I have met many of New Brunswick’s business leaders over the years but I never had the opportunity to meet either of the McCain brothers but I have talked with a lot of folks that were impacted by them over the years.
There are basically two extreme ends of the spectrum on the impact of the McCains (and other large scale entrepreneurs). On one end, there are those that say they stifle local competition, restrain growth outside their ecosystem, set prices and wages and squeeze supply chains. Adherents to this view suggest this leads to less economic development over time because of the dependency on such a large employer.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are those that say without the McCains, et. al. New Brunswick would be an even worse economic basket case than it is now. What we need, they say, is a new round of large scale entrepreneurs to step up and build companies with thousands of employees and supply chains with several hundred firms in New Brunswick.
I don’t know that anyone has really tested either theory in any kind of formal econometric or even investigative journalistic way. It seems to me that the McCain manufacturing facilities paid decent wages, treated suppliers well, etc. Sure they adapted to local market realities but I haven’t been presented with any evidence they were bullies, kept down wages, pushed local competitors out of the market. I have talked with those with varying viewpoints as to the impact on agriculture but I don’t know enough of that to add any value to the conversation. Agriculture is, and will remain, a highly subsidized, highly regulated and somewhat cartelized industry. Obviously the McCains were a big part of that process.
My preference would be to see more ambitious NB entrepreneurs step up like the McCains.