Theme 1: An economic development sports analogy – If my Edmonton Oilers are like the New Brunswick of North America then my Washington Nationals (poor old Expos) are like Zimbabwe.
Theme 2: I heard a guy give a speech a few days ago and he said that one of New Brunswick’s biggest problems is that we have no real urban centre and are sparsely populated. He is right about the lack of an ‘urban centre’ (although the ‘real’ thing is subjective). The largest urban centre in New Brunswick has 17% of the provincial population. Every other province in Canada has an urban centre with at least 25% of the provincial population – Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver are well above 40%.
However, he is wrong about the ‘sparsely populated’ thing. New Brunswick is, I believe, the second most densely populated province in Canada behind PEI. 98% of the population lives within an hour’s drive of an urban centre (as defined by Statistics Canada. The problem with New Brunswickers is that we think we are sparsely populated. I had lunch today with a couple of health care administrators who told me that people fight tooth and nail to get specialized and expensive health care testing equipment in their hospital rather than drive 1.5 hours to another city to take the test. Cripes, there are people in the GTA that have to drive well over an hour to get to an airport.
Theme 3: I heard a guy on CBC today saying we need to place far more emphasis on history in our schools. Apparently, New Brunswick ranks very low nationally in this area. I couldn’t agree more. I think that history provides a grounding for residents – a connection to the past that is very important. However, I wondered as I listened to this guy about how many high school history teachers in New Brunswick could answer this simple but it would seem vital question: “Teacher, why has New Brunswick underperformed the rest of Canada in the area of population growth for over a Century?”.
Some enterprising teacher might suggest it has been our mix of industrial development. That’s probably one of the better academic answers. Others might say it has to do with our lack of urbanization. That is not a particularly bright answer. If New Brunswick’s urban centres had been growing in a similar fashion as Ontario’s, we would have had a similar urbanization.
It seems to me that if this question – about New Brunswick’s chronic economic challenges – was debated in our high schools – we might end up with far more public interest and engagement in community economic development.