The Changing Face of Saint John


At coffee the other morning one of the regulars said; “I need something to read” My reply ; “You mean a book”? “No” he said: “You haven’t written and article for  some time”. I told him I don’t write for the sake of writing , I only write when I felt I have something to say. Well I have something to say.

The problem with erosion be it land, social or economic is that it’s usually so gradual that you don’t realize that it’ s happening as we go from day to day. It’s only when you look back or reflect over a period of time that we become aware of the erosion. How did Saint John’s population erode from 92,000 in the late seventies to the current 70,000 and how do we reverse the trend?

Driving down Main Street I see more and more decaying and boarded up buildings, we are 2016-05-26_1312seeing classic examples of infrastructure erosion in the making.

As I was driving down Union Street the other day I drove past the new Justice Complex that dwarfs the once iconic Carnegie Building, a historic monument to higher learning now home to the Saint John Art Centre.  A Justice Complex that is guarded and protected at the entrance by 4 or 5 sheriffs complete with bullet proof vests, guns and a walk through scanner,….. how did that happen?

Remember the court house on Charlotte Street where you were greeted by a Commissionaire at a desk?  Has Saint John really become that dangerous or are we creating an atmosphere of fear and danger? Saint John must be more dangerous because right beside the Justice Complex we have a huge Police Headquarters complete with an underground tunnel to usher those dangerous criminals from the Police lock-up to the Justice Complex. Did you know that the crime rate in Canada has been falling for decades? “In 2013, the police-reported crime rate was at its lowest point since 1969″ (source statscan)

Continuing down Union Street I pass the new location for the new N.B Liquor store. Did you 2016-05-26_1121know that some people actually consider this building as “economic development”?

To my right I past two teenage girls pushing baby carriages. Then I come to the small desperate building at the south corner of Charlotte and Union  that has been for sale for as long as I can remember.

Did I fail to mention the paved condition of Union Street?

Now I’m passing the Irving Golden Ball Building, to the left is a building that used to be the Academy of Learning, a place where people could learn, develop skills and become contributors to the local economy. Now the building is home to a food bank, people are lined up waiting for the doors to open and I continue on my journey…………

What has happened to us?

Where is the great city that gave birth to the Bank of New Brunswick, the Marco Polo, the Reversing Falls suspension bridge and a major advance in aviation, the variable pitch propeller?   Have we as a city been suffering from slow systematic social, ethical, economic and entrepreneurial erosion?

When I returned home I was just in time to hear a bit of Mayor Darling’s post swearing in comments: “Moms and dads want us to create more jobs, to keep their kids here or get their kids back,” he said during the reception after the ceremony. (CBC)

It certainly is not my intention to rain on the new Mayor’s parade but unless there are plans to hire more City employees governments municipal, provincial or federal do not create jobs. Farmers cultivate, weed, fertilize and let mother nature do the rest to end up with a healthy crop. The challenge the new Mayor and Council faces is to “cultivate” and foster a healthy climate that makes Saint John attractive for more businesses to set up shop as well as making greater investments in culture and recreation in an effort to attract more families.

Given the that fact that Saint John has the second highest tax rate in Atlantic Canada the good Mayor and Council might want to start the “cultivation and weeding” process with municipal bench marking as well as implementing a complete independent operational audit of every City Department, otherwise good luck with growing the Renaissance City.

What do you think?