Blogging from Freddy Beach

I’m in Fredericton today for a couple of meetings. I have a few minutes so I’ll serve up a quick blog with my Starbuck’s coffee.

I spent most of my childhood in Fredericton. More specifically, Lincoln just outside of Freddy.

Something has always struck me as odd in this area. Fredericton, as you know, is the richest community as measured by average income (personal and household)- by far – in New Brunswick. This is due primarily to the presence of the government. Most government cities in Canada have considerably higher average incomes than others – and that is particularly so in New Brunswick.

But what I find odd is this ring of poverty – or more accurately – lower income families – living around Fredericton. Lincoln, my old stomping grounds – is visibly poor – with boarded up buildings, very few new homes, business, etc. If you take Nevers Road, Rusagonis and swing around to Fredericton out towards Tracy, you see more of this. There is also a similar story if you come into Freddy on the old TransCanada.

In my opinion, you don’t see this in Moncton. And in my limited experience in Saint John you don’t see this there either. In both Moncton and SJ maybe it’s more urban poor – I am not sure, quite frankly.

Maybe it goes back to my old bugaboo about so many communities in New Brunswick not having an effective local government (LSDs, etc.). Maybe if all these areas were rolled into a single municipal structure, there would be more interest/focus on them in terms of development.

Or maybe it’s a pure economic reality. Maybe it’s too expensive for a lot of folks to live in the well manicured areas and that this ‘beltway’ has become the best optin for folks with below average incomes.

Who knows?

Just a few comments from the news this morning.

I see that CBC is reporting that Connect North America is blaming the provincial government for it closing its call centre. I have no idea the specifics but I assume that means the province wouldn’t bail them out after they hit the skids – maybe due to the appreciation of the Canadian dollar.

But, for me, that’s an example of exactly what has been wrong in economic development in New Brunswick. The government put piles of cash into firms that are having economic troubles – in order to ensure that they stay in business. Or, as I like to say, propping up bad business models.

I very much dislike this style of economic development. Government investment, if used at all, should be to build an environment that attracts top notch firms with great business models. Bailing out bad companies seems to be a very bad idea.

Our friend David Shipley at the TJ is reporting on the province courting companies to set up here – I think it is tied to the potential for another nuclear power plant.

I applaud these efforts but in the long term, we need to attract firms to set up here not based on the local business they will get from having an office here. Eventually the government spending on new power plants and such will end and so will those companies and their presence here. We need to attract firms that will base a chunk of their North American operations here (like Exxon, like UPS, like Iron Mountain, etc.).

I will say that I am hearing very good things about Jack Keir and his focus on using the energy sector as an economic development driver. That is good to hear.

Moncton has ranked 4th in Canada as a place to do business (Canadian Business magazine). A couple of years ago, Moncton was #1. Then it ‘collapsed’. Now it is back. Saint John was tops, now gone from the top 10. Freddy is on this list.

Quite frankly, this list is becoming silly. Cities can’t go from #1 to #15 in one year as a place to business. The measurements are based on ephemeral factors when it should focus on longer term factors. What business will make a decision about where to locate on one year’s worth of data?