The New Brunswick government put forward two profound changes to the way it does business this week. The first was its move to cut the number of health authorities down to two and to locate them in Miramichi and Bathurst. The second was the dropping of early French Immersion as a ‘solution’ the problem that the bulk of English kids aren’t properly learning French.
I have had several people write me emails asking me to elaborate my position on these two issues. I have strong opinions on both but I am reluctant to go into great detail on this blog because I don’t feel particularly qualified to render an ‘informed’ opinion on the subjects.
Sometimes I am amazed by some of the things that are said on this blog in relation to economic development. I am not saying that people shouldn’t take opinions on issues unless they have a Phd in the subject but there is always a broader context that my small window on an issue that I have not well researched may not take into consideration.
So, I don’t want to serve up a long diatribe on either one of these issues but I will make a couple of generalized statements that have a wide applicability (IMO) and that don’t require a deep knowledge of the issues.
On French Immersion
The Times & Transcript intoned “We can no longer justify a system that works well only for the few.” Now, while that sounds good enough, if it means dumbing down the system even more so that even the few don’t get good French Immersion, that would be a huge mistake. The goal must be to raise more students to a better proficiency not drop everyone to the lowest common denominator. I remember multiple English parents saying they didn’t want to put their kids into French Immersion but they felt they had to because the ‘English only’ system was for second class students. IMO, if parents aren’t committed to French Immersion for their kids, it is bound to fail. Secondly, the recommendations call for reallocating the funding used for Early Immersion to strengthen Late Immersion. I sincerely hope this was not just a cost issue.
On Health reorganization
If you have read this blog at all you know my opinion here. The cost of health care in New Brunswick (with a stagnant and even declining population) is increasing the same as in fast growing provinces. The cost is up dramatically in the past 10 years – well over double – on the same population base. And it is projected to eat up the bulk of all new spending into the future. And, and I mean any, effort to control health care costs while maintaining good quality health services, needs to be put forward. However, and again this is a generalized statement because I don’t know the specifics, given the vast differences between growth in certain NB communities versus others, it will be a challenge to provide balance and fairness in the health care system.
This is a very tough issue. Do you cut hospitals in rural NB and build new facilities in Fredericton or Moncton just because the populations are growing? My general concept is that when communities are in decline, the government downsizing its efforts in them just adds to the problems. It becomes a downward spirl. We have less population in Miramichi so we need less government services which cuts the number of high paying jobs which cuts more deeply into population which requires less government….. Anyway, you get the picture.
We need to focus on fixing the underlying structural economic development problems in these regions of New Brunswick and then we will have less need to cut health or any other government service. I realize that is Pollyannish but it remains my baseline position.