On the importance of mini-urbans (not Mini-Austins)

I was asked to participate in a forum yesterday looking at the future of one of the important industries in New Brunswick.   The invitation asked the participants not to discuss the event publicly so I will respect that admonition.

But I will say this.  There were 30 people or so in that room and each one seemed to be more knowledgeable than the next.   I felt like an intern.  Here were people – some with 30-40 years experience rattling off statistics and context from as far back as the 1970s without missing a beat.

Addressing New Brunswick’s economic challenges will come from marshalling and listening to the guidance of folks like this.  There is a deep braintrust around here that has seen it all and has good ideas.  We need (I need) to listen to more of these folks.

But that’s not my main point this morning.  The T&T has a cover story about the Halifax-Moncton corridor – quoting Donald Savoie saying the two should work more closely together.

I am a big fan of urban-urban collaboration like this. 

Richard Florida now thinks the future is in these mega-urban regions and that is where governments should invest their dollars.  Provinces and even national governments fade in importance compared to these city-states. 

He may be right, he may be wrong.  Just a few years ago he was paid a pile of cash to tell little places like Sackville they are the new creative hubs and now it’s mega-urbans.

But I do agree with him on the importance of urban areas and the economic linkage between strong urbans and their smaller town and rural peripheries.   If we had strong urban to urban linkages in the Maritimes – Halifax – Sydney – Moncton – Saint John – Fredericton – Bathurst – it would be a better model longer term.

I think it will be an interesting policy debate over the next few years – decade or more.  One could argue that Canada has already followed a mega-urban development plan for the past 40 years.  According to Statistics Canada, Greater Montreal, Ottawa-Toronto, Calgary-Edmonton and Greater Vancouver have accounted for all new population growth since 1971.  Everywhere else combined has lost population.

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4 Responses to On the importance of mini-urbans (not Mini-Austins)

  1. Don Dennison says:

    These corridors – I’ve never really understood the concept. Does it mean getting chambers of commerce together? Printing maps? Upgrading roads?
    Always seemed more like a post-facto ‘discovery’ (like Richard Florida’s creative communities-more an ascribed characteristic than a cause). Do you create a corridor or does it just happen? Truro is on the road between Moncton and Halifax. So is Amherst. So what?

  2. richard says:

    “..quoting Donald Savoie saying the two should work more closely together…”

    Of course, you could say the same about the provinces themselves. But there is not much sign of it happening. I wonder how closely Moncton and Halifax could work together in the face of indifference, or downright hostility, to the concept on the part of the respective provincial govts.

  3. > Addressing New Brunswick’s economic challenges will come from marshalling and listening to the guidance of folks like this.

    Not in the form of secret meetings with pre-selected panelists carefully chosen to mask dissent. Real experts are not afraid to speak in public. People working for the good of all are not afraid to let their opinions be known.

    This sort of thing is exactly what is wrong with New Brunswick. We’ve had quite enough government by the cabal. We would like government in the open, for the good of the people, now thanks.

  4. p.s. until there is something like transit between the cities you can forget the idea of urban to urban linkages. People have to be able to live in one city, and work in another, so you get labour force mobility, and the only way to allow that is with (hopefully high speed) commuter trains. These days you can barely travel by bus between the cities – the earliest bus from Moncton to Fredericton, for example, arrives at 3 pm, and travels via Sussex.

    What would really build these urban linkages is a rail system actually linking the cities, but no politician is ever going to support the idea because it would be a money-loser for many years, and the Irving & car dealership lobby would destroy his/her career. We can’t even get a modern transit system (or cleared sidewalks). Forget about urban-to-urban links.

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