Between a rock and a hard place


I’m not much for easy metaphors, but it’s hard not to read some broader meaning into the recent collapse of one of New Brunswick’s iconic Flowerpot Rocks along the Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s highest tides, which ebb and flow much like. . .well, the provincial economy.

Methinks, I’m not the only one of my professional ilk in danger of spraining a back muscle making that stretch. Otherwise, why would an entirely predictable event, the product of natural erosion, garner the press attention it has.

From the Chronicle-Herald to the Toronto Sun to the Globe and Mail to the Huffington Post to the nation’s public broadcaster, mourning for the dearly departed Elephant Rock (named so because it resembles, or used to, an oversized pachyderm) has commenced in earnest.

“Formed by the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy, the Flowerpot Rocks – as they are also known – have been carved out of the cliffs in the area by time, tide, and wind,” reported the CBC.

“The (Fundy) park’s website explains that the formations aren’t ever 100 per cent safe ‘but are even more dangerous this time of year. This is a particularly volatile time for the rock as spring temperatures rise and the nights stay cold.’

“Elephant Rock is featured on New Brunswick’s Medicare card. ‘It’s certainly sad and humbling to see us lose one of our named formations, or at least lose its identity, but it’s also very exciting,’ said Kevin Snair, supervisor of interpretive services. ‘The whole park is formed by this exact action that happened, so to be able to see that that is still happening, and the park is still evolving, it’s a beautiful thing, despite the loss.’

“The park is reminding people to come visit over the summer, as there will still be lots to see. Elephant Rock is one of 17 standing formations at Hopewell (i.e. Flowerpot) Rocks.”

The collapse may be sad, as Mr. Snair observes, but is it actually humbling? (Only, I suppose, if you were standing anywhere near the thing when it fell over).

In fact, the event might be just what the economic doctor ordered. According to a New Brunswick government report, “Tourism is critical to (the province’s culture, heritage, arts, recreation, and entertainment industries, and it also contributes significantly to (the province’s) service industries, including transportation and travelling services, accommodations, and food and beverage services. These industries comprise the tourism sector.

“In 2012, 30,220 employees worked in the tourism sector, representing 8.6 per cent of New Brunswick’s labour force. Across New Brunswick, there were 2,929 tourism sector business locations in 2012. Visits in the province of New Brunswick in 2012 contributed an estimated $1.1 billion in tourism-related spending on accommodations, restaurants, shopping, travel, and travel activities. Non-resident visitor spending was estimated at $543 million in 2012. The total impact of this visitor spending on provincial GDP has been estimated at $696 million, representing 2.4 per cent of provincial GDP. This estimated tourism share of provincial GDP ranks with the primary industries of agriculture, forestry, and fishing.”

Indeed, images of the Flowerpot Rocks grace the covers of virtually every promotional brochure the provincial government publishes, and have for decades. (I distinctly recall seeing a glossy brag, some years ago, on New Brunswick’s call-centre industry. There, on the centre spread, was a picture of the now-diminished Elephant Rock. How’s that for a subliminal plug for the province’s burgeoning technology sector?)

In any case, now that the famous column has been diminished, may we expect precisely the opposite result for tourism?

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