A visit to Freddy Beach

I spent this long weekend in Fredericton. My wife and I take the kids each year as we started our life together in the town and still have fond memories. We did the Saint John trip a couple of weeks ago and had a great time as well.

A couple of observations about Freddy Beach:

1. We drove around the old downtown area – Waterloo Row, University Ave, etc. and were absolutely shocked that we could only find one house for sale in an area of hundreds of houses. For a Monctonian this is unthinkable. Drive around Downtown Moncton this time of year and you will find dozens and dozens of houses for sale. I think that the non-university kids churn in Fredericton must be very low. Moncton, on the other hand, is churn city. People move in and out. I attend a church of 500 people and easily 1/4 of the church or more moves out of Moncton every five years or so.

The transience of Moncton and the permenance of Fredericton is based to the underlying structure of the two economies. In Freddy, you work for the government or university (or in support of those) and they typically tend to be life long jobs. In Moncton, people are constantly being promoted to Toronto or Halifax or finding a lack of upward mobility and moving away. There is some thinking that Moncton needs more regional head offices to provide more upward mobility for workers in the community.

2. Bumped into an old friend who’s a mid level manager in a government department. After a little chit chat, the discussion turned to the election. In his opinion, the Lord government has been very listless and has not pushed for innovation in government services for years. He says there is an appetite for change among the civil service. I don’t know his politics but I imagine it’s a bit harder to be an obvious Liberal and a government worker these days (consider Brad Woodside’s wife).

But upon reflection after our conversation, I found myself disagreeing with him. Consider my logic on this. We know public sector wage increases adjusted for inflation have never been better than under Bernard Lord. We know that public jobs have increased substantially. It’s true that he offended the unions when negotiating these contracts but the outcome has been quite favorable.

In addition, if you don’t have pressure from your political bosses to be more efficient or innovative or to truly solve the province’s challenges, doesn’t that make life easier? Why would you want to change and shift into uncertainty? What if Shawn Graham started cracking the whip?

No, I disagree with my former colleague. I suspect that Fredericton will go strongly Tory because when it comes to your job and income – it truly may be better the devil you know.

I drove around that town. There are new retail stores (Home Depot). There’s new housing developments. There are new government buildings being constructed. There’s quite a positive atmosphere.

Is there an appetite for change?

I don’t see it.

But than again, I have been wildly inaccurate in my election predictions before so we will see.

But I will close on this final note.

There is a serious divide emerging in this province. I have had the opportunity to work and interact with folks all over the province over the past 10 years and for better or worse, the north is bleeding hard – certain areas harder than others. The Miramichi is tilting on the edge – the closure of that mill which could come as early as next year – will push that town is a very bad direction. The Acadian Peninsula has shed thousands of people but is no better off (as those preferring a ‘consolidation’ would have hoped). The three cities in the south are doing much better but when you look at some of the underlying drivers – in-province migration, the peaking of call centre jobs, the build out of new retail, etc. it is truly hard to see what will drive economic growth in the urban centres over the next ten years.

Despite the great pub food (Lunar Rogue), great dinner (Brunos) and great QOL (all those walking trails), Frederictonians would be well advised to think a little harder about the next ten years and what’s in store for their city. UNB’s student population is dropping and government funding will be serious challenged. UNB hopes to benefit from the proposed realignment of post-secondary education in the province but if I were them I wouldn’t put much stock in that.

The government can’t continue to hire workers at a record pace. Eventually the drop in population and other factors will put a limit on the new money available by the provincial government to be spent. So Fredericton can’t count on that source of jobs either.

Information technology jobs? Maybe but not much luck there in the past 5-6 years.

Maybe my old friend is smarter than I think on this issue.

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0 Responses to A visit to Freddy Beach

  1. MonctonLandlord says:

    I spent the long weekend in Grand Falls, and I appreciate the new roads, there were plenty of new construction and I stayed at the brand new Best Western, what a great weekend, it is nice to know other parts of the province appear to be doing OK. Many (Grand Falls) friends admitted that they are seeking employees, and they go get them in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John. What a nice change to hear a rural community trying to lure people with real jobs waiting. As opposed to the acadian peninsula crying “please come back” but really, come back to what? So Grand Falls is also very bilingual, the friendly folks that served us got 20-30% tips, in particular the Laid Back Pub and evening at the Broadway (a mix between Cosmo and Igloo).

    While on the highway, i was struck with the many Uhaul trucks on the road, hard to keep track, but looked like many going north and many going south, my guess is 50/50.

    Had to stop in Freddy for lunch… I was really impressed with section of downtown, where a movie scene was being shot, and locals were in cafes and pubs glancing at the movie stars trying to see if they would recognize someone famous.

    Well, just like Lord said in the recent tourism campaign: ‘’This summer, let’s get active with our families!’’ – Premier Bernard Lord

    A campaign to get NBers to travel the Province. The annoying poor quality commercials aired on TV most of the summer looked like they spent the entire $10 million encouraging NBers to drive to the acadian peninsula to buy their beer and lottery tickets.

    While sipping a coffee, it was interesting to read the paper with a title like tourism down 10% in NB. Out of all the factors listed in the paper, none blamed the Provincial Tourism Department!

  2. MonctonLandlord says:

    Show me the money, expat New Brunswicker tells Lord

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2006/09/01/nb-alberta.html

    Sorry to monopolize the response, sometimes a bit off topic, but this one could not wait till the election was over… enjoy!

  3. scott says:

    I was watching JFK last night and suddenly this came to mind:

    What will come first? The day that New Brunswickers finally see an end to our “have not” status or Americans are able to find out the truth about the Kennedy assasinations?

    Let’s hope were not watching CNN in 2029 still wondering about the former.

  4. David Campbell says:

    The two questions I would have are:

    1) Will we still be watching Wolf Blitzer in 2029?

    2)Will we be able to say “I remember when New Brunswick was the backwater of North America” in 2029?

  5. scott says:

    LOL!! How can one not be an optimist after living in Moncton for 15 years.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I truly enjoy reading your blog. When will this line of thinking appear in our daily newspaper? Probably the wrong question to ask.

    As far as your friend is concerned, I would say that job satisfaction is driven by people sense of how they fit within an organisation, or their sense of purpose. Civil servants want to make a difference, may be more than their Premier’s…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the above. There is more to a job than being ‘safe’, and the number of bureaucratic paper shufflers who do little more is drastically overrated. If you think those who work in the welfare department are happy with their jobs because they are ‘safe’ when they have to deal with the thousands of miserable desperate souls you’re deluding yourself (thats a metaphoric you, not pointing at anybody in particular).

    One thing about the economy rarely mentioned is how quickly it can change. Remember the montrous deficit and voila, three years later it was gone.

  8. David Campbell says:

    I have gotten a few emails from my government employed friends. I apologize for any offense. It just seemed logical to me that if your boss isn’t pushing you hard to get better and be innovative that would be a ‘good thing?’. But upon reflection, I realize that there’s more to a job than just a paycheque and government workers – maybe more than the private sector – want meaning out of their jobs. At least that’s the tone of these emails. And I agree with you.