Keep the focus

Branding Saint John
The Deputy Mayor of Saint John has a commentary this morning in the TJ about the port city being “more than an energy hub”.

That may be true but I’d recommend they keep the focus clear. It takes a lot of effort to build a ‘brand’ for a community. If you ask people inside and outside of “Canada’s Technology Triangle” what the area is known for, I suspect a vast majority would tell you ‘technology’.

I am not suggesting that Saint John not pursue non-energy projects. I am suggesting they try and weave the energy theme throughout their efforts. And they have been, I think with some success.

I also think that Saint John should be expanding the notion of energy hub by becoming a centre for research into alternative energy, a centre for energy-related conventions/trade shows and community that can leverage its strengths in energy to sectors far beyond energy (think Calgary). Calgary has been known as the head office for the oil sector. But it quietly has built up a number of other strong sectors including IT, finance, etc. That’s a pretty good model for Saint John to follow.

The thorn that won’t go away
I read this morning that “Businesses in unincorporated areas using neighbouring municipality’s services should be paying for them through higher taxes, the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick resolved yesterday”.

Gosh. How long is this LSD thing going to continue. I remember Frank talked about ‘dealing’ with it. Then Lord was going to amalgamate LSDs. Now Graham.

I have posted on this a dozen times. New Brunswick has more people living outside formal municipalities than any other province in Canada. 40% worth.

And no politician in 25 years has done anything to rectify it.

The Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick may “resolve” whatever it wants to “resolve” but until the government actually decides to deal with the issue, it’s all farting in the wind, baby.

I think everyone in New Brunswick should have a Mayor, a City Manager and a municipal layer of government because leaving that in the hands of the province for 40% of the population makes no sense.

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0 Responses to Keep the focus

  1. mikel says:

    That’s your opinion Dave, but unless you’ve turned into Stalin, voters have already spoken on the matter.

    Whether they have their own mayor or city manager is irrelevant here, unless ‘incorporation’ also means adding all the services of neighbouring municipalities so they they don’t use them. IF it means that, then those who voted against amalgamation were right to reject it based on the fact it would mean higher taxes.

    However, the idea that the ONLY way to deal with the issue is by rural areas amalgamating into copies of larger urban ones is, frankly, a sign of a pretty uninformed mind. There are hundreds of various possibilities out there, so far from the government we’ve heard two. That the liberals would have a referendum on the issue so quick in their mandate, with virtually NO public debate about it, even within those commmunities, is a sign that this ins’t very high on their agenda.

    However, I agree that something should be legislated to the grassroots, as changes to the act are long overdue. But as usual, thanks to the ill informed Irving media, people know very little about the issue.

  2. David Campbell says:

    You are correct that my uniformed mind is providing an opinion. There are few iron clad facts in this business. I have seen these unincorporated areas wither away (with the exception of some that are sitting adjacent to a successful urban area and reaping the benefits without paying their share of costs) because there is nobody local that takes control of their destiny. Leaving that to Fredericton is about the same as Fredericton leaving that to Ottawa.

    And, in observation of your Stalin reference, I do think that sometimes strong leadership means just getting it done. On an issue like this, most LSD residents will oppose because it will lead (or likely lead) to increased local taxes. But if you leave tax increases only to the will of the people, you would never have any tax increases.

    A quick anecdote (again playing my uninformed mind card). FDR was in Brazil and met with the recently installed dictator (Getulio Vargas – I read a bio on him too) circa 1937. Vargas was apparently embarrassed about being a ‘dictator’ and said to FDR “You may have heard that I am a dictator” and without missing a beat FDR said “you probably heard the same thing about me”.

  3. mikel says:

    Dude, when have I ever insulted you? The uninformed mind refers to the government which had a referendum offering two choices with no debate.

    However, like I said, its the fault of the media that we ALL have a relatively uninformed mind on the matter because its virtually never mentioned in the press. How bad the press is is reflected in the fact that DURING the referendum the MEDIA was blaming government because the people were ‘ill informed’. That’s simply insane, the government virtually has NO way of keeping people informed, that’s the press’ job, but as somebody said at another blog, since its a private media, you can’t expect them to do anything but shill for Irving.

    But like I said, incorporating doens’t do anything to solve the issue that the municipalities are talking about. In fact, its ironic because unless they wanted to pay higher costs to neighbouring towns then they’d have to duplicate the services in their own, and then all of sudden comes the cry for BIGGER amalgamation because of course that means duplication of services-why should area X have a full time…whatever, when there is one twenty minutes away. Which of course begs the question- why NOT get Fredericton to do it? (It’s hardly the same as Ottawa, because the division of powers between the feds and provinces are VERY different than provinces and municipalities-local governments have NO powers and are completely beholden to provincial governments in Canada))

    However, the whole thing is disingenuous because, as just a few moments thought will tell you, it is the RURAL areas that are the short end of the stick. Somebody made the point that its ironic that all the services go to Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, while the only thing that kept NB in the money this year was Zinc prices, and of course Zinc comes from rural areas outside Bathurst. As does Peat, as does most of the area where LNG pipelines are located, as does pulp and forestry products, as does a good percentage of the water.

    So its far from the case that rural areas are sponging off the other areas. Hell, Fredericton would not even exist if it weren’t for the largesse of the rest of the country and the resources of rural areas. How much would Saint John shrink without a pulp mill?

    So its the REVERSE of what they are claiming. However, they get away with it for the same reason as all political rhetoric-with no representation to oppose them.

    I see your point, however, you are using your economic development glasses to view something that is a problem, but NOT an economic development one in the way you think of it. Edmunston and Campbellton used to be actual cities, just like any other. Yet economic development has plummeted and they are ghost towns compared to their former selves. So having a Mayor and a city manager WON”T have the result you are talking about.

    And again, people in rural areas live there for a reason, so they should be allowed to NOT have economic development if they so choose. To claim to want to set up a structure with no way of rectifying they’re central problem is putting the cart before the horse. Put out any ED model and Bathurst, Miramichi, Campbellton, Edumston, or most ‘amalgamated’ place up north and the people would be more than happy.

    If ED models haven’t been found or addressed for THOSE places, why pretend that it would be for newly amalgamated rural areas? In essence it is saying ‘we want you to have all the pains in the ass of having another level of government with none of the benefits’

    Finally, your final thoughts ARE uninformed, since half the states in the US, and much of local government, is done by direct democracy-meaning that voters VOTE on matters themselves (a good model to save some money municipally in rural areas).

    And in fact it is about 50-50, voters have OFTEN voted for tax increases. Typically though, the deciding factor is knowing where it is going. For example, in Canada, the first thing that typically happens after an election is that the representatives vote themselves a pay raise-very common.

    In the states, local and state representatives make VERY little money. So when tax increases are tied to a specific project, they are often supported. Even in Rossland, BC, when they first introduced citizens initiatives, the very first thing the town did was vote in a tax increase to improve the water treatment plant.

    In Canada, it is of course assumed your tax dollars just ‘get lost in the mix’ which means the perception is there that nothing beneficial will get done with it. Thats in good part why people don’t support tax increases. The realit y of people’s voting is very different-just look at Maine, which often has voted to increase taxes and even debt. Once again, the fact that people of NB know almost nothing about the state right next door says a lot about the media.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good point, Mikel. All of this incorporation stuff is a minefield depending on which side of the fence you are on. Its a political hot potato made so by the politicians themselves and now they are suffering because of it. Why they cant split the province in three (call them sub provinces) each with one of the main cities in them and share the burden that way is beyond me. As far as I can see there are far too many LSDs in NB staffed by power-mad amateurs who dont or wont see the bigger picture. One in particular that helped scupper a good investment initiative.
    Saint John has an identity problem. Despite any number of quick fixes to establish itself through branding it still doesnt know what or who it is or wants to be. Energy hub is the latest in a long line of ‘brands’. For my money Saint John city center is a beautiful piece of real estate but 2 kms outside it is a veritable wasteland. Its an eyesore. There are various scabs on the landscape especially on the highway from the airport into the city such as the refinery. I’m not bashing Irving here but a number of government departments and local councillors need to look at themselves.
    Saint John needs to decide whether it wants to attract tourists or energy investment and base its branding on that. There’s no point in promoting a beautiful city when there is a refinery halfway between the airport and the city that is so prominent for tourists to see. It must be terribly offputting to them and this without a second one.

  5. Anonymous says:

    First, english is not mother tongue therefore I don`t write it properly.

    “Saint John the best and worst from a new comer in New-brunswick”

    Saint John is the best city in New Brunswick in term of history, density, structures, skylines, multiculturalism, people friendliest, natural beauty as well as urban mind.

    Saint john is the worst in term of decrepitude of infrastructures, the shrink in the local labour market rate, as well as the high poverty rate. The last issue includes the homeless, the teen pregnancy rate and the ghettorisation of teen-single mothers and lone-parent families within vulnerable neighbourhoods.

    Moreover, while other communites are focusing on air pollution reduction plans, Saint John carry on in the same grass roots : heavy industies. The likely closure of UNB linked with all those proposed projects couls be the consolidation of Saint John as industrial town only. Everybody knows that industrial cities are often less appealing, attractives, economically sustainable and often the hub for social problems.

    Moncton, Halifax, Montreal, and even Calgary built a sustainable development clusters around transportation, financial services, biotechnologies, pharmaceutical companies, aerospatial and E-trade.

    Why Saint John have failed on that matter ? Lack of Vision by the city council ? Disengagement by the Federal and Provicial level ?

    Energy Hub… or pollution hub?


  6. David Campbell says:

    It’s not my job to defend or promote any community in New Brunswick. But Saint John hosted this week a leading green energy guy out of California so I think the focus is on being an nouveau 21st century energy hub.

  7. Anonymous says:

    No worries David, I like saint John too. I was out there yesterday, my love for this city is in perpetual contradiction between my affection for the uban-city frame and heritage buildings against my hate for heavy-industrial clusters. Moncton has shopping centers, and sophistication, right ? but Saint John provides a such urban setup with skylines, pedways, and density. Moncton seem to focus on projects characterized by a suburban look while Saint John with projects as waterfront that included a better land usage, with a strong skyline.