The Trouble with Normal

The Trouble with normal is it always gets worse – Bruce Cockburn (1983)

Unknown to most casual fans of Bruce Cockburn, he is actually the quintessential contrarian railing against the Right and the Left. He is a pacifist with a gun collection. Against abortion but for a woman’s right to choose one.

But I digress.

The theme of this blog is the trouble with normalcy. Things are pretty normal in Moncton right now. Chugging along at a healthy pace. New retail. Some new manufacturing. A new bridge. Normal.

The problem is that normalcy can bring complacency. And in the world of economic development that can be deadly. The sense of urgency that was felt in Moncton in the late 1980s permeated all aspects of local economic development. The communities cooperated, rivals put aside their differences for the good of the area. Decisions were made speedily. Desperation is an excellent motivator.

However, now we see signs of the trouble with normal in the Cockburnian sense of the word. There is competition and in some cases outright hostility between the communities. Business leaders that once cooperated now squabble about the course of development. And decisions that once were made quickly and effectively are now taking years – if they are happening at all. This breaking down of the solidarity that was once Greater Moncton has not had a major impact on our development.

…As of yet.

How do you instill a ‘sense of urgency’ when things are humming along? When the local papers spew forth bright, cheery commentary with no critical thinking? I would argue that the stakes are higher now than they were in the late 1980s because now not only is Moncton expected to take care of itself, it has become the anchor of the provincial economy. If the Moncton economy falters, the provincial economy is doomed.

I would urge all the players involved – from the City/Town halls, to the economic development agencies to local business leaders – to put aside petty differences. To think about the community as a whole again. To re-engage themselves in the process of local economic development. To invest time and effort (learn from Saint John on this one). To make sure, darn sure, that the next 10-15 years for Greater Moncton are at least as successful as the previous ones.