From Dennis Atchison
February 1 2022
Dear Rest of Canada,
OUR PROVINCIAL slogan is “Be … in this place.” Many of you across Canada might ask, “Why?”.
Already in 2022 some 150 centimeters (or almost five feet) of snow has arrived in New Brunswick, with another 25 cm on the way in two days.
On January 31 our provincial government “opened up” for regular economic activity, with schools back in, business open and special events back in swing. At the same time, media reported January 2022 was the “deadliest month” for Covid-related deaths, record number of people in hospital due to Covid, intensive care units full and record number of infections in the population.
Then there are the countless stories of out-of-province developers and investors buying up multiple properties, jacking rents 40% with no improvements, and not giving property notice. Investors love it because the initial cost is cheap by Canadian standards and there are no provincial regulations to monitor or inhibit this activity. Home prices in New Brunswick had the highest increase in Canada. To say investors and business types are excited would be an understatement.
RBC financial analysis reports state New Brunswick’s GDP grew 5.2 percent in 2021, with exports of oil and forestry products setting this performance. They identified lumber rose 300 percent, and wood products overall 21 percent.
But … anticipate New Brunswick’s homeless population to soar in 2022. Wages in the province have changed little in twenty years. The business community has fought against, and won, any significant changes to minimum wage increases. No one can handle their rent going from $750 to $1,200 a month with just two or three months notice. The wave of housing insecurity will crash hard by May and June.
So what is the point of all this? Is little New Brunswick really in big trouble?
In some ways, most certainly. As a province we are always reacting instead of planning, despite claiming to be an “innovative” province. This approach leaves us behind in so many areas … like wages and affordable housing … and leaves us vulnerable to exploitation from the big investors in Ontario and Alberta as they buy up our province at will. Our political leaders claim this is “good for the economy” and corporations like RBC will support that claim, despite not including all variables in their calculations.
So begins 2022. And you know … it is fine … because that is how it really is around here.
What RBC, and politicians, and outside investors and others miss is our true provincial soul … which is community. There is this movie titled The New Corporation – The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel in which someone remarks something to the effect corporations and business-types see everything as “markets” – health care, education, and communities. This is a mistake … a big mistake … the speaker points out.
Despite being battered by corporate and business agendas – that “market” mindset - what is emerging in New Brunswick and adapting quickly are much stronger communities. Often times these new networks or collaborations are improving their quality of life without the predominance of money. Local food strategies are newly emerging with affordable costs for both the grower and buyer. Co-op housing is emerging to counter-balance the devastation of out-of-province investment for immediate returns on rental properties. New networks are emerging, especially through social media, of barter systems for both goods and services. “Buy Local”, especially in food industry, has taken much deeper roots in the community through social media word of mouth.
Their “return on investment’ is community … not profit!
So, while there are some who desire to “buy and sell” our province, there are many others who truly know what it means to “Be … in this place”.
Bye for now from New Brunswick … be good.