You’ve come a long way, bébé

I was sitting at my coffee table leafing through some old coffee table books (a la Kramer) this evening and I came across one called “New – Nouveau Brunswick”. This book is a picture book of New Brunswick filled with 60+ photos of New Brunswick. The photographer is Sherman Hines and the preface was written by Art Doyle. It was published in 1989.

My wife received this book as a gift after working as an exchange student for the provincial government in the early 1990s. The government at the time was giving this book out to dignitaries and other special guests to give them a pictoral view of the province.

In the summary of the book, it states that Sherman Hines’s purpose is to leave “an impression – crisp, clean and direct; a faultless image that says, This is New Brunswick….”

So I began to leaf through this book, this bold statement of what New Brunswick is. As I turned the pages, I saw numerous photos of Fredericton, Saint John, Edmundston, Caraquet, Grand Falls, Havelock, on and on. But as I reached the end of this great epic photographic descriptor of the ‘picture province’, I realized there was not one photo of Moncton. Nor Dieppe. Nor Riverview. I went through it again. It was as if Sherman had literally carved out Moncton. There was Havelock. There was Sackville. No Moncton.

Now this is just mildly humorous in a way. That a book sanctioned and partially funded by the New Brunswick government just 16 short years ago could exclude a region such as Moncton is bizarre.

But, in a way, 1989 wasn’t Moncton’s finest hour. Downtown was boarded up. The CN Shops had just closed. The ghost of Len Jones roamed through the legions and the pubs. So Sherman, in his wisdom, decided to craft a vision of New Brunswick without the hub and its problems.

That was then. This is now.

It’s kind of amazing in an understated sort of way. Take a bunch of old Grecian Formula Anglos and mix in a bunch of stubborn Acadians, stir the pot, sprinkle with a little McKenna, and presto you have Moncton nouveau – confident, successful, but still rather understated.

Sure, having lived here now eight years, I can say that there is the ocassional mal de tête as we work through our own mini-version of Jerusalem but I think on the whole things have worked out just fine, thank you very much.

I wonder if the government commissioned Sherman and the great Art Doyle to do another “This is New Brunswick” piece, if the community with the most dominant economy and the largest population in New Brunswick would be carved out yet again.

Maybe for Sherman and Art, sleepy little Fredericton is the embodiment of New Brunswick, but there are 125,000 Greater Monctonians that would beg to differ.

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0 Responses to You’ve come a long way, bébé

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think that must have just been a weird anamoly, even in Moncton Sherman could have found SOMETHING worth photographing. I must admit though that I’ve never found Moncton to be physically appealing.

    Just because I”m always pessimistic I just checked some census stats and while 2001 saw a two percent increase in the job participation rate to 68% and a lowering unemployment level to 8% from 9.7 in 1996; more worrying is that median income for Monctonians dropped $2000 to 21,000. Only 25% of Monctonians worked full time for the full year. I guess it ain’t over til it’s over.

  2. David Campbell says:

    You exposed the ‘dark underbelly’ of the Greater Moncton economic story – median incomes did decline (in real dollars) from 1990 to 2000. I’ll be interested to see the 2006 numbers as all those call centres have been forced to raise wages by about 30% since coming here in the 1990s.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Forced to? How come?

  4. David Campbell says:

    Competition, my friend. There are something like 20 call centres in Moncton and agents are moving around to get better wages and that has raised the overall levels. One recent call centre, just a basic one requiring only high school education, was offering $12.75/hour + increases every six months and a benefits plan. Not that $13 bucks/hour is high end but it is almost double the average wage in retail, food service, etc.

  5. Anonymous says:

    When I first read your title I thought the story was going to be about Daniel Allain…haha
    Ifound your discovery astonishing!
    As for labour costs, keep in mind that despite the increase centres still view us as a bargain and continue to expand. Makes sense considering centres are promoting $19/hour starting in Edmonton.
    Stephanie

  6. Anonymous says:

    Strangely enough I found this site: http://www.moncton-industrial-development.com/english/sites/costcalc_callcenter.cfm

    It’s the ‘Moncton For Business Comparitive Cost Model’ for call centres. What’s strange is that all of the pay scales which are cheaper are in HALIFAX, not Moncton. Now, I know that any company reps making the decisions are going to find this stuff out anyway, but it seems odd to feature such information at your own website.

    I’m currently looking for info on call centres, if anybody has a link or list of the ones in Moncton I’d be interested, with manpower would be even better.

    Tying this in with another conversation I did find that this year Asurion created 300 jobs in Moncton this year thanks to a forgiveable loan. The loan was for $900,000 for training, provided employees reached a certain level of training. So there does seem to be a caveat tied in there. Yet the government may simply tell them up front that it isn’t something they are going to enforce, meaning so long as they hire qualified people, they can simply pocket the $900,000. I would still tend to agree though, ‘in theory’ a rebate on payroll taxes is better as it would save money in perpetuity. The up front loan would keep them here for ten years, then they could up and ‘consolidate’ like Clarica did a while ago.

    I would assume that this company chose Moncton over Halifax because capital expenditures are lower, since labour costs, plus the rebate, would be far cheaper in Halifax. The other question that comes to mind though is that we get very little info from the government, so there could be all kinds of other ‘goodies’ tied into this package that we just don’t know about.

    The final thought I had was what are payroll taxes in NB? I couldn’t find this out anywhere. I wonder if NB already has lower payroll taxes (a definite perk that Irving and McCain would have pushed a long time ago), and whether NB’s ‘forgiveable loan’ approach is strategic because otherwise it would lead to a bidding war with Nova Scotia (yet another ‘race to the bottom’)