N.B.’s population woes are expected to worsen

The Daily Gleaner ran a story yesterday on the population decline in New Brunswick. Campbell Morrison takes a balanced look at the issue.

Statistics Canada predicts the decline could mean the province would be home to as few as 708,000 people by 2026.

The issue confounded governments as long ago as 1997, when former premier Frank McKenna asked Joan Kingston to head a select committee on demographics. Kingston, now the principle secretary in Premier Shawn Graham’s office, said the issue is key to New Brunswick’s future prosperity.

“It is a very important issue when you consider that, in order to increase productivity and in order to have good economic engines firing on all cylinders, you need a workforce to do that,” she said in an interview.

“It is very important (for) economic development.”

I hope Ms. Kingston et. al. understand the chickenness and eggness of this issue. You need industry to attract people. You don’t attract people and then go get industry. The trick is to convince industry that people will move here for good jobs.

So, I would survey expats to confirm this theory. I would publish all the inmigration data for a place like Moncton that has shown an ability to attract several thousand people from outside New Brunswick in the past decade.

If we spend too much time on the people side of the equation and not enough on the economic side you will end up with – surprise, surprise – Bernard Lord’s model. Go to Toronto with Labatt beer, invite expats to a room and tell them about all the opportunities in New Brunswick. Then send them to a website that shows only call centre jobs.

It didn’t work for Bernie and it won’t work for Shawn.

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0 Responses to N.B.’s population woes are expected to worsen

  1. Anonymous says:

    Population decline is always a thorny issue. People leave when the economy is in the tank and rarely return unless something concrete tempts them. I agree that this investment needs to be addressed but we have to stop thinking of it as a chicken and egg situation because it is not. It is quite simple; nobody will return to nothing. The problem is that a lack of a viable labor force does not help persuade potential investors to locate here but NS has shown us that it can still be done.
    Take the economy of Ireland as an example. Government documents opened to the public this week show that the country was in a ‘deep and dark recession’ in 1976. Look at them now. In 30 years!
    An economy bleeding people has reversed this to an economy of repatriation and inmigration from Eastern Europe in 30 years.
    Southern Ireland is 7,000 square km smaller than New Brunswick and shares no borders with any super power. They have a population of 3.5 – 4 million. But then again they dont have JD Irving creaming everything off, hindering the economy and monopolising things for themselves.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Again, the Ireland example is a non starter. It benefitted because being a member of the EU, the union gave Ireland the go ahead to have lower taxes than other areas because it recognized that it was going to be a backwater forever, perhaps Canada was their reasoning.

    In other words its a federal problem, so stop dealing with it as a provincial problem. How do you think Ontario would be managing without those federal dollars in the auto sector and R&D in the Quebec? Like the states Canada is discovering that virtually the only way to prop up an economy is to LITERALLY prop it up. Most of this is done through the ‘war economy’ which also gets increasing dollars in Canada.

    As Harper has proven, the canadian economy would plummet if it isn’t propped up. Once they dismantle the wheat board in Manitoba farmers will be just like in New Brunswick-rich, but far far fewer in numbers.

    Likewise Saskatchewan is propped up but agricultural spending, largely because of the quid pro quo that the feds have offered to Monsanto, largely doing most of their research for them.

    In Alberta they bailed out mad cow, while still have massive subsidies even for industries that make billions. And again, BC ports now saw a huge cheque coming their way.

    The ‘chicken and egg’ is NOT about economy, those are all POLITICAL moves. It’s ‘how do you get federal money when you have no voters, how do you get more voters when you don’t have any federal dollars’.

    THAT is the problem, and McKenna, even if you think he was superman in a business suit, failed miserably at it. Who here thinks Graham has the same business acumen and charisma as Mckenna? Anybody?

    Ireland had the exact same problem. They got a better offer from the EU than they ever got from Britain and they took it. But they addressed it as a nation, not as a province which is under the fed’s thumb.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Irish example is most relevant if you knew what you were actually talking about.
    The Irish didnt have anyone’s permission to lower their taxes, in fact they were hauled before Brussels when taxes were lowered and inflation increased by a couple of points. They opened up to globalisation and made it easier for outside investment to operate in the country focusing on IT, financial brokerage and foreign banks and major manufacturing investment from the States such as Intel, Microsoft, HP, Google etc etc. All of this flew in the face of the EU rules and in spite of the British not because they got a better offer. Ireland always had good trade links with Britain and always will because they are near neighbours but that precentage is less than their trade with countries further afield such as the US.
    In 1986 Ireland had an average unemployment rate of 21%; today it is less than 4% which would be regarded as full employment. They are conducting job fairs all over the world to try and attract workers to fill positions. Historically, the British were never of any real assistance to the Irish they were the Irvings in another guise.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ireland has been in the european union for almost fifty years, you are talking about recent history. Investment began coming into Ireland immediately after joining, but it took more than three decades to begin to get out of the colonial mindset left by the british.

    Ireland is arguably a ‘tax haven’, much like the carribean. However, notice several local changes that are a result of european union rulings- the royalty free status of artists was recently lifted, and Bono and friends have swiftly taken their money out. Tax loopholes are also being closed, unlike Canada the Irish government is trying to get some of that money back and announced that tax evaders have one year to declare income or else be prosecuted.

    Ireland benefits from being the only continental player in the union which is avowedly english, making it easier for american businesses, but ‘enterprise tax zones’ also make that profitable.

    That doesn’t mean NB can’t do like Ireland (and other places) and make similar changes, however, there is little wiggle room.

    Royalty free status is a non starter because income is taxed federally. On this continent I can open a tax free account in Wisconsin or any other state if I want. Canada’s tax rules are so lax for those with income that there is no reason for anybody to ‘keep money in NB’.

    If all that matters is employment, you don’t need to look at Ireland, right next door in Maine and New Hampshire they have full employment.

    But as has been discussed, taxes are only ONE element, and only a minor one. The big players can literally walk into government offices and say “what will you give me to set up shop here?”

    A provincial tax break will do little, the province already has among the lowest tax rates in the country. The government can perhaps TRY a ‘tax holiday’, but as David has mentioned, it makes more sense to attach tax savings to employment.

    But the central idea is the same, the EU pushed investment into Ireland early on in order to advance its economy (with tradeoffs, just ask anybody who lives there). Now they are doing the same in eastern europe. What is seldom discussed is that far better than Ireland, the most economically advanced city in europe is Prague. Ireland is essentially Dublin with suburbs.

    And of course people were saying the same thing about Japan in the eighties, just because you are up one year, doesn’t mean things stay that way.

  5. Scott says:

    As Dalton Camp once said, “expatriate maritimers who return home to live are nothing new. […] They come back to retire, to weather their midlife crisis, or to live out the fantasies they acquired after years sniffing exhaust in big city traffic.”

    However, the problem with this is, since confederation, there has never been a staple [industry] in the maritimes that has changed the migratory patterns from west to east wherein there is an influx of workers to the region. And because of this longstanding trend, our region has slowly become a bastion for people who don’t like to work all that much. As David said, “You need industry to attract people.” And as usual, he is dead on.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I doubt that, very much. That’s an elitist view that really has no basis in reality. So far as I know there has NEVER been a sociological or anthropological study where anybody has ever actually TALKED to New Brunswickers. There is a reality that is the same everywhere-that people don’t want to work ALL THE TIME. THere is also the reality that people want a self fulfilling job that is not degrading and transitory.

    That view of maritimers is fictional, as hours worked are as high in NB as in Ontario.

    However, there’s more to life than statistics. Take Ontario’s auto sector…what do you think an automotive employee does? They stand on an assembly line for eight hours a day doing a job that the sector is anxiously looking to technology to replace him.

    They get good pay, which keeps all you economic development people happy-and them UNhappy. Their skills cannot be used in other sectors, hence the government has to continually prop them up, and alcoholism and other drug problems are rampant because of the status of the work.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ireland joined the EU in 1973. This is not 50 years ago.If you cant do the math for yourself let me know and I will help.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There was no such thing as the ‘european union’ in 1973. They joined the ‘european community’. The european union wasn’t created until the nineties.

    However, the agenda of the european union was brought to Ireland over fifty years ago as the European Movement (www.europeanmovement.ie). This was a group that facilitated political and economic union that harmonized regulations and brought companies from the continent to Ireland to help grow its economy. It had affiliates in many member countries who sacrificed short term gain for long term growth in Ireland (namely, favourable referendum votes). When you have people voting on membership, you have to make sure that you’ve proven it is well worth while-something Canada has yet to learn.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Actually it was the EEC (European Economic Community)

  10. Scott says:

    Their skills cannot be used in other sectors, hence the government has to continually prop them up, and alcoholism and other drug problems are rampant because of the status of the work.

    Hey anon 9:16 AM,

    Good try. What next? Maybe next you will be quoting straight from the James Laxer bible, in that, you will be pontificating that “money” has become an industry in itself and that the authority of the state is being challenged by central bankers and big business. Well, I hate to break up your anti-capitalist party, but what has socialism and this anti-business rhetoric ever accomplished in Canada. Nothing, that’s what.

    I for one believe that a flourishing private sector as well as a strong Bay Street are essential for the further strengthening and renewal of Main Street. The two have demonstrated they can work hand in hand if the state limits its interference. Unfortunately, you [the left] has unfairly demonized work [capitalism] and see it only as slave labour rather than a means to strengthen individual freedom and free enterprise.

    If you want to know the true culprit of increased alcoholism and depression, than you need not look any further than statism for your answer. Lack of economic opportunity and an over-reliance on the state, has left our region with little economic freedon and even less reginal pride and self-esteem. So the next time you decide that a strong market and a skilled labour force is not the answer, than remember where we will be without either.

    Don’t you think it is high time to look for serious solutions through both the private sector as well as through government instead of demonizing the former and using the latter for a crutch?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of ‘trys’ thats a good one. Unfortunately for you, not everybody is only capable of debating at the level of “grunt..you bad left…grunt…no, you bad right”

    The reality of the auto industry is exactly that, all you have to do is research it (though its a far cry to say that its ‘bad’ just because its repetitive. Flipping burgers is also repetitive, so people are free to find constructive uses of time outside of work. Yet it is typically the case that jobs with higher levels of education tend to have more satisfied workers.

    However, to cut short the endless ranting about the silliness of arguing ideologies the reality is that ‘constructive work’ is something EVERYBODY wants. You may like to think that all those people flipping burgers in downtown Toronto are very happy because there are people on Bay Street who can buy their burgers…believe that if that’s your economic ‘religion’. As anybody with half a brain will note that in NB the best jobs are government ones, and for a reason. So people can argue for more private sector growth if they want, for my part I’d prefer that more of the wealth that is handed over to Irving, McCain, UPN, and Fraser simply stay in the province which would enable more of those good jobs to accrue. But keep arguing for more Irving gas pump jobs and lousy call centre jobs, I’m sure there are SOME New Brunswickers who have never worked in either of them and so may sympathize with that view.

    In reality, there’s a reason why people like Marx spent all his time talking about ‘workers’. A fisherman may only ‘work’ for part of the year, but they work in hazardous conditions where their very lives are at stake. They do it for relatively little pay considering they could lose their life all so people can put food on the table.

    But the remarks above pointing that such people are the ‘scurge’ of the maritimes because they have the audacity to collect money from the government for part of the year and aren’t flipping burgers misses the point that in the province there are sitting representatives who have worked less than three months in the past year and yet have a minimum salary of $60,000. Likewise, there are people who are among the wealthiest who do nothing but speculate on currency, in other words they gain even more wealth by making other people miserable. So to say there is a monolithic thing called ‘work’ is certainly short sighted. Likewise there are ‘corporate welfare bums’ like the Irvings who get handed money on a platter, far far more money than those fishermen will ever recieve. For socialists, that’s exactly the point-investors don’t ‘work’.

    Say what you want, I’m happy that those EI dollars are coming to those fishermen and lumbermen, if only more industries could manage what they do.

    Ironically, subtract the massive brainwashing, the ‘right’ and ‘left’ are virtually identical in the province, the difference is that in socialism industrial benefits go to workers, whereas the ‘right’ (or ‘you’) want the benefits to go to investors. The Irvings certainly love those kinds of believers.

    That’s because in reality there is no such thing as ‘capitalism’, just read the first chapter of “The Wealth of Nations” and anybody can discover that. If anything we have what could be called “state sponsored corporatism”. That’s equally as far from capitalism as it is from socialism-so join the club, you might want to attend some Marxist meeting as the aims of ‘capitalists’ and ‘socialists’ are virtually identical.