What’s wrong with this picture?


As a resident of this fair province, New Brunswick, it’s a hopeless comfort to know that while the rest of Canada slips quietly into recession, I may expect to keep my head above water and even thrive during the two minutes it takes me to attach the absurdity filter to the worn and threadbare spectacles I use to read the morning headlines.

So it was the other day when I came across this marvelous series of proclamations from New Brunswick’s finance minister, dutifully reported in the pages of provincial newspapers:

“Nationally, we’re in a recession and Stats Canada has confirmed it,” Roger Melanson said some days ago. “So we will continue to monitor the situation on a quarterly basis. That’s why we have quarterly updates. It’s the tool we have in terms of making the information public so New Brunswickers are fully aware of the state of our economy.”

Yet, his finance department boldly predicts an annualized growth rate in the province of between 1.5 and 1.7 per cent next year. Why? Because the economic auguries say so? Because the entrails of road kill on the Trans-Canada are aligned just so? Because the tea leaves in the lunchtime cups left on the cafeteria tops at Freddy Beach suggest better times ahead?

How bluntly irrelevant Minister Melanson’s claim is – especially when you consider that most New Brunswickers are already fully aware of the state of their economy. Indeed, as the nation dips into recession, this province has never managed to crawl out of a long, agonizingly slow one.

The essential quandary is: Do we care?

Go back into history see the same ludicrous patterns repeating today: A province whose economy is bifurcated by rural and semi-urban sensibilities; an institutional sector that will protect its turf at the expense of the students, professionals, patients, and citizens it purports to represent; a political culture whose last, good idea for meaningful change died when the New Brunswick inventor of kerosene did.

The agony that Mr. Melanson does not address when he talks of scraps of GDP improvement in this province in this year is the long, slow dissolution of self-reliance, self-improvement, and enthusiasm in this province.

Where are the monumental projects of imagination?

Who will build the next generation of entrepreneurs willing and ready to break the molds crafted by their forbears?

What new cohort of young people, coupled to older folks, stands to step up in this province to usher a renaissance of economic, social and political principals and priorities?

These are the questions that political leadership in this province should pose. Instead, Mr. Melanson seems content to rely on the predictions of statisticians and economic actuaries to spin a wobbly tale of good news about New Brunswick’s prospects.

“It’s important to note,” he says, “that every province, including us, have adjusted their GDP projection based on growth. . .(With the exception of Prince Edward Island) we’ve all brought it down because of the national situation economically. But we still have to keep in mind that there are sectors of our economy in our province where we have seen positives.”

T’was ever thus, perhaps. But our present condition demands sterner stuff from our elected representatives, appointed bureaucrats and, in the end, us.

Our future cries out for it.

Canada’s national recession may be a lamentable circumstance; ours, in New Brunswick, is a state of mind.

We have, in this province, only two avenues: becoming or calcifying.

We either fossilize or shunt the ties that bind and live in hope.

Through my threadbare spectacles, I choose hope.

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