On Nackawic and literacy

It’s funny how the media hammered the Molson deal in Moncton (mostly) but all but glossed over the biggest New Brunswick incentive to industry in years – namely the $67 million in loans and loan guarantees to India’s Aditya Birla Group to reopen the mill in Nackawic. This $67 million goes to support 250 jobs.

Now don’t get tripped up on the terminology – grant, loan, loan guarantee, forgiveable loan, investment – the bottom line is that the government shelled out $67 million (and may or may not get any back) to stimulate 250 jobs in Nackawic.

Am I complaining? Not really but it doesn’t seem like there is much logic, and therefore any real underlying strategy, to the economic development activities of the Premier and his team. A half dozen other mills close in northern New Brunswick and nada – this one $67 million. Maybe it’s about the diversification. I dunno.

I just wish there was $67 million laying around when a large, new economy project came along. One that is based on emerging industries instead of dying ones.

I suspect the Premier read that Newfoundland’s Danny Williams just shelled out $130 million to keep a mill in rural Newfoundland open and said, I’d better do this.

All this proves is that, miraculously, there seems to be lots of money laying around for politically sensitive projects and none for long term development projects.

On literacy

Guess what. No news here. Just an affirmation. New Brunswick and Newfoundland are the most illiterate provinces in Canada. What is really disturbing is the gap emerging between NB and Nova Scotia/PEI. I can handle being out performed by Alberta and Ontario but Nova Scotia? Why are Nova Scotia’s much more literate than NBers? And the difference is considerable. Over 55% of Nova Scotians score in the two highest levels of literacy 3-4 (out of the four levels) compared to only 44% of New Brunswickers.

I know I’ll get nasty responses but I’ll say it anyway. The data is clear that out-migrants from New Brunswick, on average, are much higher educated than the province as a whole. That, by definition, explains these poor scores.

The government may be wise not to address these issues. The more literate folks are, the more they leave. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 23% of British Columbians have a literacy level of 4 compared to only 12% of New Brunswickers.

But don’t worry, Margaret-Ann Blaney, minister of training and employment development says government will be unveiling a literacy plan shortly.

I get goosebumps just thinking about it.


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0 Responses to On Nackawic and literacy

  1. Anonymous says:

    The education system in any province has a finite number of “teaching hours” per student per year. It occurs to me that some of NB’s performance may have to do with what we’re teaching and how the national testing process is measuring performance.
    In large measure, we’re streamlining our best and brightest through a two language education system. Although few would argue against that deployment of education resources, it crosses my mind that less adept students might not be getting enough (or the proper) education to acheive functional numeracy and literacy.
    Yes, we’ve historically been a resource based province, and I strongly suspect we’ve historically spent less per student than Ontario, Alberta, etc. But your point is valid – why are we performing so poorly against NS?
    One of the few differences would appear to be our quest to provide education in two languages.
    I realize it’s unpopular to suggest this sort of reasoning
    However, to illustrate an aspect of this same phenomenon, has anyone compared the selection of books available in the Moncton Library compared to, say Halifax? Because we’re providing resources in both languages, we have far less titles we can provide in either one.
    Economically, it’s not feasible to conceive we can provide duality in service for the same per capita cost. It works when you hire a bilingual employee (a two language employee for the price of one), but not when you’re trying to stock a library, and perhaps not when you’re trying to acheive a numeracy or literacy competency target…

  2. David Campbell says:

    For me, and I don’t say this in a trivial fashion, that might be an acceptable price to pay to support bilingualism. I have two kids in immersion and their English is better than most kids in the English only program. I would not advocate dumbing down our attempts to be a bilingual province. Maybe we need to spend a lot more to support the two language education than provinces primarily unilingual. But that costs money and New Brunswick is poor – you know the rest of the story.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I find both the Molson and Nackawic deals shocking. I recall it was $9 Million for 20 jobs at Molson ($450,000) per job. The Nackawic deal is “ONLY” $268,000 per job ($67M/250). As a taxpayer…I find both VERY hard to swallow.

  4. scott says:

    On Nackawic
    I am right there with you on this one David . Though it is important for any region to retain the business they have…this deal, in my opinion, is nothing more than a political bandaid solution. All this does is expose the fundamental problems the government has with real economic growth and job creation.

    On literacy
    As Dennis Miller once said:

    “You know there is a problem with the education system when you realize that out of the 3 R’s only one begins with an R.”

    I digress, I notice that we were lumped in with Newfoundland as the most illiterate provinces in Canada. All I can say to that is if you’re going to be stupid, you may as well sound cool. And Newfoundlamders beat us to that as well. Do we ever win at anything in this province. YEEEESSSH!

    Anyway, I am in agreement with you that this low literacy rate can be directly attributed to the out-migration of many of our educated in this province. To add to that, I believe that even the less educated who still dream of a better existence away from government assistance(EI and welfare) have left as well. We are left with the bottom of the barrel who buy into this “culture of defeat”. And it doesn’t help that the traditional political parties spread this horrible mantra.

    If the education level of this province is to turn around, it will require true economic growth that will keep some of the best and brightest here in NB.

    In a province as poor as NB, the leadership needs to start at the top. And these two examples in your post show that it hasn’t.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Terminolgy IS important, a loan guarantee is NOT a loan, it simply means you’ll cover an employer if he tanks. Thats a big difference because if the company wants to collect that dough they need to do some fancy accounting (which isn’t out of the realm of impossible but if you have to show you are tanking shareholders tend to frown on such business developments-unless you also tell them WHY you look like your tanking.

    For education there is a couple of things to note. New Brunswick is even more rural than PEI and NS, which explains the current ‘home schooling’ issue between the province and feds.

    My question would be if we don’t want an elitist society why isn’t EVERYONE in french immersion? Back in my day it was only the kids considered ‘smarter’ than others, but as it started at grade 7, and may now start earlier, then elitism has lots to do with it. My little sister did better in elementary than I did, she got in, I didn’t. After that of course her education got all the bells and whistles that mine lacked-particularly at the high school level where college preparation is the most important theme.

    The rural-urban thing again rears it’s head because I doubt most rural schools have the resources of Moncton or Fredericton, or St. John.

    It also coincides heavily with the dropout rate, which is especially prevalant in places with large student to teacher ratios, as well as a new phenomenon-the ritalin addicted child.

    In Ontario the dropout rate exploded when Harris brought in standardized curriculae, it seems to have ‘levelled out’, but now the province ranks lower than its american neighbours.

    Keep in mind though that the test is more than ‘read this’, it is actually a test, which means that not everyone who quantifies as illiterate cannot read a sentence.

    Yet it’s clearly a problem and education directly affects worker security and opportunity, so call your local laubach literacy society and donate some time to help teach someone to read. I took their course and it’s well worth your while.