New Brunswick learning from Ireland: Part ad nauseum

We have talked on this blog alot about India and Ireland and the need to evolve the call centre industry into a more IT and technology-based economy – much like this commentary talks about here.  I guess we shouldn’t be too strident in our position on this, however.   As he is chiding New Brunswick for not developing its IT sector it is worthwhile to point out that from 1996 to 2006 both Saint John and Moncton had faster growth rates in IT workers than Vancouver or Toronto and as of 2006, there were just about as many IT workers in the labour force in Saint John and Fredericton as in Vancouver (relatively speaking).

Only Toronto can claim to be way out front in terms of IT workers.

But the guy’s thesis is worth a look.

30 thoughts on “New Brunswick learning from Ireland: Part ad nauseum

  1. David, are there any data linking wages to these IT jobs? That is, are there differences in dollars per among these different cities?

  2. Something wrong with your abilities to do your own research rather than trying to sound like you could!

  3. From the 2006 Census, we know that persons working full time in Computer and Information Systems Occupations earned 28% more than those working full time in all occupations. That spread was about average among the 10 provinces in Canada. The average earnings for a full time, full year NB ICT worker in 2006 was $53,003 compared to $69,786 in Ontario and $65,931 across Canada as a whole. But the cost of living in New Brunswick is lower so on purchasing power parity basis the spread is not as bad as it looks.

  4. Thanks, David. If call-center jobs are included in that calculation, then that would suggest that NB is getting its share of the higher-value IT jobs, as well as the call-centre work. Perhaps you are correct that this is an area where NB can ramp things up and build upon what is already present.

  5. er, call center jobs would not exactly, be classified as high paying Tech jobs!
    And our fair share, is acquired by the companies that need them and can afford to pay them. So no you don’t “ramp” up high paying IT experts. You want them, you offer them 65,000 to 100,000 just like was offered MY son and Son-in-law to return to NB!.

  6. Hi, David. I’ve been reading your blog for a while good work.

    I was having breakfast this morning with a senior guy for a local IT company. He said that there major problem is finding the skilled people to do the work … even now during the recession.

    He mentioned that having the Population Growth Secretariat going to Ontario and Alberta to have lobster dinners with Moosehead beer to recruit ex-pats is all well and good but the issue is funneling the people to the companies looking to hire. He’s asked to have resumes with the skills he’s looking for sent to him but the dept says they don’t have the budget to do that type of work. He also mentioned how the dept should have some sort of relocation package to help people moving into NB.

    I was just wondering if you’ve heard any of these complaints. It seems to me it would be minimal work by the Dept with big payoffs to the province because they would be high paying jobs.

  7. I have heard companies calling for relocation assistance – particularly for IT people. I think it is an interesting idea given that we will need to attract even more people with these skills from away. As for the resume issue, I was under the impression that the government was encouraging people to go to to view IT jobs in New Brunswick.

    I know that when PEI goes to immigration events, they put personal information in their database and then send matching resumes to companies on the Island with specific employment opportunities.

  8. There must be some kind of help. Because, one huge NB company is flooded with many East Indians and Colombians. Does this not sound like the policy put forward by Graham a couple years ago? Think about it. WHEN, did you ever hear of our government offer help to former professional well qualified English speaking people, who left here. I have never heard of it. Does no one understand what goes on in this province, and has been ?

  9. <strongI know that when PEI goes to immigration events, they put personal information in their database and then send matching resumes to companies on the Island with specific employment opportunities.

    Couldn’t the Pop Growth Sec serve such a function, to act as one-stop shopping between ex-pats and employers? I would also think you could tie in w/ Business NB, so that prospective investors in New Brunswick know that they have easy access talent pool of eager folks who want to relocate to NB.

    Perhaps some of the forgiveable loans and grants would be contingent upon hiring “x” number of registered expat NBers.

  10. Not getting it eh?
    New Brunswick does not want English speaking immigrants. period.
    Thats what all indicators show for many years!

  11. I have a question. What would the pitch to an expanding IT company be to come to NB?

    I already know about the ability to buy and pay for a house in 25 years and the fact your kid’s school supply needs do not include an automatic weapon for saftey. Why would my IT company thrive more in Moncton than Toronto?

  12. The pitch is a relatively lower cost structure (wages are lower – not by a wide margin but lower, office lease rates, etc.). The IT workforce tends to be stable and hard working. For a lot of IT activity, such as animation and new media development, the workers here are considered to be quite strong. The last point is emerging as an important one – an increasing number of expatriates want to move back to New Brunswick (and are doing so – more people moved to Moncton from Toronto than vice versa in the past five years). When it comes time to settle down and raise a family things like a 5 minute commute to work, zero bad neighbourhoods, lower cost of living start to mean something.

    Quite frankly, I love Toronto and get there as much as I can. It is nice to have a job that allows me to live here but travel several times a year to T.O. because it is definitely a world class city.

  13. Thaanks. I think the workforce issue is chronically undersold. Typically ED people talk about ” a skilled workforce” which you can see on every ED site in the world. However, a loyal, stable and effective workforce is a differentiator and I’d say NB can honestly promote that.

  14. The reality is that there isn’t much more to pitch-that’s why we are frequently talking about public policy here. The NB motto is essentially ‘here are low CIT’s’ and ‘come and see us and we’ll maybe throw money at you’. The Edmunston story is pretty interesting because it shows exactly why a company chooses one place over another. But we don’t know details, that company may not be paying CIT’s at all-we just don’t know.
    Toronto is only one city. Why choose Moncton when a house there costs just as much as one here in Waterloo? We have no traffic problems, have two universities, and workers today are just as loyal as any in New Brunswick.
    The big differentiator is capital costs-sometimes. However, for IT the regional government just built a building specifically for IT companies and offering low rent. For the right projects, like CIGI, the City GAVE the organization a prime building in downtown. Try competing with that in Fredericton, where the Mayor recently said they ‘don’t play favourites’ when it comes to land.
    So like most cases it comes down to what the government offers. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a real disconnect between government and ‘certain’ types of businesses. So, for example, when the government puts some money into FatKat, are they also trying to leverage his connections to get other animation companies there? And again, New Brunswick has/had one of the most exciting new prospects in the beer business with Pumphouse, but seems intent on putting them out of business.
    Specifically in IT, I know many of the workers and ‘loyalty’ does NOT have anything to do with it, but that’s mostly because NO workers are that stupid anymore. IT companies routinely hired when they got government money or contracts, then sacked them-sometimes even DURING the projects and working understaffed. To echo NBTaxpayer, that’s NOT how companies in a private market act. People here who work for RIM are VERY loyal to RIM.
    So there does need to be ‘pitch’, but for that there actually needs to be a PLAN. David sometimes skips the middle man and just wants ‘somebody out there selling’, but again, there needs to be something to sell-and that’s public policy. That means more than “uh…we’re gonna be self sufficient”.
    But for ‘facts’ we need only look at the BNB video at Youtube, which has had fewer than 600 viewers. The video says NOTHING about actual policies to entice business. THe end has Shawn Graham spouting the same old cliche’s “we welcome your business”.
    The video essentially showcases the businesses that are ALREADY in the province-Gtech, Irving, Precision Nuclear, Ganong. If I’m an IT company, I’m impressed by this why? Ganong is located there so therefore I want to be? They mention ‘congestion free traffic’, and ‘natural resources’, but again, here in Southern Ontario I’m no further than an hour from a lake that might as well be an ocean. There is far less traffic here in Waterloo-Kitchener than I’ve encountered in Fredericton, Saint John, or Moncton. And we’re less than half an hour from the escarpment.
    So THAT isn’t a big deal. But the ‘culture’ is, but how do we define that culture and sell it? (Bill?) The housing is a big deal, so how do you leverage that company in Edmunston? It is true that salaries can be lower if housing costs are significantly lower-but that doesn’t work for the cities of the south. Anyway, just a few thoughts on a saturday morning.

  15. This may be an aside, but I’m a great believer in perception. In Alberta, when you shop, you only pay GST. They’ve made a big selling point of no provincial sales tax for decades. Yet, somehow, prices for goods (bread, milk, whatever) aren’t that much different than in other provinces. I believe they have those taxes masked; they are getting them elsewhere. True or not, the perception is, “Good grief! Look how high the sales tax is in NB!” When I came here I found the HST quite a shock to the system. How people see and experience something is very important.

    Part of the ‘culture’ issue is that something like ‘congestion free traffic’ sounds great, but it also sounds sleepy. The standard selling points need to be combined with a sense of vitality. Off the top of my head, I don’t know how this is done. It’s not an easy task to change ‘culture.’ But I think a beginning is stressing the “new” in New Brunswick and highlighting one of the richest histories in Canada along with the idea that history isn’t static, it’s being made right now. Come to New Brunswick and make some history.

    As I’ve said to friends before, I’m all about shoveling the you know what. 🙂

  16. The quality of life issue is oversold here but maybe we need to define what that can mean, and for me, it means time. This is a place you can go for a run and leave for work at 7:45, go home for lunch, or do a couple errands at lunch time and be home enjoying a cool beer on the deck by 5:15.

    So people say they can get to work from suburbia by leaving at 7 and getting home at 6; sounds good but for me, that extra 45 minutes on the front end and the back end of the day is valuable. That goes to quality of life but maybe we need to be more specific with examples like this.

  17. There’s two issues with that. Changing perception, as usual, gets back to the usual problem of actually getting government to represent the people. People get ideas here, but its all armchair quarterbacking. I really suggest people go to Youtube and check out the Business New Brunswick video. Anon mentioned before that ‘they don’t want english immigrants’-from that video, you could practically say that they really aren’t interested in foreign investment AT ALL.

    Here in Ontario amongst the small scale media and in the blogging community and the (not large) number of people I know, what they DO know now about New Brunswick is the whole ‘provincial beer’ situation, which makes the province look like a joke. And unfortunately I put a greater emphasis on human rights than economic development, so we’ve got a small group ‘advertising’ the arrest of Charles Leblanc for covering a protest on legislature grounds. So the uphill battle is that the government is doing little, and what it IS doing isn’t helping THIS particular cause. ‘Culture’ in New Brunswick to the outside world is clamping down on free speech and government run beer.

    On the ‘plus’ side, David seems to have friends who do seem to know something about video presentation, so we can learn something from a new development at Charles Leblanc’s site-a new Youtube documentary on Charles done by a group of young filmakers. So I would suggest the ‘pluses’ people here think would ACTUALLY entice investment get made into a short video and posted at Youtube under ‘invest NB’ or something like that.

  18. @Mark

    There is a reason that they have a hard time recruiting IT people in NB. They do not put a high enough value on the employee like they do elsewhere.

    I have seen this in both private and public sectors in this province. The politicians and business leaders say that we have a better quality of life here which more than makes up for the lost wages. I say BS to this.

    I enjoy the quality of life here and I pay (although too much) my taxes here…BUT…and this is a big but…I REFUSE TO WORK HERE.

    95% of my clients are in the USA where I can make, at minimum, double the income I can make here.

    In NB, the technical savvy is often boasted publicly, but in reality it is second rate because that is all that business owners are willing to pay for. The end result is a migration of the upper echelon of the techies to greener pastures.

    The Mad Ape

    PS Alot is not a word.

  19. @mikel

    I warned the politicians and the police of the consequences of their actions. Charles has, for lack of a better term, been bait. Bait to test that the above two groups have overstepped their authority when they thought it was just them against Charles.

    Who do you think has been providing Charles, a man on social assistance, with free cameras, computers, etc?

    The documentary is just a start. The end result will be to show how ‘mainstream’ media, GIVErment, and the goose-stepping cops all work to quash true free speech and true representation.

    Like I have said to the Daily Gleaner, other blogs, etc…the NB power brokers are chumps and they fell for this hook-line-and sinker.

    YouTube has the power to tip the balance of power. Shawnocio INC will not know what hit him.

    The Mad Ape

  20. “YouTube has the power to tip the balance of power”

    YouTube has the power to keep you and others occupied; that’s about it.

  21. Obviously. Which means your pretty out of it!


    Enables users to search the Web, Usenet, and images. Features include PageRank, caching and translation of results, and an option to find similar pages. The company’s focus is developing search technology.


    Personalized content and search options. Chatrooms, free e-mail, clubs, and pager.


    YouTube is a way to get your videos to the people who matter to you. Upload, tag and share your videos worldwide!


    A social utility that connects people, to keep up with friends, upload photos, share links and videos.

  22. Getting a little sidetracked here, but social networking definitely has power to change things-whether it will or not is the question. The Youtube movie on charles is just a Youtube movie-students have made mini documentaries of Charles before, and its then forgotten. Things get changed because people change things-they can do it with or without the new social networks online-its the desire and will that matters.
    It would be a nice thought to hope that Charles is the match that sets off some people, but its really only a small group that has provided him with his tools-I’ve been one of them. It’s not like people have flocked to the legislature to protest his arrest. Part of that is his own ‘fault’ since he’s so strident in his views many are afraid that support of him will mean support of his views. His other supporters are mainly amongst the poor and youth, groups largely disaffected and fearful of exposure to begin with. At CBC it was unnerving to read that the majority of posters see no problem with his arrest.
    However, Youtube is like the internet, it can mean any number of things. But it IS important-otherwise BNB wouldn’t bother doing a video advertisement and posting it there. Our diehard cynic aside, that’s why I say that social networking is one way that groups of people, like those here, can actually have an impact. David wants better ‘admen’. He’s got a good point, but short of that, what can be done? Well, there are tons of ex NBers in asian locations who know the language and have connections. There is no reason a citizens group can’t do what the government refuses to-a better video in other languages and with actual content. IF that gets done, a group sends a press release, the government gets embarassed, and tends to step it up a notch so they don’t seem so incompetent compared to the other party.
    That’s how social change happens, at least GOOD social change. New Brunswick’s ‘benevolent dictator’ made a HUGE contribution to social change when he legalized gambling. There is TONS of evidence out there on how it impoverished the lowest strata of society even further but made the government a pile of money-and made those criminals into millionaires and party contributors. But that’s not GOOD social change.
    I didn’t want to get too specific but the comments about the IT industry above are ones I know too well. There are a few shining stars there, but by and large the industry is certainly not part of a ‘knowledge’ industry. And once again I deride the blame that is often put on ‘workers’ by those who dislike the welfare state because from my albeit limited experience it is the workers who excel, and the owners/managers who fall FAR short in professionalism.
    That computer jobs in the chart are that low is quite surprising, but they don’t say specifically what they mean. Are animators ‘computer workers’ or are they part of the ‘cultural industry’? That is a VERY low percentage of the workforce, and David should reexamine his opinion of Richard Florida by checking out the book “The Warhol Economy” by Elizabeth Currid. That pegs 5% of New Yorks workforce just in fashion, art, and music, higher than engineers and apparantly from this chart-computer workers. That economy is backed up by Robert Lucas, the Nobel prize winning economist-although that figure is about the only one pertinent in the book.

  23. This may be a bit sidetracked but it’s a current obsession of mine … Many people seem to not get the point of social media. Things like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc. are tools. Period. It’s how people use them that is important. There is an obvious frivolous quality to them and a lot of people get stuck there. What’s the point? It’s all a waste of time. But other people see their potential: congregate, communicate, aggregate.

    While there are many people not using them, there are still many people who do. And if there were a demographic breakdown I suspect it would show there are a lot of higher income people using them and many of those people would be in IT. In fact, I’ve never met anyone in IT that didn’t.

    I’ve recently been caught up by the idea: how easy would it be to take over the province’s communication? The answer I come up with is, “pretty darned easy.” Two reasons: a) the province doesn’t use the tools available and b) what they do is done poorly.

    On Twitter, I’ve seen people (almost all IT people) discussing ways to better organize them selves as an online community (particularly discussed by Moncton people). With the tools available, like WordPress, you can aggregate all kinds of content – discussion groups, Flickr, You Tube, Twitter, Facebook and on and on.

    So imagine you do something like that. Then imagine a larger, umbrella community, that connects a NB group with a NS group and a BC group and an AB group and so on.

    Now imagine wanting change in NB and using the tools to organize and communicate for “real world” get togethers like a protest. And then imagine communicating with other groups so that the premier is followed across the country (to Vancouver 2010, say) and everywhere he goes he is met by people demanding change in NB because, using the tools, they’ve co-ordinated efforts.

    The point is, the online tools can be used to effect real world activities and change. Also, as an effort snowballs it gets communicated to people who are not online simply by growing and getting the attention of traditional media.

    btw … When you are unaware of the tools and how they work, and you aren’t very good at understand branding, you can end up with a fiasco like Alberta.

  24. Interesting points Bill, essentially what is being advanced is what is already occurring at the grassroots level. Take something like the World Social Forum, this a HUGE event that was largely started online. Sadly, Canada and New Brunswick are hardly even on the map as far as these are concerned. Again, its not the tools, its the will to use them.

    What Bill talks about is people advocating change, but they can do that now. It’s comforting to be able to not be the most ‘idealistic’ person at the blog now:) All those things Bill talks about CAN be done, but you need PEOPLE to do them. Again, it comes down to commitment. When Lamrock presented his changes to immersion (just making a point, not talking about immersion here), a HUGE group was set up on Facebook-a couple of them had close to 10,000 people at one point.

    And for Bill’s benefit, I’ll again mention CHarles Leblanc and Tim Smith, two guys on welfare who essentially got the Residential Tenants Act changed all on their own. That’s TWO guys on welfare. To counter Richard’s pessimism, social change nowadays does NOT take nearly the effort that it did in the sixties, there are numerous new tools available-internet, lawsuits, and even political parties can be set up relatively easily. But it does take SOME work, and it takes people to stand up and be the face of it. And again, just look how effective Charles Leblanc has been with his blog, he has been effective in many ways, but mostly because he combines journalism with activism. There is very little ‘activism’ here, so its no surprise that none of the policies set out ever get much notice at all.

    Finally though, you have to avoid ‘aggregate overload’-people can only handle so much information, and information itself doesn’t lead to change. Sometimes it CAN, say, an embarassment just before an election or something, but usually it takes more than simply slinging words around the internet.

  25. “I’ll again mention CHarles Leblanc and Tim Smith, two guys on welfare who essentially got the Residential Tenants Act changed all on their own. That’s TWO guys on welfare”

    Once again, Mikel, you are creating strawmen. I never said change can’t happen, never said social networking has no effect. What I said was that there is a balance of forces. For particular issues, eg community forestry, there are powerful forces opposing change. You want change, then you need powerful forces on the other side. The best source of those powerful forces in this case would be industrial organizations outside of Irving’s sphere of influence. Those organizations will not advance social policies on their own, but they can be lobbied to do so, and, indeed, may be convinced that it is in their financial interest to do so.

    In the case re tenant’s law, it is your assertion that two welfare recipients changed things. But if it was that easy, then there would be a much greater rate of social and political change in this province than is the case. When you have the Irvings on one side, it takes a lot more to move things than social networking, it takes political clout.

    It wasn’t facebook or twitter that changed the ferry decision – it was the use of networking tools to get the support of the chattering class in Freddy Beach behind Gagetown that did it. If Gagetown lacked an crafts community with strong connections to the chattering class, the ferries would be gone. What was the ‘opposing force’ in this case? Not the Irvings, but an anonymous staffer in the budget office – easy target for the chattering class, and easy for GNB to back down.

  26. My point about all those tools is that they facilitate. By themselves, they’re just chattering. But they are good for getting an idea out there, getting people discussing it and, hopefully, engaging in activities that take it beyond internet noise.

    I’d add that, in the end, votes equal political clout. Governments are usually reactive and if they think they won’t be re-elected, they will change. And a party out of power that wants to be in power will hop on whatever issue appears to have the public’s attention. I was ranting to a friend yesterday that in NB, “Irving” seems to be the answer to everything that no one wants to do. I can’t imagine other places, BC for example, throwing up their hands and saying, “Oh, we can’t do anything because of Irving.” But here, it’s an endless refrain.

    I also wonder if Irving is quite the bogeyman it’s made out to be.

  27. “votes equal political clout”

    That’s right, but Irving does not just control the press, have plenty of bucks to influence politicians, he also employs plenty of people in NB. They are all voters, too. If you think that the Irving empire will not act quickly to protect its turf, then may I suggest you launch a campaign (using whichever facilitative tools you wish) that threatens their economic interests and see how far you get. You also might want to do some reading about the Irvings famous relationships with various politcians and political movements in NB.

    There are many issues where the Irvings have no particular stand; on those issues you can organize and pressure politicians to act. But when the Irvings see their interests threatened, they have clout that no one else has. It is not a good thing when so much of the economic activity of this region is controlled by one conglomerate. That’s why I say we need some big players here in NB that are separate from the Irvings and not reliant upon them. If the Irvings wanted community forestry, or were at least indifferent to it, we’d have it already.

  28. First, that was my point, that social change doesn’t come from talking, and it doesn’t come from protests, but from organized action. The ferry cuts haven’t been reversed, so that hasn’t been ‘successful’-yet. Likewise, as I’ve said before, the Residential Tenants Act is NOT changed-roomers in New Brunswick still don’t have basic housing rights. THat’s ‘partly’ because there was no organized lobby pushing it. Essentially the only PERSON pushing it has been ME, and I don’t live in the province so its hard for me to do anything but talk to media. We KNOW that on social issues it takes a lot of work, and government will reneg on promises the first chance they get.

    For community forests, that’s just silly. There ARE other ‘forces’ in the province. The largest banks have a presence in NB, do we ‘lobby’ banks to stand up for forests? That’s completely crazy. You’re saying that instead of lobbying government people should wait for other large corporations and then lobby them??? Dude, that makes anon’s craziest claims seem reasonable.

    But again part of the problem HERE is that people only look at mainstream media. There has ALWAYS been a strong lobby, namely small woodlot owners. Under Bernard Lord the Irvings wanted huge forestry concessions but the conservatives at least PLAY at being populist and woodlot owners and small operators held off the dogs.

    You don’t need to be ‘big’ to have a political impact. You do need to work at it and lobby for it. Like I said, that’s what happened in BC, and again, that’s why BC has at least a recognizeable populist base. In New Brunswick, again for Richard’s benefit- IF what Richard says above is true, then don’t you think Irving would KNOW that, which means they are proactive in making all the policies discussed at this blog which clearly show that the government has NO intention of getting in ‘other big players’. So again, as a population you either accept the fait d’accompli, or you recognize that the only way to combat it IS to organize.

    And its not as difficult as it sounds, but it does take SOME work. Again, not mentioned here but there LOTS of people doing just that, but so far they aren’t organized. That’s where Bill’s points about social networking come in. We don’t yet have the facts on it, because social networking wasn’t really a phenom at the time of the last election. THIS time, all the groups together may well spell trouble for the liberals, SOME evidence comes from the fact that Irving sticks Graham’s face on the front page every chance they get, and Alward virtually never gets a mention. That MAY backfire because there’s some recent evidence that the old ways are changing-politicians are often MORE popular the less people know about them. That’s been true of Ignatieff, and Mario Tremblay in Quebec.

    But no matter what ‘tools’ are out there, you need people to use them, and use them for political purposes. For Bill, Irving is absolutely a bogeyman, they own over 300 businesses and are amongst the richest families in the WORLD. And again, an LNG terminal in Maine will net over $8 million in property taxes, in St. John the Irvings got the government to bend over and create special legislation to freeze their property taxes at $500,000. St. John is losing at least 7 and a half million each year from that deal. That doesn’t make IRving ‘bad’, it makes them a company which does what everybody does-look out for their own interests.

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