Dispatches from the road: Northern Ontario

Greetings from small rural Northern Ontario. A few comments this morning:

French Immersion
Kelly Lamrock has announced a compromise on French Immersion. Grade 3 will be the entry point for French Immersion. I hope this is part of a broader reform that will lead to better overall outcomes.

What really matters
I read here that the government is ramping up its efforts to help the Miramichi’s economic development:

The measures the province is taking include helping the city purchase new buses to improve its transit system, including one bus that will be wheelchair accessible. The provincial government will also help Enterprise Miramichi assist local entrepreneurs in the development of business plans. The government will also help the city with its wellness initiatives. Statistics Canada says Miramichi has one of the highest rates of obesity in the country.

Buses, support for local entrepreneurs and wellness. I don’t want to criticize these initiatives but let’s face it. The only reason why Miramichi hasn’t collapsed is that hundreds of the former mill workers are commuting to Alberta and Saskatchewan for work and sending their paycheques back here.

At a broader level, I talk about the range of issues that impact a positive business climate in my column today in the TJ.

Importance of Anchors
…but the bottom line is that communities need anchor industrial projects. These companies usually employ a fairly large percentage of the local workforce and they set the bar on wages and benefits. They are the anchor on which much of the rest of the economic grows. That is what I see in Northern Ontario. The communities that still have mills and mines tend to be doing well. Those that lose these anchors are not doing well.

Of course it won’t be easy. Of course a lot of suspect projects will come out of the woodwork to try and take advantage of the situation but the government should be vigilant. The AV Nackawic mill is an example of this – even though some have criticized it. All of these half measures will not replace the two lost mills in Miramichi.

The hollowing out of Aliant continues
I have a lot of excolleagues and acquaintances at Aliant so I don’t want to criticize them too much but it is a fact that NBTel has devolved from a major economic development driver incubating new ideas and new technologies to a pure play, old school POTS. The TJ discusses the latest moves here. The problem is that lots of jobs are gone (high paying jobs) and the innovative potential of telecom is all but gone as well. I was one of those naive guys that thought Bell might continue to use Aliant as – what did they call it – a “living lab” for technology development. Nope.

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0 Responses to Dispatches from the road: Northern Ontario

  1. Anonymous says:

    The loss of NB Tel has significant indirect impacts. Also plays into Savoie’s concern about head offices; we have few left.

    One we do have is NB Power. We should be challenging NBP with ED initiates, facilitating the growth of local suppliers and spin off companies and research into new technology and alternate energy. Some of this goes on now but is not emphasized.
    An economic impact objective would be a good bonus objective.

    NBP is one of those anchors that is already here but not be exploited.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Had the pleasure of meeting a very nice former woodsworker last week,whom I had not seen in a while.He home on vacation from The Fort.
    Said he decided to go out there ,but would not stay for less than 30,000.
    I said bet you making 100,000.He grinned and said quite a bit more than that.45 years old and El Dorado.Moved his whole family out.
    NB maybe better start catering to its retired population and hurriedly start more ties with the US,cause Harper ain’t your friend but will be PM for a long time.

  3. Danny D'Amours says:

    Northern Ontario, eh? I see a lot of parallels between Northern Ontario and Northern NB.

    A few weeks ago, I drove along the Superior coast and into my old hometown of Manitouwadge and saw what an ailing forestry sector is doing to single industry towns not only Northern NB but to Northern Ontario as well. There appears to be a big split however between towns based on mining and those based on forestry.

    Towns like Red Lake and Sudbury are booming as the historically high metal prices are generating a lot of activity and hiring for exploration and extraction. On the other hand, single industry forestry towns such as White River and Nipigon are hurting badly.

    I know that towns such as Hearst are trying to diversify and get into biofuels research. Perhaps Miramichi should be doing the same. Perhaps they could partner up in a “twin cities” concept.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The provincial government will also help Enterprise Miramichi assist local entrepreneurs in the development of business plans.

    And this is something new? Geesh, Enterprise NB (and Enterprise Miramichi) wouldn’t exist without handouts from the state, both federally and provincially. Some good that has done that region over the past 10 or so years.

    Let’s be honest, ENB shouldn’t exist (it should either be reformed, downsized or disbanded) and all the ppl working there should get a real job (and enter the private sector) as that would help the New Brunswick economy grow.

    Keeping the umbilical cord constantly attached to government (and overpaid government consultants) has done nothing for private sector growth or overall growth of the economy for that matter. Time for a change. Time for some real economic freedom! Time to decentralize the central planning apparatus and its mentality in freddy.