is because Saint John has been “down” for so long people have forgotten what “up” feels like. In some of my talks I have been taken aback when, after making a suggestion that Saint John could be the Centre for “fill in the blank here”, the response has been , That can’t happen here, its Saint John. Yet there are new entrepreneurs who are trying to make a go of it because they value what this community has to offer. There is a Maine saying, if you put one crab in a pot it will find its way out but if you put many crabs in a pot they will prevent another crab from escaping. An interesting analogy and I wonder if it applies here. A major component of the economic plan for this area, relies on hoping for the next big thing… be it the new pipeline, a second terminal or the global center for Irving. Wishing and hoping won’t get the job done.

    3. We Can’t Agree: No matter what the idea is here, there is almost an automatic negative reaction to it. The latest provincial budget process is an excellent example of this. Don Savoie’s article in the February 23, 2016 Telegraph Journal outlined this action brilliantly. His suggestion is that, going forward, there should be an agreement by all groups and organizations that benefit from any municipal, provincial or federal monies that saying no is not good enough. Anyone impacted by proposed economic cuts must come forward with valid alternatives. If we are not prepared to take collective and individual responsibility for our economic situation, then the pain that will come when these decisions are mandated will be far worse than if we proactively make good but difficult decisions now. If this one simple action is implemented then maybe, we can counteract the prevailing sense of negativism that exists throughout this community.

    4. Over Reliance on Public Monies: Perhaps I have been working stateside for too long (nearly 30 years) because when I think what it takes to get an economic engine moving, I think private enterprise. Here the notion is to apply for public monies and then wait for a response which can take months if not years. And nothing happens in the meantime. Where is the private money? Why can’t the Irvings, McCains, Olands, Ganongs and their counterparts come together to create an angel network or an economic forum focusing on future opportunities. Why can’t we create entrepreneur symposiums at the high school and university level to seek out young entrepreneurs? Why can’t we create a clear, concise pathway for funding young entrepreneurs? Why aren’t we knocking on doors in Vancouver and other highly inflated markets to offer them a better alternative? What can be done to position the Maritimes as one economic zone and build on the capabilities already present in the 3 provinces? From a funders’ perspective, what is the impact when they receive multiple requests from the same community to fund different projects. Would it be more advisable for the various economic development agencies to come together and present one or two recommendations that would benefit all? Perhaps consolidate some of these agencies into one agency that needs to outline in specific terms how SJ will promote growth, where to obtain the financial resources necessary to accomplish objectives and above all else, identify a mission that is worthy of our heritage.

    5. No Sense of Urgency: In most every conversation there is general agreement on what some of the key issues are yet rarely any urgency to remedy the situation. Phrases often heard are, “well that problem has been with us since 1985 and we have made some headway but there is more to be done or yes, we know that is a problem and we are working on a grant to get federal funding to support our initiative. Not what I would call a bias for action.

    Obviously there are efforts underway by various organizations or individuals that I do not know about which brings me to my last point:
    6. We Don’t Promote our Successes: It is a Maritime trait to be humble but in this day and age selling success is a critical strategy. The old adage, success breeds success, still holds true, perhaps even more so in this technology connected world. Business leaders like to congregate with other successful leaders and we have more than a few here. Why not harness their insights and network to further our cause? Perhaps this newspaper could start a weekly column identifying successful business and their leadership. Or even create a Leadership Council populated by successful businesses to act as mentors, coaches for young entrepreneurs or struggling businesses.
    My one hope in writing this article is to generate movement forward that focuses on a bias for action and non-traditional thinking. For too long, the reality here seems to have been, Why here. Is it not time to change the paradigm to start thinking bigger and say Why not here? We are Canada’s oldest incorporated city and have much to offer. We have an enviable, safe climate (trust me on this one), we have inexpensive infrastructure, a hard working work force, an enviable fiber optic network and a Maritime history of being able to do the heavy lifting, just to name a few of the more obvious advantages.
    There is a Japanese proverb that says, if you cannot forecast the future, then create it. We have the opportunity, the means and the capability to create our own future. What we need is initiative and good old fashioned desire to want to make a difference. Count me in. Anybody else?

    Andrew McPherson

  5. This type of article has been written over and over again. Everyone and anyone knows all about the challenges faced by New Brunswickers – young & old alike. While I may not be certain about New Brunswick’s level of future prosperity, I am certain there is power in the word – spoken & written in the minds and hearts of those who write & speak and to all of those who hear and want to listen.

    Find one bright spirit. Seek out one enterprising endeavor. Investigate those who love where they live and ask them why. Engage in a community attempt to celebrate those who remain ‘hefted’ to the ground they were raised to cultivate, and after you have done all that you can do, sit back and ask; “How can I help?”

    Stop. writing. this. stuff.

  6. Oh! and one more thing; That photo of the ‘ elderly man walks through Saint John, N.B’s empty downtown on Sunday morning’ – his name is Joe and he’s been doing his thing for longer than anyone can remember. He has the sweetest sister-in-law that ever walked – she’d give the shirt off her bakc – and she loves Joe.

  7. I was born and raised in NB and have been gone for almost 20 years. I love my home province, but out-of-the-box strategies need to be tried to turn this situation around.

    Despite the prospect of bankruptcy, the provincial governments of the past 10 years have just been re-organizing the chairs on the Titanic.

    Young people, entrepreneurs, and especially immigrants need to be given incentive to put down roots in NB if the province wants to have a fighting chance.

    Land and real estate is cheap. Why not give away land for free? Similar to what Canada did to settle the prairies?

    Import refugees from the Middle East (I can see some NBers turning red at the thought) or wherever else and make it a requirement that they have to stay for 10 years or there about. Frank floated such an idea idea in op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail.

    How about turning the province into a retirement haven for all the aging boomers around the world?

    There is so much space in NB, the province could fit another million people. Irving doesn’t own all of those trees do they?

    Seriously, brainstorming any and all ideas is a good start, because what is being done presently is just not working.

  8. People have always left eastern Canada, the continent is populated with their descendants. My grand parents met in New Orleans and married in Boston before settling in St. Johns. Our debt is not as bad as many provinces and our demographics as far as age are just a little advanced, most countries have aging populations. Most people in New Brunswick live close to a city or large town and the rest are on a few main roads so the rural issue is bogus. The real problem is attitude and specifically those in power believe that any opportunity should go to the right region, right group and the right family. We have property taxes and power deals that benefit the few wealthy at a cost to the rest of us. Regionalism and political and cultural competition help foster and promote this system of corruption. Immigration killed the family compact in Ontario but there has not been enough immigration here to change our culturally based kleptocracy. Saint John is managed for one family and this has made many other families leave the city to live. Our attitude as a whole is I am alright Jack and I do not care what happens to you. When the pain becomes unbearable things will change tom hickie fredericton

  9. For English language advocates, it is about costs. Governments can throw around all kinds of figures, but we have to use some common sense. You have a school bus with 1/2 a load of English & French kids now, if Rousselle had his way there would be 2 buses and 2 drivers, 1/4 full to do the same job.
    We currently have 2 separate bilingual health care systems. This is duality and duality costs. If this was not so, why do municipalities amalgamate? To save money of course. The province boasts about how many jobs bilingualism has brought to the province. What they don’t tell you is how much it costs both groups in taxpayer funded handouts to these companies. We can not afford to compete with other provinces, buying jobs.
    Tim Raworth. Moncton

  10. As usual, the rural inhabitants get bashed without a second’s delay to delve into the facts.

    Fact: NB’s population is divided almost equally as 50% living in urban areas (areas which have an elected municipal body) and 50% living rurally (having no elected municipal body).

    Fact: One vote from a rural person for their MLA carries no more weight than one vote from a person who lives in a municipality.

    Fact: The number of MLAs is determined by a population ratio; each MLA represents the same number of constitutents, within 5%. So, for this article to say that the RURAL people are the problem, and to somehow make the illogical leap that our three largest centers should, for some unknown reason, have more MLAs, is absolutely mind-blowingly…..asinine. Our rural areas used to be the driving force of our provincial economy, until stupid government policies established monopolies on our resources, and thereby destroyed the ability of our rural communities to remain self-sufficient and prosperous.

    It is patently absurd, and unfair, to blame a province’s woes on its rural inhabitants, without considering WHY those rural areas have now become stripped of all that made them, or would allow them to be, self-sufficient. In the one breath, articles like this bash the rural areas as ‘the problem’, but another article will decry the ‘urban sprawl’ caused by rural dwellers moving closer to incorporated areas in order to access jobs and the services that have been stolen from them by the province’s idiotic policies.

    Rural citizens, and a rural lifestyle, are NOT the problem. Incompetent governments and decades of nepotism, favoritism, patronage, and corporate welfare are what have destroyed, and continue to destroy, New Brunswick.

  11. I like the data, but the headline is dumb, alarmist, and defeatist. There are many ways to “save” the province (What does saving even mean? Many places in the world work better than New Brunswick, but I wager MOST of them still work less well).

    I think it’s just as dumb to be a doomsayer as it is to be a blind optimist. I’m tired of seeing either thing in the news and in politics, exclusively. I want facts, and if it’s not much to ask, maybe our clearly qualified writers, commentators, and analysts can venture a solution here and there, instead of simply listing problems?

  12. lets look at who is running the province into the ground the liberals !! whose running Ontario into the ground the liberals!! who is killing Newfoundland the liberals!! look who is killing Canada on a whole its the liberals can we see a pattern here you get who you voted for.

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