There is nothing like a good ‘stat’ to take out some of the emotion surrounding an issue and inject some perspective.
On the Census in 2001 people where asked about the language used at their place of work. Over 37,000 Anglophones in the community answered they only spoke English at work compared to only 6,300 that spoke English and French. That’s 14% of Anglophones who spoke French at their place of employment. Considering that 25% of Anglophones in Greater Moncton claim to be bilingual – I think you can safely say that for most jobs (excluding government and some service positions) the ability to speak French is a bonus but not a requirement.
If you turn the equation around, however; you get a different story. Of the Francophones in Greater Moncton, almost 86% are required to speak English at their place of employment.
One more quick stat. From 1991 to 2001, there was an increase of 12,500 Anglophones that were living in Greater Moncton and only 7,100 more Francophones.
These 12,500 Anglophones came from places like Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia.
So I think we can conclude that while there may be some examples of folks having difficulty finding employment because of a lack of French language skills, it is by no means a wide spread problem.
Like Alabama, Kentucky was once considered a ‘New Brunswick’ of the United States. It was a backwater, rural place with low incomes, uneducated folks and the like.
Well, times, they are a changin’. From 1990 to 2000, the state added 10% to its population and that growth rate is continuing.
While the state has suffered decline in some of its traditional industries, it has aggressively pursued new ones. For example, the state attracted Toyota in the mid-1990s.
Now, Fidelity Investments just announced they would be adding an additional 1,500 to 2,000 jobs to their facility in Northern Kentucky.
That’s the kind of job announcement that we need here.
Will we see it anytime soon.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Young people have played a pivotal role in societal change all over the world – from the U.S., to Europe to China. Nothing brings fear and loathing to a politician like watching a demonstration of young people.
After hearing last week about UNB and its new effort to ban smoking everywhere on campus – even in a person’s own car, I began to wonder where are the priorities of today’s youth (and those of the teachers/leaders of post-secondary education but that is the subject of another blog)?
In the past, maybe, the lines were clearer. Our university kids had a clear sense of the injustices they were fighting for and offered an interesting perspective on the world.
But how about today? Draconian measures levelled towards smokers? How about those church ladies trying to push Jesus on society? How dare they? Or how about anti-globalism? How dare they offer Indonesian workers five times more in wages than they would have gotten in a pre-globalized world? Or how about Naomi Klein’s rage against logos, what’s up with that?
It seems to me that New Brunswick student’s have nothing really to fight for anymore.
And to them, I offer New Brunswick. It’s future. It’s potential.
New Brunswick has not had a population growth rate greater than the national average since the 1850s. The main industries driving our economy are the same as 100 years ago. There has been almost no effort to create new industries in New Brunswick since Confederation. We have been content to be hewers and hoers as the old saying goes.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if the students of New Brunswick picketed the legislature asking the government to do something about our population decline?
But that wouldn’t be nearly as important as the rise of the ‘religious right’ and their sinister plan to force us to obey the ten commandments. Or those smokers – a plague on their families for lighting up a cigarette once and a while.
For those of you, like me, that follow how journalists cover politicians it is interesting when they seem to change their position. I am particularly interested in journalists in New Brunswick and how they cover economy-related issues.
As I have stated before, Lisa Hrabluk in the Telegraph-Journal seems to be one of the brighter lights on the provincial journalism scene. However, her approach to reporting of economic issues and the government’s Prosperity Plan has been very superficial. She once and a while will lob a gentle softball towards it, but for the most part, she falls in line with most of the other journalists in New Brunswick that seem to have stars in their eyes when it comes to the Prosperity Plan and the economic development direction of New Brunswick.
However, her last couple of commentaries have been more biting. This weekend, she wrote a commentary called Political expediency bumps political philosophy and it was fairly critical and even, one might say, cranky.
What’s next? Jacques Poitras writing a new book, The Wrong Fight? How about Al Hogan at the Times & Transcript making a critical comment related to the Prosperity Plan? Heaven forbid.
If the journalists turn on the Premier, watch out. Just ask Camille Theriault what happens next.
At 2 AM on Sunday morning I got a craving for a guilty pleasure – a McDonald’s Big Mac. As I was waiting for the 24 hour Drive Thru to serve up my arteriosclerosis-accelerating burger, CBC was playing news from Europe.
They were discussing the the political situation in Germany. It looks as though German Chancellor Gerard Schroder will soon fall from power – to a leader that supports President Bush and his overtures in Iraq, no less. The person conducting the interview was blown away by that. How could the Germans support a candidate that is pro-American? The analyst from German stated that it had very little to do with the candidate’s position on Iraq.
The main issue, according to this analyst, was that Germans are fed up with all the lies. They are looking for a political leader that will tell it to them straight. That will be honest about the current economic realities in Germany. Germany has built up one of the largest welfare states in Europe over the past 40 years and the current government continues to nurture it and put off what most think as inevitable – a full reset of the welfare mentality in Germany in favour of more personal responsibility. The German people are ready for this but the government doesn’t seem to be.
Less ‘entitlement’ and more ‘personal responsibility’. Sounds good to me.
But I digress. This blog is about something else.
It’s about ‘common sense’.
Namely, that eventually the public wakes up to reality whether or not the government wants them to or not.
In New Brunswick the reality is:
-Population decline since the late 1990s
-Out-migration of our best and brightest youth
-Almost no immigration
-Our key industries -forestry, fishing and mining – are in decline
-The education gap with the rest of Canada is widening
-Most importantly, we require at least $1.5 billion per year from Ontario and Alberta taxpayers just to be able to offer the current level of government services in the province.
No matter how much the government and the Times & Transcript talk about prosperity and ‘booms’, eventually this reality is going to sink in with the majority of New Brunswickers. Hopefully, they will then call for substantitive change.
CBC Radio took a gentle poke this morning at the long standing tension that runs just under the surface here in Moncton regarding language. There are some in the anglophone community (across New Brunswick) that think you have to speak French to get a job and that the best jobs are reserved for those that speak French.
There are a three points that need to be made here, in my humble opinion:
- Being able to speak French is an important skill in New Brunswick and particularly Moncton. So is having a university degree. So is being able to write articulately (no comments from the peanut gallery on this one, please). So is having a specific job-related skill. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the bilingual nature of Moncton is a key and unique advantage and unique advantages can be an anchor for a community’s long term economic development. So anlgos should look at speaking French as a life skill just like any other and get with the program (myself included here). Any attempts to put the genie back in the bottle on this would do serious harm to the economic and social potential of our community.
- Enforcing the requirement for French in all jobs and positions in the community is a tricky business considering that the majority of people that are moving here are doing so from non-French communities. That’s right, the much heralded exodus from the Acadian Peninsula has brought less people to Moncton than from Anglo communities in Nova Scotia, PEI, Ontario, etc. In addition, the migration data proves that Québécois have limited interest in moving here. As well, Moncton is a community that does business in a global market. Out manufacturers distribute products in the U.S. and beyond. Our call centres take calls from Texas. We need to attract immigrants from Ontario, Alberta and India. Limiting the flow of people into Moncton from just French-speaking regions would also do serious harm to the economic and social potential of our community.
- Except in the government sector, there is little evidence to support the claim that the ‘best jobs’ are only filled by folks that are bilingual. They are filled by the person with the most skill for the job of which language is an important component.
In summary, we need to be vigilant and support the development of this region as a bilingual one. We need to encourage immigrants (and migrants) to learn French and to put their kids in French Immersion.
But we do not want to be seen as a closed shop.
An editorial in the Telegraph Journal today suggests that Saint John must ‘think smaller’. It refers to a recent letter to Saint John common council from retired business professor Gary Davis that suggests the city reduce its size by 50 per cent – a move that would result in a 10 per cent smaller population and a much greater reduction in the cost of services.
At the same time, the editorial in the Daily Gleaner earlier this week stated:
Sustained advancement and growth ….can do nothing but solidify Fredericton’s stature as lead city in this small province. Fredericton and the institutions must always be developed to play a core role in the future evolution of all points of this province.
Meanwhile, Al Hogan at the Times & Transcript continued to gush over Premier Lord in this week’s editorials – but I digress.
My point is that in Saint John the recommendation is to downsize while in Fredericton, they still live under the delusion/illusion they are the ‘lead city’ in New Brunswick.
What do I want? I want Saint John to re-emerge as a dominant economic force in New Brunswick – maybe the dominant force – the way it was for the first 100 years of this province.
And, I want Fredericton to stop interpreting high paying government and university jobs into some perceived sense of one-up-manship over Moncton. Fredericton should look around and try to find the high paying jobs in that city that aren’t directly funded by government. Fredericton should attempt to foster an entrepreneurial culture eminating out of UNB – exactly what has been done by UdeM in Moncton. In that city, almost all of the brightest young entrepreneurs are UdeM grads. For Fredericton to grow long term, it has to break this culture of government/university domination and grow some real private sector-driven industries- especially if Maritime Union is inevitable (and I think it is unless there is a real change in economic fortune in this province) and the massive, high paying government jobs in Fredericton will dry up and move to Halifax.
Finally, all three southern cities in New Brunswick need to play a larger role in the province’s economic growth. For all Fredericton and Moncton’s huffing and blowing, the provincial population is in decline.
Can’t say that about Ottawa and Toronto in Ontario. The growth in these two cities more than compensates for any decline in northern Ontario.
The Government of New Brunswick has a web page called Components of Growth. You can find it here: http://www.gnb.ca/0160/Economics/ComponentsofGrowth.htm.
These components include: births, deaths, Immigrants, Emigrants, Returning emigrants, Net temporary emigrants, Net interprovincial migrants, Net non-permanent residents and a residual deviation.
Now the cute thing about this page is that most likely six of the last seven years have registered a net population decline in New Brunswick (when they get around to adding the residual deviation figures – which have averaged a negative 1,016 per year since 1972 and have only been positive five times in the past 33 years).
Why aren’t they calling it Components of Decline?
Al Hogan over at the T&T was gushing again this morning about the New Brunswick government’s move to make student loans more accessible. On this one we agree (less the gushing). However, I will bring up the additional caution that I always do when discussing education funding.
If 30%-50% of your university graduates leave the province, all of this effort is just to subsidize someone else’s labour market.
Imagine. The government will pay thousands per year per kid* to subsidize education costs and nickels and dimes to ensure there are jobs here when these kids actually graduate.
Welcome to Al Hogan’s version of Nirvana.
*”direct spending per per student in kindergarten to Grade 12 will have gone up by $1,598 or 33.1% since 1999.” Source: Post-Budget Report to New Brunswickers.
A top story in today’s Globe & Mail entitled Canada’s auto labour advantage evaporates reports that DaimlerChrysler Canada assembly plants in southern Ontario are operating at a disadvantage of $8.81 (U.S.) an hour, compared with U.S. plants operated by the three largest Japan-based auto makers. Labour costs are $51.05 an hour in U.S. dollars at Canadian plants versus an estimated $42.24 at Honda, Nissan and Toyota plants.
Gosh. What a ridiculous thing to say. Honda, Nissan and Toyota are all located in the ‘New Brunswick’s’ of the United States. Of course labour costs will be lower. Cost of living is lower. There is little union influence.
We keep spending hundreds of millions in tax dollars to support new auto plants in the highest cost areas of Canada while in the U.S. they are all going to their version of New Brunswick.
My old pal, Jim Stanford, the CAW economist, says you can’t compare ‘unionized’ labour costs in Canada to non-unionized labour costs in the USA.
That’s exactly what auto makers will do.
Jim, where’s all that crap about just in time inventories, integrated logistics, clustering effects now?
Alabama is cheaper and more effective than Detroit for auto plants.
The same logic should apply in Canada.
But it doesn’t.
By the way, thanks Jim for that new analysis of the Employment Insurance program in Atlantic Canada. It always helps to know the CAW is looking out for us down here.