The happiest communities in the Maritimes, it’s fair to say, are those that routinely make their own luck when misfortune grumbles like a storm cloud on the horizon.
Greater Moncton has always demonstrated a special proclivity for resilience, if not outright reinvention, in the face of uncertainty. This summer proves the rule again.
Economists are by no means unanimous in their opinions about the condition of the Canadian economy. Some state firmly that the nation is in a technical, if mild, recession. Others say, “pish-tosh, let’s stop scaring our fellow citizens, lest we talk ourselves into a real downturn.”
Into the sky-is-almost-falling camp parachutes Randall Bartlett, a senior economist at TD bank. “Looking further ahead, the yawning output gap in Canada due to the weak economic performance in 2015 has also pushed back our expectations for any future hiking cycle,” he observed in a note to investors last month.
Joining the hold-your-horses gang earlier this week was Steve Ambler, a professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal’s management school and the David Dodge chair in monetary policy at the C.D. Howe Institute, and Jeremy Kronick, a senior policy analyst at the Institute.
In a newspaper commentary, they wrote, “After a 4-per-cent fall in export volumes over the first five months of 2015, Canada’s sales to foreigners came roaring back, with a 4.8-per-cent increase in June alone. Imports also decreased in volume by 0.9 per cent from May to June.”
But even if the country manages to skirt the abyss without losing all traction, a general malaise descends upon the land practically everywhere.
Still, practically everywhere doesn’t actually mean here.
Early indications are that tourism in southeastern New Brunswick, especially Greater Moncton, is more robust this year than in any other in almost a decade. You can see the evidence in the diversity of license plates, voices and faces on the bustling, downtown streets.
Meanwhile, the tri-city area is enjoying (if that is best word) one of the busiest private and municipal construction seasons in many years. To get anywhere by car these days is a bit like playing a game of steeplechase.
Of course, one could argue that these happy developments have less to do with Greater Moncton’s special talent for driving its own civic agenda and more to do with circumstances beyond its control (the same principle behind recessions, but with more efficacious results).
After all, the surging tourism trade owes as much to the anaemic condition of the Canadian dollar, which makes local amenities immensely desirable to comparatively rich Americans, as it does to our friendly service with a smile.
And if the tri-city area is in the thick of a building fever, look no farther than the federal government – whose pre-election purse strings have become, not surprisingly, loose over the past few week – for a likely reason.
Still, neither of these arguments explains why the tourists keep coming back to this location or even, for that matter, why city works officials are perfectly happy clogging most major arteries at peak times of the day if it means squeezing every last dime for infrastructure before the pot finally runs dry.
It’s called initiative, and it comes in all shapes and sizes in Greater Moncton regardless – or, perhaps, because of – unearned adversity.
At this writing, Moncton City Council was deciding the fate of a new downtown event centre, a facility that would almost certainly inject new life and economic opportunity into the community.
Let us hope that city fathers and mothers are, once again, choosing to make their own luck.