NEW BRUNSWICK LETTER

C

From Dennis Atchison

 

December 15 2021

Dear Rest of Canada,

“It’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look, what’s going down?”

Buffalo Springfield

Once upon a time, not so long ago, very few in the rest of Canada had much of an inkling about New Brunswick. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland … yes. New Brunswick? Huh?

Well, guess what … the invasion by the rest of (mainly) Anglo-Canada is now in full stampede mode. Bye bye the New Brunswick we once knew.

Housing prices have soared. The developer culture is wetting its pants over all the money to be made short term (five to ten years). Two bedroom apartment rentals at $1,600 looks cheap by the rest of Canada’s standards … and over double what people in New Brunswick paid just a year ago.

Tax breaks, cheap (comparatively) land, emerging market due to influx of “come-from-aways” has municipal councils and developers (often from out of province) chomping on their mantra, “Growth is good. As long as we are growing … it is good.”

Odd then, how this same “Growth is good” value is not applied to the massive increase in homelessness, and the near homeless … which has grown in direct proportion to the evictions and doubling of rents by developers and landlords eager to cash in on the “boom”.

There is little or no attention or movement on affordable housing, or on mixed housing, as developers dig in and insist there is no money to be made. Municipal councils eager for growth in their tax base, give approval to the developer’s vision of community.

Combine this with the strain on many of our systems … especially health care and education. Recently, our provincial Conservative government finally came to terms with the largest CUPE collection of unions which touched on both health care and education. This only after strike action actually happened … which is rare here. Some three weeks of it. When the deal was finally reached it was time to start negotiations for the next round, as this one was realized and signed four years after it was due.

Now it is the Nurses Union turn … short some 1,000 positions and government with no strategy to address what was known for over twenty years … in 2020 to 2024 some 3,000 nurses will be eligible to retire … nearly thirty percent of the workforce.

These are just a few of the recent happenings, and not unlike demographic shifts in other provinces. Except New Brunswick has never experienced any of this before, especially to this degree … and what is to come.

This is a province where only people “born and raised” are elected and make it to municipal, provincial or federal office. This is a place where the “old families” still have a strangle-hold on any of the key decisions which impact all of us, and who often work in the shadows and backrooms to gain their approvals from governments. The way things are done here has not changed since the 1960’s more or less … it is a small tight group that “decides”.

While on the surface the news stories will be about newcomers driving the housing market to a “heat” greater than Toronto (which is true). Or, about thousands of people unable to afford basic housing for their families. The long lists of people waiting for a family doctor and primary health care and access to schools. Or, about all the money being made in development and how the “economy” is good, and the government has a small “surplus”.

The real story of New Brunswick in the coming decade will be the struggle for control and power between the Old Families who are used to their control over community, and the thousands of “come-from-aways” who want a say in large community decisions … who want access to that authority and power.

“It’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look, what’s going down?”

Bye for now from New Brunswick … be good.

z

 

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