Defining lazy

I was a guest on The Rutherford Show yesterday – I believe it is carried on a number of Alberta radio stations.  He asked me if I think that Maritimers are lazy – because of a comment I made in a National Post article.

In my experience, Maritimers are not lazy.  If you think of the careers in the forestry, fishing, mining, etc. sectors – not a whole lot of lazy people there.  Plus, when I used to be involved in attracting firms to New Brunswick they would tell me their local workforce here was harder working, more productive and more loyal than anywhere else.

In addition, we have Stats Can data confirming that employed NBers work as much – on average – as anyone else.  The following table shows the average weekly hours worked for all workers paid by the hour (full time and part time) including overtime in 2009.
Average weekly hours for employees paid by the hour

Newfoundland and Labrador


New Brunswick




Nova Scotia










Prince Edward Island




British Columbia


Source: Statistics Canada Table 281-0033. 

We still have more people working in seasonal industries than most other provinces but those industries don’t conjure up images of laziness in the mind.

When I said lazy, I was referring to lazy in the public policy sense.  If Ontario had New Brunswick’s economic development profile over the past 20 years, it would be an international crisis.  The Canadian economy would be dragged down.  The feds would set up ACOA-like organizations in southern Ontario (oops they did that already).

But when it’s New Brunswick, that is somehow expected and normal.  That’s what I meant by lazy.

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18 Responses to Defining lazy

  1. Frederic S. Gionet says:

    Great job at debunking these myths.

    It is crucial that our regional government, businesses, and ED peeps mitigate this negative perception when it comes to topics that illegitimately promotes our region as lazy, have-nots, dependant, etc.

    Some focused PR is badly needed here.

  2. richard says:

    “Great job at debunking these myths”

    Unfortunately, its a common and, by now, very well-ingrained myth. One that is tossed around without question in Timmy outlets in AB, BC, ON, etc. I heard comments like that 20 yrs ago in ON. I think it is too late to turn it around now, except by seeing NB’s economy actually grow substantially for a decade or two. Only performance will change that perception.

  3. Mark says:

    “…weekly hours worked for all workers”

    That’s hardly a telling stat. That’s measuring the work ethic of people who are working, without taking into account the work ethic of people who are not. It’s like measuring the level of sickness in people who are already identified as healthy.

    If you look at labour participation rates, you could just easily reach a different conclusion. I’m happy to see you debunk the myth, I just don’t think the statistic you’ve chosen is a compelling one.

  4. Scott says:

    Though they do the best job they can under difficult circumstances, it’s not up to ED people or academics to defend our turf. It’s up to elected officials. That’s why we elect them. Instead our politicians take a cautious (don’t rock the boat) approach nationally versus the media bullies (and other provinces) and glaze over the crisis here with gerrymandered and cherry picked employment figures. Talk about a vicious cycle.

  5. Mark, we can slice and dice data in an infinite number of ways. I’m just showing here that of the people that are working in New Brunswick they work, on average, more hours than elsewhere. For those that can’t find work or aren’t working for other reasons, that’s another part of the story but doesn’t necessarily correlate to laziness. New Brunswickers volunteer more than the average Canadian according to Stats Canada.

    I can’t find any data to suggest the average New Brunswicker is any more lazy than the average Ontarioian or Albertan.

  6. It does not help that Prime Minister Harper reinforced this stereotype a number of years ago with his ill-advised reference to our “culture of defeat”.

    While there is no question that this is nonsense at the workforce level, significant criticism can be leveled at governments and academic institutions for not reading the writing on the wall years ago. When I toured Atlantic Canada 20 years ago as a member of a federally-sponsored ED research team, there was a palpable and sustained public interest in creating a new economic blueprint. But institutionalized interests were significantly less enthusiastic. That remains a challenge today. But Richard is right that only results will alter the perception of skeptics.

  7. mikel says:

    How do you quantify laziness? Ever notice that its a term thats always used to attack OTHER people. For employers, there ARE people in Alberta, they certainly don’t have to fly New Brunswickers back and forth, as they used to do. The idea that people from a REGION are ‘somehow different’ borders on racist.

    There really ought to be a documentary on this, because its a very complicated term. When ontarians and others use it, I suspect its concerning seasonal workers. No matter how hard the job, when you hear that certain workers get part of the year off, then you aren’t going to have a lot of respect for them.

    In general I’ve heard similar comments from employers as David about maritimers HERE, maybe thats because harder working maritimers leave, I don’t know. In Ontario though its certainly not just about maritimers. Whenever people talk about bus drivers in Toronto, they are ‘overpaid’. When they talk about Ford unionized auto workers, they are ‘overpaid’ and ‘lazy’.

    But honestly, who pays attention much to what bigots are saying over coffee at Tim Hortons? Not to join the generalizing, but there’s a reason that Air Farce used to satirize them so constantly. This is what I mean about getting organized, you can’t just sit back and listen to angry, almost racist comments, and think that people are going to change their minds by research.

    I’m constantly called an extremely hard worker, but thats mostly because I work fast to get done. I am VERY lazy, I’d rather have a beer and sit on a beach with a loved one than work. And I have a little bit of distrust for anybody who would rather work than play. It’s true that for SOME, their work IS play, but I think that’s quite rare.

  8. mikel says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. You should have asked the host of the show whether all Albertans are obnoxious.

  9. Mark says:

    @David Campbell
    I wasn’t suggesting that at all. Simply pointing out that the statistic you provided doesn’t validate your conclusion (which I happen to share).

  10. Anonynomous says:

    David, to be “fair” you should show the stats for productivity. That would tell a completely different story. And I put “fair” between quotations because we all know that average weekly hours for employees paid by the hour don’t say much at all. There are as many caveats in those numbers as everybody who has commented on this entry will come up with for any productivity stats.
    What I mean is that it doesn’t matter how much time you spend at work. What really matters is how much you do while you are at work.

  11. mikel says:

    Productivity is an even WORSE way to measure than hours worked. It’s true you may be working and not doing much, but you may be VERY productive and not actually doing much. A private woodlot owner may work very hard with an axe and a chainsaw, but they won’t come near the productivity of a forestry worker who sits on his butt in a skidder for an hour. Productivity takes hours worked and divides it into GDP. So that explains why the US is the ONLY country to have an ‘A’ rating in productivity, even during this economic crisis. Norway and Sweden both rank ‘D’, but give me their economies over the US’ anyday.

    This is from the conference board:

    Many people confuse the concept of productivity with that of work intensity. But improving productivity is not about working longer or harder, it’s about working smarter. It’s about finding more efficient and effective ways to produce goods and services so that more can be produced with the same amount of effort. It’s also about producing higher-value-added products and services that are worth more in the marketplace. The onus of improving productivity lies not just with governments, but with individual firms.

    Take, for example, the auto manufacturer that introduces new robotics technologies that cut the time it takes to assemble cars, meaning that the same number of workers can now produce more cars per day, without working longer or harder. Or the same auto manufacturer that adds a GPS system to a car model that retails for $30,000. The innovative technology increases the sales price by $3,000. Because the redesigned car takes the same amount of time to build, however, labour productivity—in terms of output per worker—is boosted by 10 per cent.

    Challenges to improving productivity are multi-faceted. To enhance productivity, Canada must foster a culture of innovation, open industries to competitive pressures, and improve the level and quality of capital intensity.

  12. Jon Doe says:

    The problem I have with this is that it fails to take into account the type of work that people do, and that is something that should be examined. New Brunswick has a sever lack of white collar jobs, which require a great deal of grey matter, and an abundance of medial positions.

    Consider the following scenario if you are a large corporation (Google or GE) looking to open a Canadian office: The workers in Province A average 45 hours of work per week, while the workers in Province B average 40. Without considering the type of work done in each province you’d think that Province A would be an attractive option. However your research reveals that 75% of the workers in PA are cleaners, waitresses, and fast food workers, compared to 75% of the workers in PB who are lawyers, pharmacists and engineers. That extra 5 hours is no longer very attractive.

    This is a large part of the reason that Northern New Brunswick is struggling as well. The high paying skilled jobs just aren’t there.

  13. Scott says:

    Productivity starts with good opportunity, real growth. It would be nice to see some strong “technology clusters” formed on the outskirts of Saint John and Moncton (forming a mini Telecom Corridor). Maybe then we would see more justification for someone to make the 2 to 3 hour daily commute from lower growth, declining jurisdictions. Right now we have the opposite as many would rather remain unproductive while living part of the year off the state (not because they want to) until there is something better for them in thre future. This scenerio is both hurtful for those engaging in it, and to others who share the burden of such an activity.

  14. richard says:


    Good info, especially the nugget: “Duke Energy’s power rates are competitive, with industrial electricity rates at about 5 cents per kilowatt hour.”

    Gee, they are offering industry lower power rates? The Irvings must be involved!!! Conspiracy!!!

    Of course, NC started down this road many years ago with the establishment of the Research Triangle and major investments in university science and engineering R&D. Why can’t we do that? Is it because UNB has an unhealthy obsession with Bhutan, as opposed to a healthy obsession with improving NB? Or is it because STU has a Center for Qualititative Research (aka the Centre for Hand-wringing, Sympathy, Tea and Crumpets) instead of research centres that have some added value?

  15. mikel says:

    “New Brunswick has a sever lack of white collar jobs”

    That’s not necessarily true. There is SOMETHING to this study, as David and others have pointed out, the NB government is fairly ‘heavy’ for this size of province. Government jobs by and large tend to be more white collar than blue.
    The comment from anonymous is interesting and it shows how little this has to do with Jon Doe’s comments about productivity. These large corporations set up their data centers because of cheap power and tax incentives. The ideology of the local workforce had little to do with it, and I’m not actually even sure that that many jobs arrive as a result of these data centers.
    Companies know darn well that for the kinds of jobs they provide-in the cases of good jobs, that if they can’t find the workforce locally, it will be fairly easy to move them in, workers are pretty mobile nowadays. So one has nothing to do with the other. It’s HIGHLY unlikely that RIM stayed out of NB for so long because “we heard you guys are real lazy”. They came into NB as a result of a local company doing similar work, which they purchased.

    The link to data centers says a lot, but its only part of the story. That brings us back to education. Facebook was started by this antisocial little jewish guy, and just look at the start of ebay, or even Microsoft for that matter. The world is online, and anybody that thinks “well, we’ve got google and facebook so there’s really no more room for new tech growth” doesn’t know much about technology. Would you rather be home to a province begging and cajoling for data centers, or would you rather be the home base of some gigantic corporation in the tech world. I’m not saying that education guarantees it, but lack of education certainly guarantees it won’t happen.

  16. richard says:

    “Would you rather be home to a province begging and cajoling for data centers, or would you rather be the home base of some gigantic corporation in the tech world”

    NC has both; they developed a focussed strategy to invest in R&D in both the private and public sectors and do what needed to be done to attract the big players in those sectors. That strategy has paid off in spades. Some of the best unis in North America and some of the best companies in NA. And yes those data centre jobs are well-paid jobs. NC has transformed itself over the past few decades by picking the right policies and pushing them forward. That is what NB needs to do; NC is a great example of how to be make productivity gains – work smarter not harder.

  17. Lesley says:

    New Brunswickers need to cut mommy’s apron strings away and get off their asses and go elsewhere for work. Why should it be the governments fault that you are unemployed. I see them cutting gov. jobs and no wonder, there is 3 people to do one persons job. And with their benefits, no wonder N.B. is broke. So you forested and fished till there was nothing left. Adapt and overcome. If you want to eat bad enough, then you will find a job. A lot of companys wont hire young people or keep them because they are lazy and feel it is their right to be lazy. Find some personal pride and start pulling your weight.

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