Tag Archives: Moncton downtown

No summer recess for Moncton


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.

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Can we go ‘up the road’ for a change?

They queued in long, broken lines, some still bleary from the shanks of many recent  evenings of farewells. Some stood, laden down with boxes and suitcases; others carried their entire lives in their wallets and satchels. Each waited patiently for his individual moment of truth to arrive.

At five o’clock on an iron-cold January morning, it was hard to believe that the most vibrant place – where the cultural, social and economic roads converged – in New Brunswick’s Hub City had become the boarding lounge of the Greater Moncton International Airport.

Here the infamous provincial diaspora was well underway: hundreds of young, middle-aged and elderly people voting on their respective futures with their feet.

Sure, some declared that they would one day return from Alberta’s dirty brown fields of opportunity. But just as many or more insisted that they were leaving for good.

“There just isn’t any point in staying,” one traveller told me. “The jobs aren’t here, and most of my family is out west, now, anyway.”

Added another: “I don’t get a sense of any direction or vision in New Brunswick. I mean, what’s the overall plan for the economy?”

Still another captured the zeitgeist of the moment perfectly: “I’m just tired.”

That’s it, isn’t it? We’ve all grown bone weary: utterly, achingly tired.

We’re tired of politicians making promises they can’t possibly keep. We’re tired of tabulating the province’s $538-million annual deficit and $11-billion longterm debt. We’re tired of public sector cutbacks that either go too far or don’t go far enough and, in any case, don’t seem to make a lick of difference.

It is so much easier to heed the siren’s call, beckoning us to leave, to move and never to return.

Why, out in Fort McMurray, if one played his cards right, one could become a project engineer or a maintenance coordinator or an electrical engineer or a mine maintenance manager.

Why, out in Fort Mac, where the tundra mice play, one could earn $100,000 a year driving a truck.

What’s keeping us here? Tradition? Roots? Family ties?

Sentimental nonsense! Off we go and (not looking back), good riddance!

In fact, we have a point, though it’s not an especially novel one.

Outmigration has been one of New Brunswick’s (indeed, all of Atlantic Canada’s) signature demographic features for 150 years. Wave upon wave of Maritimers and Newfoundlanders have left their homes in the East to build new ones in new communities in the West. This transfer of knowledge, skills and capital is what built Canada’s great industries, institutions and infrastructure, from the CNR to the drilling derricks of the oil sands.

What’s unique about the current exodus, however, is that, nowadays, few western-bound sojourners seem particularly interested in the fundamental reasons for our regional ennui. Fewer still are willing to risk their livelihoods and living standards by staying put and lending a hand in what surely must become The Great and Awesome Fix of New Brunswick, circa 2014.

For, without exaggeration, this is what’s required: a thorough overhaul not only of the way we spend public dollars and account for public programs, but of the way we govern ourselves and even of the expectations we create and maintain for ourselves and our neighbours.

In this, our finest resource may well be the self-reliance for which we have, until recently, been known. From this has stemmed the optimism, energy, derring-do and entrepreneurial courage and savviness that is always necessary to people who want to get important things done.

Important things like a downtown multi-purpose events centre for this city, a facility that Toronto developer and Moncton native Vaughn MacLellan hopes to complement with his own in the near future.

“We believe that the property is ideal for high density, multi-use office, retail and multi-residential development,” he told the Moncton Times & Transcript the other day. “At the end of the day, we want to try to create a lively, energetic area where people live, work and play.”

And not, dare we hope, find ourselves too tired to grab our future by the scruff and give it a good shake.

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