I’m not exactly Dave Veale, but I do understand the importance of leadership to successful organizations. As I see it there are leaders who are the hardest working people you will ever meet. They are also usually smart. They have a sense of strategy. They know all the files back and forth. They can quote Nietzsche and Sun Tzu. But, unfortunately, many of them can’t inspire people.
I was thinking about this last night at the NB Multicultural Council event in Moncton. There is almost no doubt in my mind that New Brunswick will need to attract substantial new migrants over the next decade just to ensure existing employers have enough workers and many more if we actually want to grow the labour force and economy.
But hard working leaders on this issue will not be enough. We need inspirational leaders to get people excited about the potential and how the local population can mobilize at the community level to make it successful.
It can be done, of course. Consider the following four communities: Brooks and Banff in Alberta, Lloydminster in Saskatchewan and Whistler in BC. These communities have the distinction of having among the fastest growing immigrant populations (adjusted for population size) in Canada even though they are tiny and rural (these numbers excluding temporary foreign workers).
Can you imagine? This would be like Campbellton attracting 2,220 immigrants in the next five years or Miramichi attracting 5,000.
I want to be clear about the data here. In Brooks, 16% of everyone is a new immigrant,13% in Lloydminster, etc. In Toronto the rate was 7%, Vancouver less than 6%.
Why would these communities attract so many immigrants? Very simple. To protect their economies. Look at the following chart. I have highlighted the only numbers that matter in red. Lloydminster has over 9 times as many people working in mining compared the rest of the country, Brooks 6 times. Look at Whistler and Banff – the two largest tourism economies in Canada. That’s it folks. They are protecting their industrial drivers. By the way, we don’t have good data on this but anecdotally the immigrants being attracted into mining and oil and gas communities are not working in mining they are mostly in the service industries that support mining. In other words, they are bringing in immigrants to work the jobs in demand to support their strategically important industries.
Charlotte County recently issued a report warning of the significant labour market shortages facing the tourism industry in that region of New Brunswick. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld’s exhortation to Elaine “Look to the cookie!”, I say look to Banff.
Our elected leaders need to step up on this issue. This is where inspiration comes in.