I have been in and out of town over the past week and have been missing some of the local news. Feel free to send me articles/studies, etc. that I may have missed (anytime) but may be interested in ([email protected]).
1. Oh, the urbanity of it all!
However, I see in the TJ today that Francis McGuire is talking up the need to have strong urban centres.
But not at the expense of smaller communities.
You see, Moncton has been growing quite strongly over the past 15 years as has Fredericton. But despite this urban growth, the population of New Brunswick overall is declining.
We need strong urban anchors to drive provincial growth – but not by emptying out smaller communities. While some policy makers would like to have less people living in areas outside of Freddy, SJ and Monkeytown (because it would consolidate/lower the unit cost of government services among other arguments), I think we should make every attempt to build up all regions of New Brunswick – not necessarily every single community – but we need to have a vibrant Acadian Peninsula, Miramichi region, upper SJ River Valley and Central/Northwestern NB (as well as the southern urban triangle).
The social and cultural loss, for me, would be too great – not to at least give it a try. And anyone who thinks we have made any serious attempts at economic development in northern NB should check out the southern US. They are identifying large tracts of land in the most rural areas, developing it, zoning it and then promoting it to large scale foreign investment (such as auto plants). The vast majority of the largest economic development projects in the US (manufacturing) are being sited in areas at least one hour’s drive from the state’s large urban centres.
Let’s get serious about development in Northern NB. Let’s start weening off the $550 million in Employment Insurance payments every year up there and divert that money into real economic development. Just 25% of that EI amount per year could be put to wonderful use.
2. Got the luck of the [Northern] Irish?
I read last week somewhere that over the past decade Northern Ireland has witnessed a positive migration trend – more people moving in than moving out.
That’s a staggering statistic given that not that long ago Northern Ireland was a place of deep economic, social and demographic challenges. Certainly they are not done yet but they are moving in the right direction.
I blogged a few months ago about the UK government giving significant economic assistance to a large, multinational aerospace firm to put a billion dollar manufacturing plant in Northern Ireland.
At the time I said, and I reiterate, when was the last time the Canadian federal government put a massive incentive package against a billion dollar manufacturing plant in Atlantic Canada.
Of course, you shouldn’t stretch your mind too much thinking about this as I believe the last project of that size was Michelin (unless you include the Feds investment in Hibernia).
If Graham/McGuire/Brian Dick want self-sufficiency in 20 years, I don’t see how that would be possible without a strong partner in the federal government. A partner helping to attract significant, large scale investments here (as they have in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta recently).
3. Heat it up, baby
I just read today about a new report from MIT suggesting that we could use the heat from the earth to generate as much as 10% of the US energy needs over the next 30 years. And, a bit like nuclear power, once you have drilled the 3-4km holes in the earth and set up the water pumping equipment (pump down cold water, it comes up extremely hot and is used to produce energy), the ongoing marginal costs are limited. And according to MIT, there are limited environmental risks.
I don’t know much about this but I will say that there is talk of making Saint John an energy hub so why not be exploring such things in New Brunswick first?
We were the first off the mark on the call centre front and that served the province well. We tried to get late into a few other games and got nowhere. There is an advantage to being a first mover in things like this.
So, let’s get the feds (see point #2 above) to pony up a billion or so and drill a great big hole out in Sussex.