Nothing is Written

Do you remember that powerful scene in Laurence of Arabia where they are humping it over a huge desert and one of the guys gets left behind.  The locals say “it is written” and are okay with him being left to die.  Laurence yells “nothing is written” and gallops off on his camel to save the guy – which he does.

I just got off the telephone with a guy (I don’t think he reads this blog) who depressed me with his talk of inevitability.  It’s inevitable that Northern NB will decline.  It is inevitable that large urban areas such as Toronto will will always draw away New Brunswick’s young people.  They are drawn to the large urban areas where all the fun is.

I don’t like the word inevitable.  I think we should strike it from our lexicon.  Nothing is written, folks.

Number of people living in Toronto in 2006 that were living in Moncton in 2001: 445.

Number of people in Moncton in 2006 that were living in Toronto in 2001: 675.

In case you can’t process that number it means that more people moved to Moncton from Toronto (2001 to 2006) than moved to Toronto from Moncton.  Despite that inevitable draw of urbanity.

Nothing is written.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look.

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10 Responses to Nothing is Written

  1. Scott Mackay says:

    First of all, I just like to say that those who continue to compare New Brunswick [Moncton] with Toronto (i.e. politics, emigration or immigration trends, culture or urbanity) are doomed to fail in their quest for real answers to demographics. Moncton is about the size of one burb in that city (maybe not even). Hardly room for comparison.

    Now if you were to compare NB (the whole province) with London, Ont., or Kingston, that’s a whole different ballgame.

  2. I use Moncton as an example of what is possible. Certainly, NB as a whole has an out-migration problem. As for London, it’s a wash 30 in/35 out. More people moved to Kingston (around 100) from Moncton than vice versa.

  3. Scott Mackay says:

    Yeah, but I’m sure Queen’s Park isn’t shutting down their business of the day to explore why a couple of families amongst 5.5 million are headed to Moncton for a few months/years. I just don’t see how this trend is relevant to either side? It just doesn’t make sense.

  4. mikel says:

    It just makes a point that’s all-apples and oranges, and more people prefer apples. Although Moncton is just one city, but obviously this blog wouldn’t exist if EVERY part of the province was the same as Moncton (more people moving in than out).

    And it’s very true, NOTHING is inevitable, although that’s very much part of the teachings of culture. Up to eleven kids are taught they can ‘achieve anything’ and the next ten years are designed to get them to ‘smarten the hell up’.

    But that’s really small potatoes. When Bechtel moved into Bolivia and took over the water system they had all of the IMF behind it, all the investors from developing countries, yet all these dirt poor people ran them out on a rail. Again, two guys on welfare managed to introduce legislation in New Brunswick, something I don’t think I’ve EVER seen, in fact the ombudsman told Charles as much. Those ‘van angels’ managed to get a public inquiry, and just look at the crap that is coming out.

    There is always a place for sloppy idealism, or romanticism, or just a regular ‘underdog’ story. The story itself doesn’t determine what happens-its what people do. Charles hit the streets, those Van Angels hit the media and the politicians, and the public. In Bolivia they rose up, in Venezuela the people challenged the military when their elected leader was going the way of Haiti’s elected President.

    The biggest problem in mainstream media is the constant repitition that those people who think ‘nothing is written’ are the minority -thats’ the ‘adult’ version of the superhero. In reality its almost NEVER the individual, but a collective organization working together to make change. If you saw the first two spiderman movies that was picked up-in each there was a scene where the crowds actually save the hero. In society, NOTHING can be accomplished alone.

  5. Jason says:

    I think the overall global trend is toward urbanization. This is not debatable. Industrial one horse towns in the resource sectors are no longer viable in many cases. Oil and minerals still work, but the old cost model was based on different distribution streams, different markets, and a different kind of labour. You can do what you can to keep your young people by developing progressive policies that educate and employ them, but many cases the big urban centers are the draws. That’s why they are big. Like Richard Florida states, there is a reason people pay mind-blowing rents and labour costs in Manhattan. It is to be close to a people cluster and jobs cluster that offers the most opportunity for connection and life development.

    If we can successfully grow industry here within the knowledge base sector, educate more grads for these professions, and get the companies that keep them here, than the out-migration to Toronto and other large centers will be much less. But overall, I think some of our smaller urban areas are in for a rough time, let alone places like Northern New Brunswick.

    There have been some great papers written about how rural declining areas can sustain themselves by offering activities and services for the retired segment of the population. By offering walking trails, social clubs, and other activites, and by keeping up the local health care services, rural communities that are no longer powered by industry, can now be a huge draw for the retired. This is not a sarcastic comment, but a reasonable and viable alternative for many declining areas. Something to think about. The baby-boom segment is a huge economic driver. Why wouldn’t you try to tap it.

  6. mikel says:

    Actually thats’ COMPLETELY wrong. There has been an ‘urbanization’ model in North America, that’s simply a progression of what began with colonization-people stuck together where the jobs were. That’s a self fulfilling prophecy-since government made a conscious effort towards larger and larger urbanization people come to believe its inevitable, like ‘you can’t fight city hall’ which means ‘we don’t want you to fight city hall’. This is no surprise and is popular in resource dependant countries where dominant business interests don’t want people living on the resources-people tend to cause problems when their local area is getting polluted and devastated.

    And that North American model is always shipped out with IMF ‘loans’ to developing countries-get the people off the land so that large plantations can be built-and again,this has been a DISASTER as a business model and one where protests constantly accompany it. The real effect of it hasn’t even been seen yet-but with new viruses showing their faces, its only a matter of time before another ‘black plague’ comes along-most biological scientists are already predicting it.

    And the reality is painfully obvious, which is why so much work is put into making sure people think “this is not debateable”. Sort of like convincing people “lower taxes are good for society”. In reality, even a small rural area needs only one building and a couple of specialists to satisfy all its needs. Particularly in our new digital economy. With broadband a doctor or teacher doesn’t even NEED to LIVE in the rural area, the people just need access. A rural area has very few needs, and with decent transportation, rural life is highly attractive. I’m pretty sure we’d find that a good percentage of rural dwellers travel to an urban area for work, but as David shows, its also just as easy to situate those large (or small) economic drivers in rural areas-in fact in New Brunswick if they could even control their local resources then that would be plenty.

    So as David says in the top post, all that is lacking is ‘imagination’. Keep in mind that most of europe still functions on this model, they built transportation corridors that service even the most outlying areas. If you go to France or Spain they certainly haven’t ignored rural areas, hell, in NB there isn’t even decent bus transportation to most locations, let alone trains.

  7. Scott Mackay says:

    I think the overall global trend is toward urbanization. This is not debatable. Industrial one horse towns in the resource sectors are no longer viable in many cases.

    I agree with mikel (and disagree slightly with the above), but for different reasons. As long as there are global terrorist attacks on big cities (be it nuclear or biological) and power outages that disrupt business activity, there will always be a demand for business and people to relocate in an area where it is more safe and stable. Could that be smaller centres (and towns)? Only time will tell.

  8. richard says:

    There is a global trend towards urbanization, even in Europe. The fact that parts of Europe have social policies that subsidize transportation corridors in low density areas does not change that. We are urban animals, it seems. Even many of those who claim to prefer the rural life, also prefer to be close to urban areas (just not too close).

    David is quite correct that urban areas in northern NB are being written off by many, despite the fact that a number of those urban areas were fairly prosperous until relatively recently. Its bizarre that in a province as small as NB those attitudes exist – but perhaps we just have too many bureaucrats and politicians whose experience of the common folk is limited to quick trips to the Boyce Farmers Market.

    I wonder how many hours have been spent by BNB or Grahams office in either trying to attract some sizable industries to these northern urban centres, or working with community leaders in those locations who have been developing some real strategies. Perhaps Graham et al are just too tired, after all the hard work of coming up with the broad-based tax cut ‘idea’.

  9. mikel says:

    In europe there is simply NO way of getting too rural, there simply isn’t enough space. We are SOCIAL animals, not necessarily urban ones. I’d agree that YOUNG people are often inclined to move to the city, but again, we don’t know the numbers, and every country is different. In much of the world moving to a city means moving to a place of social unrest.

    For NB, its not bizarre people feel this way, at least not now. People KNOW about the large amounts that went for a yarn factory, and know how much went to a seemingly crooked credit union. And like many areas, if the initiative isn’t FROM close to home, it gets competitive. When the province has such dictatorial control-choosing where medical schools go, choosing where the ONLY casino can go-and to who, choosing what city gets what new buildings, then of course there is trouble.

    People also have ‘written off’ northern NB simply because to NOT write it off you first need to see an OPTION. Have any been presented? Anywhere? I’ve never seen any, apart from the community forests model and the rural broadband issue there is literally NOTHING going on. That’s very common in politics, stating that the ‘status quo’ is ‘inevitable’, because otherwise it actually means there COULD be an option, but it means work in order to get it on the table. Heck, at this blog is a group of at least remotely interested people, yet can’t get beyond writing junk at a blog. So imagine the others, who largely ‘write off’ not only the north, but the whole political environment (which also isn’t particularly bizarre but pretty much expected).

  10. There is an urban-rural aspect to this story, and one that characterizes NB politics as a whole. Because the province’s cities have been small, rural voters have held sway, and consequently, the cities have not been developed. Only recently has the balance been tipped, and only recently has one locale – the greater Moncton area – actually transcended the base of rural votes that surrounds it.

    In general, the more liberal-leaning diverse creative and compact urban areas are the economic drivers of a region, while the more rural, more agricultural, more conservative areas require subsidy and support. This remains true in New Brunswick, explaining why the province as a whole has struggled economically and explaining why certain regions of the province continue to do so.

    In order to support northern NB, the government needs to focus on developing an urban core in the region, one that will be a local economic driver, a political, cultural and business hub, a location for secondary manufacture and knowledge-based industries. This is accomplished with a significant investment in the city – a college or university, say – and incorporation of the city into a regional transportation plan – a regional airport, rail links, and highways.

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