Greater Moncton – We’re OK

My attempt at a response to the tragic events in Moncton last week. From my TJ column:

After the tragic events of this week, it’s worth remembering this isn’t the first time the City of Moncton has faced a crisis. Back in 1869, the city was hit by the Saxby Gale, a tropical cyclone that devastated the downtown area. In 1974, two kidnappers killed two Moncton police officers who were trying stop the kidnapping of the son of a prominent businessman.

The city’s economy too has been hit hard over the years. The City of Moncton has gone bust three times since it was first settled by Europeans in the 18th Century. Each time the community suffered a major economic blow and ended up losing its charter.

Given these events and others, it is not surprising that the city motto is “resurgo” which translates from Latin as “rise again”.

In its current incarnation, Moncton has lived up to this motto. It has a reputation for being a tough and resilient place. Former Premier Frank McKenna used to call Moncton the Timex City because it “takes a licking and keeps on ticking” borrowing the slogan for that formerly ubiquitous wrist watch brand.

I’m not saying there is any similarity between the tragic events this week in Moncton and its economic challenges over the years. My point is that Moncton and Monctonians have been through big challenges in the past and have come through them even stronger.

As a Moncton resident, I was in the middle of the madness that started Wednesday evening and continued throughout Thursday. It’s not much of a stretch to say the city was under a state of siege. Schools and businesses were closed. People were told to stay in their homes while the manhunt proceeded. Everyone was in a state of shock.

As the city made front page headlines in New York, Washington, Sao Paulo and Berlin, some worried openly about how it would get past this tragic event.

Don’t worry about Moncton. It’s a tough place. It will get through this.

In many ways it is quite difficult to be a small city trying to carve out its niche in a North American economy that features a population of 530 million and an annual gross domestic product of $18 trillion.

Moncton is the 79th largest city in Canada and ranks around 400th when you include the United States. Kawartha Lakes, Ontario and the College Station, Texas have much larger populations than Moncton.

Despite its relatively small size and geographic isolation from the major population centres across North America, Moncton has been doing very well. In fact, the community has been going through a period of fairly remarkable economic and population growth.

Between 2007 and 2013, the Moncton metropolitan area, which includes the City of Dieppe and the Town of Riverview, witnessed an 11 per cent population growth rate which makes it the second fastest growing area in Canada east of Saskatchewan and the sixth fastest growing in all of Canada.

My point is that the event this week doesn’t change the essence of what makes this community great. Its friendly and hardworking people, bilingual population, deep cultural roots, entrepreneurial spirit and strong local leadership hasn’t changed.

In the short term we may be a little more wary of strangers. We may look over our shoulders a little more than we did before. The openness and friendliness of Monctonians may come under some strain.

But this city will live up to its reputation.

In the wake of the economic challenges facing Moncton in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the city adopted Greater Moncton – We’re OK as its promotional slogan to convince people that better days were ahead.

Given what happened this week, it may not be a bad idea to dust that one off again.

Greater Moncton, we really are okay.

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