Don’t mix up things

I think people are making a mistake when they look at Northern New Brunswick in the same way as the urban/rural situation.   They are not the same thing.  Northern New Brunswick has urban centres – by Statistics Canada definition and by precedent.  They are small urbans but they have hospitals, schools (including colleges/unversities), entertainment centres, personal and business services, etc.)

We can and should argue about whether or not size matters when it comes to urbanity but I still think that is a debate that doesn’t have a clear answer.  In 2003, back when the ‘cities’ agenda was all the rage, experts were telling policy makers in Ottawa that there were really only 7-8 urban centres in Canada – and none in Atlantic Canada.   I think that is ludicrous – Moncton, Halifax and Fredericton have grown faster than many of the large urban centres in North America.  In fact, across North America mid sized urbans (100 to 500k) are growing faster than the large urbans.

Any strategy for Northern New Brunswick has to factor in the ‘urban’ issue.  There needs to be urban consolidation to some extent.  The 19th Century model of small self-sufficient towns every few mile down the road is not viable in the 21st Century.  But there will still be people that want to live in the country and there will be people that want to live in the city.  The size of the city and the extent of the ruralness is not some fixed issue.  I think small urban centres will be able to compete for business investment and people attraction.

If people start writing off Northern New Brunswick as some big rural area that needs to be consolidated into southern urban cities, that would be a mistake.  Cripes.  There is a city of over a million people smack dab in the middle of the most inhospitable region of North America (Phoenix).   Finland has highly successful urban centres inside the Arctic Circle. 

If we write off Northern New Brunswick it won’t have much to do with ruralness or cold climate or the East-West highway in Maine.  It will be because of a lack of imagination.  A lack of vision for what could be up there – a 20-30 and even 50 year view.

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7 Responses to Don’t mix up things

  1. If VIA rail had two trains a day to & from Montreal then northern NB would be a great place to live for people with business in the city, either teleworkers or those who need to be in the city infrequently. This group includes artists, consultants, contractors, small business operators, part-time students, etc.

  2. Scott Mackay says:

    In 2003, back when the ‘cities’ agenda was all the rage, experts were telling policy makers in Ottawa that there were really only 7-8 urban centres in Canada – and none in Atlantic Canada. I think that is ludicrous – Moncton, Halifax and Fredericton have grown faster than many of the large urban centres in North America. In fact, across North America mid sized urbans (100 to 500k) are growing faster than the large urbans.

    I completely agree David, there is so much potential for growth in those three cities. Unfortunately, poor policy has acted as a barrier to growth in those cities over the years, not as a catapult. Can you imagine if provincial policies were in tune (or running parallel) with a particular industry. There would be more retention of educated professionals which would increase government revenues considerably, allowing for much needed infrastructure upgrades and viable business investments.

  3. Anonymous says:

    David, I wonder if you (or any of the blog readers) could give a couple of examples of successful jurisdictions that meet these criteria:
    1) Are about the same size as New Brunswick
    2) Have about the same population as New Brunswick
    3) Do not have ONE major city that plays the role of its economic centre of gravity (such as Halifax for Nova Scotia).
    Or, as an alternative:
    3) Has its economic centre of gravity split among two or three urban centres.

    If anybody can give two examples, I will buy your argument that it would be a mistake to write off Northern New Brunswick as some big rural area that needs to be consolidated into southern urban cities.

    I hear all the time people talking about small cities that are successful, but the context (political and economic) is always very different from that of New Brunswick within Canada. From my perspective, every time someone comes up with one example, the evidence is so stretched out that it loses objectivity and, consequently, all credibility. But someone could write a pretty good business case if s/he could find one such jurisdiction.

    Any ideas?

  4. mikel says:

    I can give one that I’ve given numerous times right off the top of my head-and there are LOTS of places in that big world out there.

    Anyway, Vermont is a little smaller than NB, but is at least fairly close-about three quarters the size.

    The population is also a little smaller, but again, is fairly close at three quarters the size.

    There is no ‘one’ dominant city, in fact there is no city over 40,000 people, and there are a couple that are close to that number, creating that ‘split’ amongst its ‘urban centres’. There are also other similarities recounted at AIMS ‘atlantica’ stuff. Industry tends to gravitate towards the south and west, to the large cities, for that reason the state created initiatives in the north-like IBM’s manufacturing plant to be ‘fair’. But no places are ‘identical’, but that’s fairly close. And like I posted before, the state has numerous examples of ‘successes’ for its largely rural population. In literacy and education in the early 90’s the state was where NB is now. It put big resources into education, it invested in rural schools because the data shows the further kids go to school, the less successful they are. That quickly brought the state up to the national average, now they are past it. NB still has the same models it always did, in fact even worse as it increasingly privatizes education and centralizes schools. There are other examples too numerous to mention here, but if the thread goes on I’ll gladly add them.

    I wouldn’t have raised this example if it ‘stretched the evidence’. The numbers are fairly close, but again, simply because a province or region has a particular demographic means nothing about economic development. It’s ludicrous to say, even if there were NO place like New Brunswick-and of course there IS ‘no’ place like NB-or NS, or PEI, or Quebec, etc.

    We aren’t talking about laws of physics here, even laws of physics have been shown to not be constant under all conditions, so the idea that simply because NB ‘is the way it is’ by definition means ‘we should write off northern NB’ is simply that ‘defeatist’ attitude.

    Again, in Bolivia a population of destitutes rose up and threw a multinational corporation out on its ear. Argentina’s President gave the IMF numerous demands and refused many of its policies. And these are dirt poor people with a history of outright persecution.

    So in NB, where there is considerable political freedom, its a different story. If tomorrow a ‘faction’ of the liberal party started talking about ‘separating’ or voting conservative, then everything changes. That’s a stretch I know, but keep in mind that ‘social media’ is creating a whole new way of thinking. The next generation doesn’t get its understanding of the world from the CBC and Irving. As numerous pundits have said, the world is now changing, unfortunately for David people are even LESS willing to simply give corporations the benefit of the doubt (let alone tax dollars). It’s been CLEARLY shown that not only can government provide essential services better than the private sector, but its becoming clearer that they can provide ANY services better. And thats with the often pathetic form of government we have now, what is necessary is for people to come along with the POITICAL (not economic) structure that responds to the will of the people.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @mikel

    It has already said that Vermont has a stagnant economy and that it is expected to remain in that condition for the next 20-30 years.

    But let’s forget that for a moment and accept the proposition that Vermont is a good example to follow. Then the next question is: how did Vermont get there? What initiatives could New Brunswick emulate to get where Vermont is today?

  6. mikel says:

    First, back up that statement. There is simply NO way anybody can make a claim as to what a region’s economy is going to be in THIRTY years. Imagine making claims about Iraq’s future back in 2001.

    And slow growth isn’t the same as NO growth. Once you have a decent economy, then thats at least good enough for most-depending on how you define the ‘economy’. As I’ve mentioned before, Vermont’s economy is tailored for small to medium businesses which means more and better jobs, unlike NB’s.

    So NOW we’ll forget it and ask how it got that way. For initiatives lets start with duplicating the educational model of Vermont. I’ve posted before how the NB government provides the LEAST funding as a percentage of the budget for education. We know there are HUGE problems in this area, and like I said above, we KNOW that the further kids travel to school the worse they do, studies have proven that.

    So at the very least we are talking about massive investment in rural schools- NOT as in the current case, where they are essentially privatizing schools in rural areas just to keep them open. As we saw with Stockholm, education is THE main priority for any area. This is why no life sciences are heading to NB, the population has a large illiterate population which has meant little focus in on higher education.

    There are a whole mess of other issues, but since this is a bottom thread, no point in gettting too detailed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “There is simply NO way anybody can make a claim as to what a region’s economy is going to be in THIRTY years.”
    > I entirely agree.

    “Imagine making claims about Iraq’s future back in 2001.”
    > That was something pretty easy to do. The only ones who didn’t see it where those who didn’t want to see it.

    “And slow growth isn’t the same as NO growth.”
    > Stagnant is different from slow growth.

    “For initiatives lets start with duplicating the educational model of Vermont.”
    > I don’t know enough about Vermont’s educational model, but I do entirely agree with you that education is of major importance.

    “since this is a bottom thread, no point in getting too detailed.”
    > I agree again. But I am more than disappointed with the fact that the topic didn’t deserve much attention. But when it comes to defending positions and ideas of interest groups (as opposed to offering realistic models and suggestions), the response is below expectations.

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