Revisiting a few old themes

Theme 1:  An economic development sports analogy – If my Edmonton Oilers are like the New Brunswick of North America then my Washington Nationals (poor old Expos) are like Zimbabwe.

Theme 2: I heard a guy give a speech a few days ago and he said that one of New Brunswick’s biggest problems is that we have no real urban centre and are sparsely populated.  He is right about the lack of an ‘urban centre’ (although the ‘real’ thing is subjective).  The largest urban centre in New Brunswick has 17% of the provincial population.  Every other province in Canada has an urban centre with at least 25% of the provincial population – Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver are well above 40%. 

However, he is wrong about the ‘sparsely populated’ thing.  New Brunswick is, I believe, the second most densely populated province in Canada behind PEI.  98% of the population lives within an hour’s drive of an urban centre (as defined by Statistics Canada.  The problem with New Brunswickers is that we think we are sparsely populated.  I had lunch today with a couple of health care administrators who told me that people fight tooth and nail to get specialized and expensive health care testing equipment in their hospital rather than drive 1.5 hours to another city to take the test.  Cripes, there are people in the GTA that have to drive well over an hour to get to an airport. 

Theme 3: I heard a guy on CBC today saying we need to place far more emphasis on history in our schools.  Apparently, New Brunswick ranks very low nationally in this area.  I couldn’t agree more.  I think that history provides a grounding for residents – a connection to the past that is very important.  However, I wondered as I listened to this guy about how many high school history teachers in New Brunswick could answer this simple but it would seem vital question: “Teacher, why has New Brunswick underperformed the rest of Canada in the area of population growth for over a Century?”.

Some enterprising teacher might suggest it has been our mix of industrial development.  That’s probably one of the better academic answers.  Others might say it has to do with our lack of urbanization.  That is not a particularly bright answer.  If New Brunswick’s urban centres had been growing in a similar fashion as Ontario’s, we would have had a similar urbanization.

It seems to me that if this question – about New Brunswick’s chronic economic challenges – was debated in our high schools – we might end up with far more public interest and engagement in community economic development.

3 thoughts on “Revisiting a few old themes

  1. Re: Theme 1…speaking of the Expos, I see Pedro is back in the conversation.

    My brother and i saw one of his last games in the Big O against Glavine and the Braves. What a pitching display. Pedro seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He pitched a complete game and drove in the one of the two runs in a loss. He’s the reason I changed my allegiances to the Red Sox once Montreal packed it in.

  2. Theme 1: I totally agree. Both the Oilers and NB are living off the past.

    Theme 2: We need to forget about StatCan’s concept of “urban centre”. There is far more politics than any rational explanation to the threshold that they use.

    Theme 3: While I agree that understanding history is essential, I am afraid that it would only spark more useless political debate and polarization in the province. Whose version would be told? Would there be two curricula in NB, one for the North and another one for the South? (just food for thought!)

  3. One of the things about teaching history is that multiple views can be told. There are, of course, the ‘facts’. The main reason that history is not taught in Canada is that most of it is recent, and most is unpleasant. Imagine teaching in Moncton schools how their city is named after one of the most brutal murderers in NB history. Or the fact that most of the private land was bought up in the first years of the province by the legislators who approved its sale. The loyalists came to the province and had a brutal winter-that’s true, but they also came up the valley and burned out the native and french population of ‘St.Anne’s Point’ and took it for their own. After the civil war blacks came north out of the US and were given some of the worst land in NB, the rest saved for the ‘white people’ who came north. It was so bad that the african americans who came north petitioned the legislature to cover their one time cost of getting the hell out of NB-and going back to Africa (they did get that, but I think it came from the Nova Scotia government). And as mentioned above, history is rife with the fights between french and english, with protestant and catholic, with minorities. And unlike Nova Scotia and the west, there is even very little of the ‘grassroots worker’ movements that saw things like the Antigonish Movement become worldwide phenomena. When you read the history of NB, what little is out there, the main voices have ALWAYS been the business class (which doesn’t make for dramatic storytelling).

    That doesn’t mean you don’t teach history though, that makes it all the more important. I listened to the new native judge overseeing the truth and reconciliation project and he was talking about how these natives were ‘locked out’ of their history and now have to find it. New Brunswick is very much like that, when you don’t know the narratives (except of course the Irving story which is known by just about every NBer) or the history, not only are you bound to repeat the bad parts, but you don’t know how to repeat the good parts. This ‘alienation’ from one’s own ground has REAL consequences, but too many to get into here.

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