French immersion: redux

I still think we haven’t had the proper discussion about french immersion in the schools and about bilingualism in general.  For the past 40 years or so, bilingualism in New Brunswick has meant a serious effort to ensure there are services, infrastructure and institutions for the French speaking population.  While there is certainly room for improvement I think that enormous strides have been made.

But this is not about bilingualism – it is about ensuring services, infrastructure and institutions in English and French.

We do not have bilingual radio stations, newspapers, cultural institutions (very few), schools, etc and we aren’t making much effort to encourage bilngualism.

My kids are all in French Immersion and they all speak French quite well but unless we force them they never speak French in a social situation – ever.  We live in Moncton and they never interact with Francophones and never engage French language media, institutions, etc.

In fact, it seems that the only reason to learn French for English kids in this province is the threat that the best jobs will be closed to them without it. 

And that is not – by far – a healthy reason to learn a second language. 

Our kids need to celebrate the historical development of two languages in this province and the important role that the Acadians have played here in our evolution as a province.

It is amazing to me that the Grand Dérangement is not taught in English schools in this province and Acadian history in general is hardly mentioned.

Particularly in Moncton but in the province as a whole we need to get beyond a conception of bilingualism as a legal and human rights issue and evolve to bilingualism as essence of community.  I’m not naive.  I realize that the english language is pervasive and efforts need to be undertaken to protect the minority language. 

But as I have said before the best way to protect French is to encourage its use more widely in society.  Over 2/3 of the people moving into Greater Moncton are anglophones or non-French speaking immigrants.  No matter how draconian our language ‘laws’ we will have far less French spoken in Moncton (and New Brunswick) in 30 years without an effort to get more anglophones and immigrants speaking French – not as some sword of damocles handing over their head if they want a good job – but as a social and community communication tool. 

I say open it up.  Have kids from French and English school districts submit joint assignments in French.  I say set up project teams where middle and high school kids interact (in French).  I say make watching French language TV programming and reading French media part of the curriculum.  I say offer French language training (maybe Web-based as a start) to all English speaking people in the province for free.  I say we encourage our English language institutions to foster the use of French – slowly over time this could have an effect.  I still chuckle when I think about that group of old timers at the Baptist church learning French once a week in the church basement.  We need more of that.

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27 Responses to French immersion: redux

  1. Don Dennison says:

    You’re right. Better chances of getting a job may be the prevailing motive for parents to want their children to be bi-lingual, but it shouldn’t be the driving motivation. Learning a second language has enormous educational and developmental advantages. And it makes third and fourth language acquisition easier, a huge advantage today and in the future. The New Brunswick advantage ought to be that we have the geographical and cultural context to make learning French more accessible, and a natural choice for the reasons you describe. This is perhaps our greatest single natural advantage – we just need the imagination and confidence to forge ahead to give all our students a real opportunity.
    I don’t agree with the concept of mixing English and French first-language students under the guise of bi-lingual education, but do think that all students should be learning both languages from the earliest grades, as a matter of course and not on an optional basis.

  2. Scott Mackay says:

    Good post. This hits home for me as I’m currently attempting to take the rust off my french (I was once fully bilingual in HS) by watching the news on radio-canada every evening.

    A question occurred to me while watching the news last night in that “what constitutes a fully bilingual individual?”

    When working in Ottawa I had the privilege of sharing office space with a francophone from NB. She could easily navigate between the two languages, but could not write english for the life of her. As for myself, my rusty french was good enough for my boss to pass as bilingual (much like my co-workers english was sufficient enough), but was not comfortable writing french and usually sent correspondence and other things to translation.

    But this is where things became complicated. After a year or so, our office received complaints regarding the fact that I wasn’t a francophone (they said it was my french, but nobody ever complained about it over the phone, and neither did my boss). Anyway, I was let go because of the problems people had with my french (yeah right). Anyway, I have always know that these stereotypes existed, but the problem I had, really, was not with the cultural differences that existed, it was with the guidelines set forth by the federal government on what constitutes bilingualism (in the workforce)?

    Is it a realistic goal to think that a majority of Canadians (either french or english) will reach a level of proficiency where they are able to write perfect sentences (and in some cases reports and studies) in their non-native language? Many can barely read and write to a grade 12 level in many provinces in their own language upon high school graduation, let alone in another. So the only way ppl will become fully bilingual, on the anglophone side, stretching into their non-public school years is if they:

    1.) Immerse themselves in a school/university where they can continue using the language. But will most go into complicated degrees such as engineering, computer science and pre-law/pre-med in their non-native tongue? I have reason to believe the numbers probably wouldn’t back up that latter claim.

    2.) Enter a job that is bilingual (probably won’t be a good job if you are coming right out of hs school without an education or experience). So you could say, that in this case, bilingualism wouldn’t be promoting excellence, but just mediocrity.

    3.) Hope your dad or mom divorces and re-marries a person who speaks another language (preferably french) so that you could carry on at the dinner table and during leisure time.

    4.) You take it upon yourself to keep up with your other language, watch tv, listen to radio read books and magazines, etc.

    But let’s be realistic, even if you do the above, their will be a slim chance (3 out of the 4 cases above) that you will progress to the point where you write the language in the proficiency required.

    So again, I say, what really constitutes being fully bilingual in the workforce? And can this level of proficiency be maintained amongst a majority of the population you’re hoping to be bilingual without infrastructure or programs to assist in this goal (out of the public school system)?

  3. Scott Mackay says:

    Just to be fair (and clarify), I don’t believe that french immersion services or language programs should be scaled back. On the contrary, they should be increased.

    If they aren’t, then it’s like an athlete training for years for the Olympic games only to stop training (eat Big Macs and drink beer) for two or three years prior to the games and wonder why they didn’t win a medal or even place respectably.

    So why should the government ever believe that those who were trained in a second language will be bilingual down the road without the con’t training necessary to keep it up. That’s the question that has to be answered.

  4. mikel says:

    There are a lot of issues there, first, is the very real problem that french immersion IS essentially elitist. Numerous critics have commented that if a child has ANY difficulty at all the first step is to remove them from the program. It is essentially ‘where the smart kids go’.

    As for services, the first comment is more of a rural-urban issue. We’ve talked about this numerous times, but services in rural areas are non-existent. FI isn’t even available in most of these places.

    As for immersion itself, we haven’t heard much about the supposed ‘changes’. At the CBC is a story about the new trauma director, and how a very qualified doc from St. John isn’t bilingual enough-he is bilingual, but states that they changed the requirements so that he doesn’t fit them. All so the job can go to Quebec doctor. Meanwhile, one of the changes Lamrock was discussing was the extreme requirements of what exactly bilingual meant for the civil service. My sister took french immersion from grade 7 (when it was first introduced) and the program even got a trip to Paris in High School (we were lucky to get…well, actually in High School we never got ANYWHERE).

    All that and when she graduated she STILL didn’t meet the criteria to be officially bilingual. It was sadly ironic that when applying for some government jobs some government official told her it was very tough to get a job without being ‘officially bilingual’-interestingly enough he spoke NO french because his position was a ‘nominated’ position.

    This is a HUGE topic. In europe, essentially what they do is relax official restrictions and hand out cash for minority languages to publish magazines, TV shows, etc, and it seems to be working. In Switzerland it was always embarassing because people would say they don’t really speak english, but usually it was better than many who speak it as a first language. But it comes, I think, primarily from a respect for the ‘local’ culture, and that is really lacking in NB. The statement was made that Louis Robichaud wasn’t so much interested in the ‘french english’ question but in the ‘poor rich’ question, but I’m not positive that’s the way it ultimately played out. I remember a couple of years ago reading about how teens in rural NB were essentially organized in ‘gangs’ of french and english who constantly fought. Add guns to the mix and NB could look a LOT different than the sleepy way its portrayed in the Irving media.

    But in education we really are at a tipping point. The reality is that with the internet ANYBODY can learn french-if they WANT to. There are TONS of online ‘social networking’ ways for kids to communicate in french. Unfortunately, its become such a political hot potato that it can barely even be discussed. You can’t ‘force’ Irving to publish papers in french and english. One thing I’ve often thought is that more effort should be made to make L’acadie Nouvelle into a bilingual online entity since I’m pretty sure I heard that gets public funding through a trust.

    As for history, when was ANY NB history offered? Where in our society will you even HEAR any NB history?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Without mikel this stupid blog would be a joke. An idiot running it always trying to find the other nonsensical excuse for a very dumb people who willing ruin their kids. In a few years they will be suing.

  6. richard says:

    I think that Scott and David have identified the problems re FI and what to do about them. This would seem to me to be an area where federal funds could be had, if the right levers were applied.

    As far as FI being an ‘elitist’ program, I think that is not quite the case. In my daughter’s experience, educational and financial backgrounds of FI and non-FI seem to be fairly similar at least in early years. I don’t see that much of a difference now in gr 6. So many kids in NB have to leave to find work after HS or uni that bilingualism is not as much a draw for the wealthier parents, or the smarter kids.

    There are to be true other problems in the educational system in NB that need to be addressed, but bilingualism is an economic asset that we do not take advantage of, for the reasons David has identified.

  7. Rob says:

    “The statement was made that Louis Robichaud wasn’t so much interested in the ‘french english’ question but in the ‘poor rich’ question, but I’m not positive that’s the way it ultimately played out.”

    Just as an aside, where would Louis Robichaud fit in today’s NB political spectrum? I have a hard time picturing him in this Liberal government, but I have an equally hard time placing him in the PC or NDP parties.

    As another aside, to mikel’s point, do we teach school children today about men like LJR and Richard Hatfield? I would think teenagers would be very interested in a man like Robichaud who took on the elites and won.

  8. Rob says:

    Doug Willms, the man whose studies of PISA data brought forward many of the anti-FI arguments, is a big proponent of heterogeneous classrooms. When upper and middle class children are artificially separated from poorer children, the education system as a whole suffers. Countries like Finland, where classrooms are much more equal than ours, tend to outperform us.

    NB schools have made a habit recently of meeting inclusion requirements through the Core classrooms. Teaching assistants and literacy specialists are put into the Core classes, as that’s where the school system places any child who shows difficulty in school. We thus created a self-fulfilling prophecy where the Core classes are disproportionately loaded with students on special education plans.
    Children with academic difficulties are not found in immersion classes as the specialists are not provided in those classes. Specialists are not provided, as the children with academic difficulties are in Core classrooms. It’s circular logic.

    To create a heterogeneous classroom which Dr Willms shows to be higher performing, we have two choices: a) eliminate french immersion, or b) provide learning specialists for french immersion classrooms. Option A would eliminate disparity on a classroom level (although specific neighbourhoods and schools will always have differing income levels). Option B would allow children on SEPs to participate in immersion classrooms, also eliminating classroom disparity.

    Given the recent cuts to education, I think the window is fast closing on option B. The NB school system is overstressed, and if we’re cutting libraries, I’m sure bilingual literacy specialists are not a priority. Given that Official Bilingualism is not going away, we need to ensure future generations are provided with opportunities to learn both French and English. I remain convinced an immersion class is the best place for an anglophone child to do so. However, we do need to address classroom inequality.

  9. mikel says:

    Again, this is a HUGE and complex issue. My point about elitism isn’t something I made up-I don’t live in the province and never took FI-what I DID do was read the numerous reports that came out two years ago and it was in those documents which pointed out those problems I mention.

    As for education, again we can go back to what works – class sizes. In a small class size assistants are rarely needed. But again, it takes investment, and as I’ve pointed out numerous times, New Brunswick BY FAR funds education to a lesser degree than all the other provinces-even Newfoundland and PEI.

    That doesn’t just go to FI but to all areas. In Vermont they ‘capped’ class sizes at EIGHT. That’s right EIGHT. They used a variety of systems that enabled kids from higher grades to tutor younger grades, and they didn’t go bankrupt doing it-although they did FUND it. In New Brunswick, again, you’ve got a provincial government essentially privatizing public education. Remember when parents wanted to get junk food out of the cafeteria’s and Lamrock just laughed at them?

    The recommendation HAS been made to simply get ALL kids in a kind of french immersion. Unfortunately, that has a lot of anglo parents in a tizzy. As for Louis Robichaud, he most DEFINITELY is an NDP, there’s no question about it. No other party talks about ‘expanding government’, and no other party talks about rights in the way he did. Certainly nobody talks about ‘cultural rights’, hell, again, the liberals have stated that roomers and boarders can’t have the basic housing rights they possess in every other province because its “too ambitious”. Add that to the abortion issue where the province openly flouts federal law (BOTH parties) and its clear where little louis would stand. And thats unfortunate because the NDP could use somebody like him, although being in the liberal party made these things much easier, the party didn’t need to be BUILT by him.

  10. richard says:

    “Doug Willms, the man whose studies of PISA data brought forward many of the anti-FI arguments, is a big proponent of heterogeneous classrooms.”

    Willms was the man behind the curtain, the fellow who grabbed Lamrock’s ear, fed him the ‘solution’, then left it to Lamrock’s ‘consultants’ to carry the can when the datasets did not quite match up. If you look at that data, its hard to see that the streaming is really as bad as some claim.

    “Children with academic difficulties are not found in immersion classes as the specialists are not provided in those classes”

    Actually, quite a few of them start out in FI, but fall behind. Some are helped out with teaching assistants (TA’s in FI programs seem to vary considerably from District to District, much to my surprise – wonder if there is an relationship between ‘success’ in sports programs and ‘failure’ in other programs) and end up succeeding, others transfer back to the English programs where they often remain behind. One of the problems here is early intervention, or lack thereof, compounded by too many parents not having the time or money to get more involved. Compare with wealthier provinces where more parents do not hesitate to use the private sector to give their kids a boost. Again, the problem here is not so much the system but anemic GDP numbers, that limit government expenditures and parent incomes. In other words, the real problem with education in NB is the lack of money due to poor growth.

    What would LJR do? Well, it would not matter which party he belonged to, he would grab NB and pull it kicking and screaming where he wanted it to go. LJR did not just battle the ‘elites’ he took on the mindset of the province and changed the conversation. He rammed changed down our throats. Had the decisions been left up to referenda, nothing would have changed; had the decisions been left up to the poor and working class, nothing would of changed. That goes back to what I have said here before, what NB needs is a leader with the right ideas and the guts to bring the right changes to NB, whether ‘we’ want them or not.

  11. Rob says:

    “In other words, the real problem with education in NB is the lack of money due to poor growth.”

    Well, that’s the other side of the coin. We ambitiously cut taxes to spur short-term economic growth. However, if those tax cuts force us to cut education spending, the key to medium and long term economic growth, are we really ahead?

  12. mikel says:

    That’s patently ridiculous. Blaming parents for New Brunswick’s poor academic showing and ‘anemic’ funding of education is just HORRIBLE. Kids are in school for EIGHT to NINE hours for five days of the week for a good part of the year. The idea that parents need ‘private sector tutoring’ is preposterous and can’t even be taken seriously. There is no way reading and speaking another language cannot be taught in the public setting with so many hours in the day. What, eight hours isn’t enough, kids should be in front of books for TEN hours a day? Dude, thats just silly. In fact in the most progressive schools with the best test scores there is a NO homework policy.

    There are very few studies on the correlation between wealth and children’s education, and what evidence there is, is mostly correlary, not conclusive. However, what we DO know about education is what we’ve mentioned before. The further children travel to get to school, the worse they do. NB began closing rural schools in the nineties, and if you look at educational statistics, what we KNOW is that the chief problem is in rural schools. In literacy tests when you look at many of the school regions, they test just as highly as any other country in the OECD. In particular we see that FI students in urban areas test HIGHER than international averages.

    But NB has a lot of rural, and again, if you cut NB in half, David wouldn’t have nearly as much to complain about. The southern part of NB isn’t structurally much different than much of canada-and in many cases that includes economic development.

    As for LBR, that’s not actually accurate. You don’t win three elections ‘pulling the electorate screaming into the future’. New Brunswickers very well recognized that the province had significant problems. The province’s electoral system has ALWAYS made for a dysfunctional government, in fact Robichaud WON the 1970 election according to popular votes. Fairvote has studied the issue and New Brunswick is the province that has been shown to have the most UN representative government-and that’s in a province with only two parties.

    As for referenda, there is no knowing WHAT people will do. It’s not a coincidence that Switzerland is the most democratic nation in the world, and also the most progressive in most respects. Perhaps the province wouldn’t be ‘officially bilingual’, we don’t know, but what we do know is that there isn’t a single type of ‘official bilingualism’. As I’ve said, Switzerland isn’t that much larger than New Brunswick, but it recognizes as ‘official’ the respective languages of each respective region. So that would mean recognizing the ‘english’ nature of much of southern NB and recognizing the ‘french’ nature of northern and eastern NB.

    THAT would perhaps have been even BETTER, because as a form of ‘bottom up’ language policy, it would have ended the polarization between the two languages. We really don’t know. However, its no coincidence that Hatfield was well recieved in french areas and spoke french very well. He also PUBLICLY said that he would NOT be eroding the linguistic rights granted by Robichaud. Compare that to today where virtually each campaign consists of “we’ll change that law those bastards put in while they were in office if you vote for us”.

    There are TONS of other issues to cover as well, but historical figures often create a mythos around them where people think they were ‘bigger than life’. Now Charlie Van Horne-he WAS, but not in a good way. But Hatfield made almost as many changes to the province as Robichaud did, but for obvious reasons doesn’t have the same significance. We know how Richard sees the world and why he thinks that way, but on close inspection it simply doesn’t hold up. New Brunswickers weren’t brain dead hicks who got ‘fooled’ by Robichaud and dragged kicking and screaming into the future. This was the age of civil rights, and New Brunswick was no different than any other province-only its demographic was different.

  13. richard says:

    “However, if those tax cuts force us to cut education spending, the key to medium and long term economic growth, are we really ahead?”

    No we are much much worse off. The tax cuts won’t stimulate growth and the cuts to education will reduce our capacity to compete. Its a lose, lose scenario. And actually much worse, as the federal deficits for the next several years will increase pressure to transfer resources away from the Maritimes into ON. We’re screwed.

    “New Brunswickers very well recognized that the province had significant problems”

    Yes, just like they do in every election…funny tho how little the victors seem to change things most of the time. LJR’s major contributions to NB occurred in his second term. Check what happened in his third election – its no secret that gerrymandering a few ridings allowed LJR to be re-elected, despite the overwhelming rejection of his program by anglophone NBers. And a damn good thing too; imagine what VanHorne would have done. Look at the cabinet makeup in LJR’s final term – hardly an anglophone to be found. English NB did not want his changes, even though they ended up improving education and local services in many parts of anglo NB. The sad truth is that the poor and working class often vote against their best long-term interests.

    “The idea that parents need ‘private sector tutoring’ is preposterous and can’t even be taken seriously”

    Huh, well maybe a few parents could use tutoring, but its the kids who need it. You seem to live in a vacuum, Mikel. Check out the private tutor business in ON, AB, and BC. Its booming, because parents with money are investing in their kids education. They see the long-term benefit. Who would rely on public education, given all the cuts we have seen nationally over the past three decades, to give their kids the best education possible? Its well-established that parental income is a major determinant in school outcomes, and private tutoring is one reason why. If NB parents had more income, they would spend more money of tutors and school performance would improve.

  14. richard says:

    “New Brunswick was no different than any other province-only its demographic was different”

    Exactly what I have said many times. Thanks for agreeing with me. The difference between NB and other more prosperous regions is a lack of growth. That means stagnant incomes and poor job prospects. The rural residents, rural/urban poor and working class people in NB behave exactly the same as their counterparts in other regions. They tend to vote against their long-term interests. In ON, that translated into votes for Harris, who screwed them again and again. NB just has proportionately more poor and working class voters – a recipe for rejection of real change. Poor souls – I guess they just have not been ‘organized’, Facebooked, or Twittered enough! Up the revolution!!

  15. mikel says:

    By demographic I meant rural/urban and french/english. Growth in NB has typically been FAR ahead of many provinces, particularly on the east coast. NB’s growth rate has historically even been higher than Maine, NH and Vermont. ‘Growth’ and GDP doesn’t mean anything. NB does NOT have ‘more poor’ and working class, in fact the latest stats show virtually the exact same number of poor in almost every province. I’m in one of the ‘better off’ parts of eastern canada, and a recent report had poverty in this area just as high as in New Brunswick.

    That’s silly to say rural people vote against their long term interests. People vote for a variety of factors, in NB they only have two choices, and it certainly isn’t people’s fault that politicians lie. Harris didn’t screw rural voters over any more than he screwed over urban voters.

  16. Scott Mackay says:

    “Growth in NB has typically been FAR ahead of many provinces, particularly on the east coast.”

    HaHa! Last time I looked mikel, Îles de Madeleine wasn’t considered a province!

  17. richard says:

    “HaHa! Last time I looked mikel, Îles de Madeleine wasn’t considered a province!”

    I think Mikel means TREE growth, not economic growth.

  18. mikel says:

    David has posted on this numerous times, in several recent years GNP growth has been stronger in New Brunswick than many other provinces-of course that growth is mainly tied to oil exports (which is usually David’s point). However, take away oil exports from Alberta or Newfoundland and you’d see a similar drop. The province is making TONS of money-but that money is privatized, tied to Irving, McCain, the financial sector, etc., who pay very little tax. THAT is why the province is poor. According to wikipedia, GDP per capita in New Brunswick has it on par with Japan.

    We’ve had this discussion before, two of the world’s largest corporations have headquarters in NB, but contribute less than 3% of provincial revenues-and thats about to get even smaller. Hell, Cuba is about the same size as NB, has had an international trade embargo on it for 50 years, and STILL has better health and education than NB and much of Canada. Economic growth statistics mean NOTHING if all the revenues are privatized and don’t benefit citizens.

    Again, go look at the business sectors, the Chambers of Commerce,etc. IF economic development were such a problem with business, more people would be talking about it than a few guys at a blog. The St. John chamber of commerce was saying how wonderful growth was back even in 2001.

    You guys should KNOW all this. If corporate income tax supplied the same percentage of the NB budget as, say, even PEI, there would be no more need for ANY equalization payments AT ALL. And guess what, PEI doesn’t have two of the world’s largest corporations. If corporate income tax supplied the same percentage as Saskatchewan, New Brunswick would not only not need equalization, but wouldn’t be in a deficit position-it COULD fund its educational system to the same level as other provinces.

    A region can have all the growth in the world (just look at Africa), but if all that money goes into private hands, it makes no difference-its just wealth extraction. Irving is going to boost GDP even further once its LNG terminal is operational, but its net contribuution to the province is going to be about ten jobs, and some royalties which the province has decided to no longer publish separately from other energy royalty payments.

  19. richard says:

    Check the actual data, Mikel. Per capita GDP levels in NB are low; growth rates here are historically low. Poor growth = lower incomes = poor expectations = outmigration.

  20. mikel says:

    I’ll repeat the same thing I used to say to ‘anon’-repeating something doesn’t make it true. That’s actual data from Wikipedia, I certainly didn’t make it up. Having a GDP similar to Japan is obviously not ‘low’. The same is the situation in MANY countries- an unequal distribution of wealth. New Brunswick has wealth, and a small population. However, historically NB has done the same thing it has always done-let ownership and profit reside outside the province. Again, take a look at potash, which is a substancial commodity in the province. The province essentially GIVES it away to a Saskatchewan company for the benefit of some jobs. There are, of course, no limits on what those jobs pay, so the government gets the tax dollars from a low to average paycheque, and loses all the money that potash COULD make. It’s basic economics-if you continue to GIVE all your stuff away, it makes no difference HOW MUCH you give, you still don’t get much. Why do you think places in Europe make and sell engineered products, and technical products? Because they are ‘value added’. In Switzerland, everywhere you go the ‘tourist’ shops sell two things-swiss army knives and watches. The latter is more technical to the former, but go compare that to any tourist place you’ve seen in Canada. At the Toronto airport it was maple syrop and ‘moose droppings’ (bad chocolate).

    There are also other systemic problems. The private insurers blasted NBers (and ontarians) years ago with doubling the rates over a couple of years. That’s more out of pocket expenses. Recently it was discovered NBers pay almost double what PEIers pay for propane. That’s also out of pocket.

    While NB has lower incomes in SOME sectors, its competitive in many others, including financials, insurance, executive levels, many public service unions, etc. But the distribution of wealth is a concern. I’ve been trying to find information on the economic benefits of Saskatchewan having a CO-OP oil refinery vs the Irving refinery. I think you’d find a BIG difference-at least in its willingness to pay taxes-but that information is hard to come by. But when you have so many dirt poor and working poor, the ‘average’ is lower than, say, Ontario (for now).

    If you operate an economy like Africa, where you try to give EVERYTHING away for cheap, you can’t expect ‘growth’. In NB, you’ve got GDP growth, but if its all in Irvings pockets, what good does it do NB? Richards’ argument is true only if you exclude oil-but that makes no sense. Once the second refinery is up and going, GDP is going to go through the roof. But at most it appears it will only add 1000 jobs to St. John, with no mention of pay scales. Now, from the GDP argument we can say ‘problem solved’ once the new refinery goes up. But again, here at this blog we NEVER talk about commodity selling. We talk about ‘good jobs at good wages’, which is a whole other topic.

  21. richard says:

    “That’s actual data from Wikipedia”

    Gee, actual data. From Wikipedia. Funny, here is a GDP list from Wikipedia and says the opposite of what you are claiming:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_provinces_and_territories_by_gross_domestic_product

    The fact is Mikel GDP per capita for NB and other Maritime provinces lags those of other regions in the country and have done so for years. Look it up. Chronically low rates of growth mean low incomes, parents with less discretionary income, and governments with less money to spend. NB gets a huge chunk of its money from other regions via equalization.

    As per usual, you are creating strawmen to knock down. This is not about redistribution of income or the evils of the Irvings, its about economic growth. Poor growth in NB has led to significantly poor incomes. Poor incomes are correlated with school performance.

    Given your preference for strawmen and empty rhetoric, I suggest that you trot over to a local postsecondary school and offer your services as a lecturer. You could offer a couple of courses for law and social sciences students: CREATING STRAWMEN 101 and RHETORICAL BS 102. A required prereq for both would be a 1 hr class in the use of UPPERCASE to underline a POINT. I’m sure you’d be quite popular amongst the opinion=fact crowd.

  22. mikel says:

    Dude, grow up, your a scientist (or so you claim) for petes sake. KIDS may be reading this. That’s pretty ironic to be talking about straw men and then start making comments on things I never even said. Where did I say NB’s GDP DIDN”T lag other parts of the country? What I said was that it didn’t ALWAYS, that during many years it had HIGHER growth, hell, in 2002 the entire country of Canada had NO growth in GDP but NB’s increased. You can bet that ontario isn’t going to be breaking any GDP records this year, or in the next few years, but again, when the LNG terminal starts going AND the second refinery is up, then GDP will go WAY up, but you won’t get much out of it.

    My entire point is that WITHOUT the ‘per capita’ GDP is meaningless. Lots of african countries have had growth, its just tied to a military leader. If Irving OWNS everything, then how much the province produces means nothing, thats basic math. If we have a garden and produce five apples, and charge 1 penny each, and I keep four cents and you and David each divide one cent-then the next year we produce ten apples our GDP just doubled, but eight of those cents just went in my pocket and you and david each only make a penny. If I am investing my money elsewhere and you and david are trying to fund the government, then that doesn’t leave much does it? Now, try making the argument that “all we need to do is produce more apples”. Sure, all you need to do is triple your work so that maybe you can see triple the apples and make three cents apiece.

    OR, you can look at why the heck one of us is making way more (or both, that’s true-IF you really love working your ass off for hardly anything).

  23. mikel says:

    BTW, GDP is also a poor measure since if you look at New Brunswick, GDP goes up whenever the province borrows more money or gets more money from the federal government. As David points out, neither of those contributes to ‘real’ growth because in the first case it needs to be paid back and in the second, it is money that can’t be counted on.

    But lets compare ontario with New Brunswick. Ontario gets 15% of its budget from corporate income tax. So when the government invests in services, a good percentage of that is coming from growth earners-exporters,etc. In other words, more of the GDP is coming from ‘outside growth’. In New Brunswick, we have a province that only gets 3% of its budget from corporate income tax, and thats about to go down even further (depending on how much smaller the government needs to get).

    That means, as we’ve seen, much of GDP (at least the government services part) is actually an illusion, its coming from the feds. That’s ‘sort of’ Richards point, that GDP and GDP growth is actually even smaller than it looks when you look at the numbers. But the reason for that difference is that distribution of income. In ontario corporations are helping pay for much of that growth both in the form of taxes and because many (most?) of the companies are public. In New Brunswick, there are few taxes on the corporations, and virtually NONE of them are public.

    That is true that Richards usual line is ‘get more companies’, and IF those companies are public then you get those benefits. But again, look at the potash, here IS a new company, which adds to GDP, but the only benefit for New Brunswick is the few jobs it will provide, and the income taxes off those. If you give everything away for free, GDP rises but the economy is no better off (except for those jobs-and I’d change that rationale IF full employment were possible or even likely on the basis of that economic model-so far we’ve seen the opposite).

  24. richard says:

    Mikel, please quite trying to change the subject. The subject is education. What I have said is that NB and the Maritmes have had slower growth than other regions; in Canada, this means lower incomes for families, less discretionary income to spend on the education of their kids. You want to improve educational performance of kids in NB – the best way to improve mean family income is to increase per capita GDP. Perhaps if you stuck to the topic you could make a cogent argument, however, tangent-creation appears to be just another one of your rhetorical devices – any kids reading won`t be impressed.

  25. richard says:

    `What I said was that it didn’t ALWAYS, that during many years it had HIGHER growth, hell, in 2002 the entire country of Canada had NO growth in GDP but NB’s increased`

    That`s completely meaningless. A bit like saying that global warming has stopped because one year is cooler than the preceding. Trends matter in climate data and economic data. Grow up.

  26. mikel says:

    Actually, the subject is french immersion. We all read what you said, and I simply disagreed and showed why. Repeating something doesn’t make it true.

    Want easy proof: Cuba has a per capita GDP of $11,000, about one quarter of New Brunswicks, yet has an almost 100% literacy rate.
    And ‘trends’ only go so far as there is usually wild fluctuations in GDP growth.

    I even pointed out that GDP is GOING to increase drastically once the LNG terminal and new refinery start exporting. That will have a nominal effect on family incomes-at least SOME of them. That certainly doesn’t mean educational scores will increase.

    European countries like Sweden typically see very little GDP growth, but they DO have high family incomes because of government investments in education and research priorities and investing in quality jobs.

    We get it that your argument is that if parents had more money they could hire tutors to improve scores. All I’m saying is thats NOT the best way, and that government investments to improve education is far more beneficial. There’s nothing rhetorical about disagreeing, and its certainly not off topic-you made your argument and I made mine and readers can decide for themselves which is better But since its way up top I’ll repeat-New Brunswick spends less on education than most other provinces, so poor test scores in rural areas are not a surprise.

  27. mikel says:

    Just one more point, because its good science to show that simply because something ‘correlates’ doesn’t mean its a ’cause’. If you see an accident and one of the wheels of one of the cars is off, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that caused the accident, it could have happened afterwards.

    In New Brunswick we KNOW that urban test scores in FI are the same as OECD averages. So that’s fine, the problem is NOT a provincial problem, its a ‘specific student’ problem, and sometimes a school problem, and sometimes a regional problem. Those ‘regions’ often not only have a lack of funding, but its ‘sometimes’ true that those in the area have a lower income. Those are two different factors-EITHER of which (or both) ‘could’ be causative. Or it could be something completely different. We know that environmental factors can affect people strongly, and there is heavy spraying in forested (rural) areas.

    In deciding public policy look at what works, that’s why I mention Vermont, because it HAD a similar scenario with NB. They did NOT increase family incomes (much) or add to GDP or even supply more tutors. What they DID do was massively invest in rural education, the OPPOSITE of what NB’s educational policy has done. Their scores went up, NB’s scores have stayed the same. As Richard can tell you, science builds on previously done research, when you take a similar scenario and see what works, you try it. That’s not to say that David and Richard’s view is not valid, but again, no matter WHAT NB does there is no guarantee that tons of outside investors will rush to NB with fantastic jobs which will increase family incomes and GDP (I’m a big supporter of that first one). As I’ve said numerous times, changes in resource management has a better chance of increasing rural averages than outside investment. If you don’t know how bad it is, go watch “Forbidden Forest”, thats probably THE most important film EVER done about NB, it should be required viewing. Until you see that film, you really have no idea about the resource management issues in NB.

    However, investments in education is something the government makes decisions on every single day and year. This is a question of priorities, and NB’s government places a VERY low priority on education despite what they say. We KNOW that literacy scores are especially bad in rural and northern and francophone areas, but the government never even ADMITS that. We saw their response, which was to make structural changes to french immersion that even the experts say won’t work. That are so ineffective that the only people I’ve seen support them are guys like the anon poster who can’t stand french and knows this will LESSEN emphasis on bilingualism.

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