Where’s the political bread buttered?

When the Tories and the NDP in New Brunswick rant against ‘big business’ I wonder if they understand who drives employment in this province?  I revisited the numbers today just for fun.  Organizations with over 100 employees have 61% of total employment and organizations with over 500 employees in total account for 48% of total employment.  In other words, if the employees in a handful of large firms decided any politician was against “big business”, it would be very hard to ever get elected in this province.  PS – big business in this context is really big organization because government departments and agencies are also in here.

I just heard last week from a politician that “small business drives employment growth in New Brunswick”.  I think he said that 80% of all new jobs come from small biz.  Maybe in New Brunsfastasyland.  Of the 26,900 net new jobs from 2000 to 2008, 20,500 were created in firms with over 300 employees. 

Memo to Alward:  better keep the big bad business rhetoric to a minimum. 

It is interesting to see that companies with 20-49 employees are hiring a pile of new folks.  If you go through the data, you will see this is a lot of accounting, legal, financial services firms as well as other non mom-and-pop local professional and personal service providers.  That’s a positive sign. 

Some day I’ll try to break this down better by sector.  I have to get back to my ‘day job’ – saving the planet from the CFIB (just kidding!). 

Employment Growth (2000-2008) – New Brunswick

Employment Level:



# Change

% Change

0 to 4 employees





5 to 19 employees





20 to 49 employees





50 to 99 employees





100 to 299 employees





300 to 499 employees





500 and more










Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table (for fee) 281-0042.

7 thoughts on “Where’s the political bread buttered?

  1. The big three business “winners” weren’t picked by government. Irving, McCain and Gannon were established well before the Pearson/Trudeau regional intervention schemes came to Ottawa.

  2. That’s hair splitting because back ‘in the day’ there was FAR more government subsidy of business than ‘regional intervention schemes’. Irving made his fortune by being given access to public land and then supplying plywood to the air force for planes. War is the biggest subsidy creator that governments can provide-go look at how much beer and water is getting shipped to Afghanistan now.

    But big business has ALWAYS meant Irving and Fraser in NB. See if Alward includes UPS in any list. The tories at least have made some noise about Irving lately, not much, but some.

    If government agencies were in that list, a good breakdown before we get all weepy for big business is how many of that is public sector and how many private. I seem to recall a regular complaint here being about all the public sector jobs being filled, but few in the private sector.

    It would be helpful to know exactly what companies are doing the hiring. There is no point pretending ALL big business is wonderful, just like its not helpful to say that all big business is bad.

  3. I can appreciate the time issue on the data, and maybe someone else can take up the mantle, because I have a sneaking suspicion, if you removed government departments and agencies out of the equation it may have a dramatic impact on your numbers.

    That being said, parsing the numbers was really not the point of your post, but the “rant against ‘big business’’ by the opposition.

    Firstly, I think big business can take the hit. I am sure they don’t like it, but, quite frankly, they seem to do alright for themselves. To the average guy, fair is fair, and if big business get a rate reduction, why shouldn’t the little guy. It is the little guy, who, at the end of the day, makes the big wheel turn. Consumer spending is the fuel for that economic engine. Arguably, if you put as much money in consumers hands with the kind of rate reduction in power rates as industrial users are getting, it would have a very positive effect on the economy.

    The other point I’d like to make is that it is the opposition’s job to oppose. We can argue over the best way to do that but as politicians they have to play politics, and that is how its played. I don’t particularly like it, but the hyperbole is built into the system. All sides use that tool. I might even have the gonads to say, it’s politics, stupid.

    In politics, like business, you play to win. Sean Graham got elected because of car insurance. I’ll bet he said lots of nasty things about the insurance industry, but did nothing and gets along just fine.

    It’s nice you come to their defense though, I am sure the appreciate it.

  4. The more i consider your argument that “of the 26,900 net new jobs from 2000 to 2008, 20,500 were created in firms with over 300 employees.” Therefore big business is the biggest area of job growth .

    It doesn’t add up for me, although like you I don’t have the time to overdo it on research I would lay out my argument using the top ten employers on the Enterprise Chaleur website. (which needs updating)

    More than 50% of the jobs in the region are government jobs. Two of the employers on the list are no longer employing anybody and one would have been part of your growth number and those jobs didn’t stay. The only area where there would have been significant growth would have been in health care, which is the number one employer and government.

    Government Private Sect.

    XSTRATA ZINC (closing011 or sooner) 860
    SITEL (closed) 333

    Total 2451 2130
    53.5% 46.5%
    Total with jobs lost 1520

    Although you advocate the big industrial anchor to locate in Northern new brunswick as an economic engine and I don’t necessarily disagree but I am not sure how that will happen. I think a 25 year old lover would improve my sex life, but that ain’t going to happen anytime soon. I won’t say it can’t happen, but the odds aren’t great.

    What, in my opinion, is more likely to happen is one or more of the many successful small and medium size business is going to grow themselves into a major employer. There are many working quite successfully in the market, and they serve clients and business on an export market regularly. With the proper environment, one or more will potentially grow.

    While this has nothing to do with Alward’s rant against big business, your defense of “big”business seems as over the top as their rant. Was that your intention?

  5. That’s an interesting research tool so I thought I’d do the same for St. John, from the Enterprise St. John website.
    First, what I thought was most interesting is that St. John pulp and paper is only mentioned in the 200-500 employee range. I always thought the pulp mill employed over a thousand people, but this REALLY makes the power deal look worse if its mainly to keep a mill going that employs less than 500 people.

    The largest employers in St.John are mainly government, except of course for Bell which employs over 1000 in St.John. Of private companies the only one listed is Cendant, which are mainly low paying positions in rental car and hotel employee positions.

    In the section of 500 to 1000 employees are Xerox’s call centre, probably not a huge power user, and with the typical call centre position problems (but not as bad as smaller call centres for sure). Sitel is also listed, and I doubt its call center employees have the benefits of Xerox’s.

    The others are all listed at under 500 employees, and they include ALL of Irvings companies. Those which aren’t government include a couple of call centers as well as Moosehead (probably a big power user), a steel construction group, Saputo Foods and Wal Mart.

    Next are the 100-200 employees: Eddie Bauer, Centrebeam(IT services), Fleetway Inc.(facility services to industry), and ICT (IT). Eddie Bauer is pretty low wage work.

    I don’t think ANY of those are really ‘high growth’ sectors. In case people missed it, The Toronto Star announced that they are now outsourcing EDITORIAL positions in their newspapers! A new refinery would mean substancially more jobs, but that’s about the only real future growth I see there.

    So any notion that THESE places are going to be great future giants is a little misguided, but finally there can be a list done of Moncton and Fredericton. I doubt Fredericton will show much difference. If this thread kicks around awhile more I’ll check those cities.

    Of course that doesn’t affect David’s argument. Even though the largest employers have been feeling the pinch, the reality is that there’s nothing wrong with an anchor industry. The point, as Paul so disturbingly puts it, is the difficulty with which a middle age blog posting nerd will net a 25 year old lover:)

  6. I find 300 – or even 500 – to be a low cut-off. We wouldn’t typically think of a company with 300 employees to be ‘big business’.

    I would be curious to see what the numbers are for new jobs (and jobs lost) for businesses of 500-1000 employees, 1000-5000 employees, etc.

  7. That’s tougher. Cendant was the only private company listed at over 1000 employees. If there are others, I’m surprised enterprise St. John wouldnt’ mention them. But the pulp mill has 330 employees-if you don’t think Irving is ‘big business’ then we have a semantic problem. Big business no longer means number of employees ‘in one place’.

    “Xerox, IBM, Unilever, Iron Mountain, Centerbeam, Exxon Mobil, Eddie Bauer and Cendant Corporation”
    are all companies that they said ‘grew’. Somebody with more time than I’ve got (I’m already missing breakfast for this!) can type in each name with ‘st.john’ and see how many jobs they’ve added.

    Enterprise St. John says that in 2004, 2900 jobs were created in SJ, or 1 in 4 new NB jobs. Althought 2004 was awhile ago now and much of that could have been the refinery refit. But actually, in the same document they then state that it was only 2000 new jobs.

    More importantly, if you missed The Current yesterday, it looks like we are mirroring the US in the nineties with their ‘jobless recovery’. ALL the numbers are looking better except for jobs. The new jobs being filled are mostly low wage jobs with few benefits. It is VERY unlikely that the ‘new economy’ is going to have the numbers of employees listed above. Certainly the days of seeing 1000 jobs at one manufacturing plant are LONG over and without protectionism aren’t going to be seen again.


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