What do we do everywhere else?
Dr. Herb Emery and others have long been making the point that even though New Brunswick went through a ‘lost decade’ it excluded the Moncton and Fredericton economies. And, for the most part, that is true.
The same trend essentially happened in Nova Scotia but instead of a lost decade, the province had a ‘lost’ 12 years. Although the decline wasn’t as steep as in New Brunswick. Nova Scotia’s real GDP growth went from a fairly strong average of 2.5% per year between 1982 to 2002 to only 0.9% per year, on average, all the way through 2015. From 2016-2019 it had bounced back to 2.1% per year, on average. Halifax, during most of the lost 12 years was chugging along quite strongly.
I was in Ontario last week and kept getting advertisements on my cell phone about northern Ontario. They were in French, interestingly, the fact that I now live in Cocagne seems to be lodged in my cookies. But I must have seen ads 100 times or more and they were all promoting the great future that lies ahead for Northern Ontario. There are going to be thousands and thousands of high paying jobs in mining and other sectors and, as a bonus, Northern Ontario is going to be a key player in the world’s drive to net zero by 2050 as a top global supplier of the minerals needed in renewable energy systems.
Northern Ontario is in need of a boost. It’s population growth has been stagnant. Even before the pandemic, employment had been declining. over the past few years Sudbury and Thunder Bay have an immigration rate 85% less than Moncton.
The ad campaign is so inspiring. It made me want to pack it up an, move to Timmins and trade in my computer keyboard for some heavy duty work boots and a hardhat.
It got me thinking about northern New Brunswick (and non-Halifax, Nova Scotia). I guess you could extend this to rural areas but quite frankly the rural areas in proximity to Moncton and Fredericton are also doing quite well.
Are there exciting new opportunities just around the bend? A boost in agriculture? More mining? More tourism? How about the smaller urban centres in Northern NB? They have universities, colleges, service industries, etc. What’s the plan?
One of the big reasons why the economies of NB and NS turned around in 2016 onward was the lightbulb moment that we need more people. A disproportionate share of those inward migrants settled in the biggest urban areas (and periphery).
We need the same kind of population thinking in northern NB and other areas in Atlantic Canada that are feeling the pinch.
I like the idea of an inspirational marketing campaign, too - although we have to be careful not to be selling an illusion. If we are telling young people to get educated in the trades because there are big mining or energy projects coming, that makes sense. If you have a growing agriculture sector and encouraging young people to take up farming, that makes sense. If you want to attract 300-400 tourism entrepreneurs across the province over the next five years, promoting that makes sense. And you can always pitch health care jobs - they will be needed all over the place.
We need more aspiration around the region and if it if we need more inspiration then maybe unleashing our marketing talent would be good means to the ends.