On Nackawic and literacy

It’s funny how the media hammered the Molson deal in Moncton (mostly) but all but glossed over the biggest New Brunswick incentive to industry in years – namely the $67 million in loans and loan guarantees to India’s Aditya Birla Group to reopen the mill in Nackawic. This $67 million goes to support 250 jobs.

Now don’t get tripped up on the terminology – grant, loan, loan guarantee, forgiveable loan, investment – the bottom line is that the government shelled out $67 million (and may or may not get any back) to stimulate 250 jobs in Nackawic.

Am I complaining? Not really but it doesn’t seem like there is much logic, and therefore any real underlying strategy, to the economic development activities of the Premier and his team. A half dozen other mills close in northern New Brunswick and nada – this one $67 million. Maybe it’s about the diversification. I dunno.

I just wish there was $67 million laying around when a large, new economy project came along. One that is based on emerging industries instead of dying ones.

I suspect the Premier read that Newfoundland’s Danny Williams just shelled out $130 million to keep a mill in rural Newfoundland open and said, I’d better do this.

All this proves is that, miraculously, there seems to be lots of money laying around for politically sensitive projects and none for long term development projects.

On literacy

Guess what. No news here. Just an affirmation. New Brunswick and Newfoundland are the most illiterate provinces in Canada. What is really disturbing is the gap emerging between NB and Nova Scotia/PEI. I can handle being out performed by Alberta and Ontario but Nova Scotia? Why are Nova Scotia’s much more literate than NBers? And the difference is considerable. Over 55% of Nova Scotians score in the two highest levels of literacy 3-4 (out of the four levels) compared to only 44% of New Brunswickers.

I know I’ll get nasty responses but I’ll say it anyway. The data is clear that out-migrants from New Brunswick, on average, are much higher educated than the province as a whole. That, by definition, explains these poor scores.

The government may be wise not to address these issues. The more literate folks are, the more they leave. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 23% of British Columbians have a literacy level of 4 compared to only 12% of New Brunswickers.

But don’t worry, Margaret-Ann Blaney, minister of training and employment development says government will be unveiling a literacy plan shortly.

I get goosebumps just thinking about it.