It’s around noon on a warm day in August 1956 as I wait with my two sisters and brother for the bus to pull into Brown’s restaurant which also serves as the bus terminal. We are leaving St. Andrews for Ontario, the “land of milk and honey”.
Our single mother of four has spent the past year working in a restaurant in Hamilton saving money for the bus fare while my aging grandmother has kept a watchful eye over us. I had just finished grade 9 at Prince Arthur School, a school that provided education for grades 1 through 12 with a total of 8 teachers and NO EA’s (Educational assistants), how did they do it? By the way, there was no welfare system, you paid your own doctor and hospital bills and the N.B. population was 555,000. I said goodbye to my friends, we boarded the bus and we were off to a new life in Ontario. None of us were excited and eager to leave the place we called home. That was 1956, 60 years ago. How many times has this story repeated itself in New Brunswick since that day in 1956?
This morning I dropped into Olson’s on the west side to buy some baloney. Baloney is right up there with tuna as a treat for our cat Hopper, a stray that we adopted several years ago from the Saint John Animal Rescue league. I tell the lady at the counter that it’s for my cat; “I had enough baloney growing up as a kid… as well as lots of bread and molasses”. She smiled and adds a little of her personal history, there was always molasses at her house. She offered that sometimes they would wet bread and put sugar on it. Her account of “good times in the Maritimes” was during the 1970’s… 20 year from my departure from the province in 1956. New Brunswick now have provincial medicare, social assistance and the population is 677,000
Let’s fast forward to 2016:
- the NB population is now 750,000
- we have 40,000 people on social assistance
- 50,000 civil servants
- schools with more EA’s than you can imagine (2460 in 2014), while enrollment is dropping
- a D rating in education, while we squander scarce tax dollars by having Francophone students take one bus while the English students take another (this practice was used in the southern USA at one time, it was called “segregation”)
- and for all this …….a D rating in literacy.
- one of the highest child poverty rates in Canada.
- 50% of a 8.5 billion dollar budget going towards health care,
- with New Brunswick adults having the highest level of obesity in Canada.
- while our provincial debt exceeds 13 billion dollars and climbing.
“New Brunswick continues to face serious fiscal problems and frugal public management is required to bring expenditures closer into line with revenue, and restore sustainability to provincial finances”. (AIMS Report 2014)
What has happened to New Brunswick? What has happened to pride, accountability and work ethic? No matter how you slice it over the past 60 years since I left New Brunswick “we ain’t doin that good”. Would you agree?
Do you suppose it has anything at all to do with the lack of political leadership and the 4 year cycle of flip-flop politics? The political self-serving cycle of promise, spend, promise, spend and not focusing on responsible, accountable government elected by the people for the people? If you promise enough and spend enough you will get re-elected right? Remember the fiscal accountability legislation introduced by former Minister of Finance Blaine Higgs, where is it now?
Where is the long term provincial economic development strategy?
The primary issue that has faced New Brunswick for decades and continues to face New Brunswick more than any other single issue is economic development and accountablity. We have had elected administration after administration so busy battling one another that they’ve forgotten that if we fail to develop a viable sustainable provincial economy our young people will continue to leave for a “land of milk and honey” as I did 60 years and we will be left with a dwindling economy, civil servants, folks on social assistance and an aging population whose dreams of a NEW Brunswick were misplaced.
……and that ain’t no baloney, think about it.