I have always been puzzled by this perceived rivalry between Saint John and Moncton. Who is bigger? Who is better? Which economy is the largest in New Brunswick? Has Moncton finally eclipsed Saint John?
If you have been reading the media lately, you would have the sense that Saint John’s troubles are a recent phenomenon. But a quick look at population trends suggests otherwise. In the 1956 Census, Saint John was at its peak of economic power in this province. Saint John county had a larger population in that year that it does today in 2004 – almost 50 years later. By contrast, the counties of Westmorland and Albert (Greater Moncton) have seen a combined population growth of 68% in that same time frame (62,000 people).
The truth is that Saint John has been in decline, in an economic sense, for a number of decades and the Greater Moncton region (despite the small hiccup of the CN Shops closure) has been expanding its economy at a fairly consistent rate. In fact, during the most turbulent economic times associated with the CN Shops closure (from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s), the population of Westmorland and Albert counties grew by a combined 8.3%.
Which brings me to the point. I sincerely hope that Saint John’s aggressive new strategies for economic development will be successful. There is no room in this province for municipal jealousy. All communities need to work for economic success and we need to applaud success when it happens and challenge ourselves even more when it doesn’t.
It’s time for Saint John to stop acting like its #1 and just try to get back in the game. It lost its #1 status in this province decades ago. If this vital urban region in New Brunswick continues to decline, it may just drag down the rest of the province with it.