I just heard Don Mills, the President of Corporate Research Associates, discussing public opinion in New Brunswick and it felt like someone kicked me in the gut.
Don Mills, as the former chair of the Greater Halifax Partnership, should know better. He painted this glowing picture of the booming economy in New Brunswick and stated that it was a good thing that New Brunswickers now rank jobs and the economy below health care in terms of our priorities.
CRA is a well-known public opinion research firm. I have a little idea for Mr. Mills. How about a survey of New Brunswickers telling them that we have had an out-migration of people from New Brunswick for six straight years and for 23 of the last 25? How about telling them that our population has been declining since 1998 for the first sustained period since Confederation? How about telling them that the last time New Brunswick’s population growth equalled the Canadian average was in the 1850s – over 150 years ago? How about telling them that we require thousands of dollars per person in subsidies from other provinces in Canada just to pay for basic government services in the province? How about telling them that our main, backbone industries of fishing, forestry and mining are in decline? How about telling them that we have almost 100,000 people that rely on the Employment Insurance program every year?
Ask them how they feel about the state of our economy.
Let’s see their response.
And as for Moncton, which is doing ok, I’ll admit – but its population growth rate over the the 1990s was 37th among urban areas in Canada. How’s that, Mr. Mills – 37th good enough for you?
And as for immigration, Mr. Mills in a cavalier fashion talked about the major population centres in Canada growing strongly as a result of immigration.
Well, Don. Check you facts. Booming economies attract immigrants – not the other way around. We need to attract immigrants but we need to have the jobs and economic prospects here to sustain them.
Guys like Don Mills and others that paint a superficial view of the situation contribute to the apathy in the general public about economic development. And that results in governments who lose interest in economic development and that leads to further declines.
And Don Mills will be there reporting that “New Brunswickers are worried about the economy in Q1 2007, golly gee!”
Somebody better cut through this madness and start addressing our economic challenges right now. Better start attracting new industries and new jobs to grow the economy. Better take this stuff seriously.