Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First day of spring...

...felt more like mid-winter, with temperatures below freezing. Didn't bother me much 'cause I spent most of the day on the road, traveling to one of my favourite parts of the province, the Miramichi, to give a presentation to a group of business people at a forum being held in recognition of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

I was told to prepare for a more skeptical crowd than I usually speak to in Moncton, or Saint John, or Fredericton (the province's three largest cities). Miramichi has a higher unemployment rate, sees much less immigration and is much less racially diverse than those cities. While it is also in more dire straits in terms of its demographics -- population bleeds out of there to the larger NB cities, as well as out of province -- the people working in multiculturalism there tell me that many locals are still in the "Why are we bringing in immigrants when they'll just take our jobs? Why are we bringing in immigrants when my son is in Calgary?" phase. Which is understandable, given that they continue to watch their babies strap those babies' short lives on the roofs of their Toyotas and head west.

So I went armed with a lot of facts and figures designed to explain the idea that we need to grow the population and grow the tax base and the economy before we can realistically expect the other, equally-important parts of the population puzzle - repatriation of NBers, and the retention of our own youth - to begin happening.

I also brought data that showed immigrants do not "take jobs away from Canadians", which is too detailed and boring to go into here, but which notes among other things that immigrants tend not to be competing for the same jobs as Canadians. The reasons?
  • Entrepreneurial class immigrants are coming with a promise to open a business and create jobs;

  • Skilled Worker category immigrants are coming in because they work in an area currently experiencing a labour shortage;

  • Other immigrants tend to be seeking entry-level positions while they get credentials recognized and/or learn English or French.

It all went quite well, apparently. There were lots of questions, some challenging (and some amusing - like the fellow who thought that if we just paid people $10,000 per baby, there wouldn't be a problem), but none hostile.

Miramichi, and Miramichi City, are remarkable places. Many parts of it remind me more of some rough-edged prarie town with memories of the dust bowl still etched on its brow than a center of forestry on a mighty Atlantic river.

Take this, for example: that's the Miramichi Hotel, with an elderly sign announcing the same; and the sign behind that boasts the Black Horse Tavern, which I bet has some eye-popping tales to tell.

Back to the regular grind tomorrow, but today, while it was cold, it was sunny, and it was a great way to spend the day.


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Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

My job may be (and is) cool, ronnie, but yours is vital. Good on ya.

11:00 p.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

And while you were doing that, I was at a breakfast meeting with what I think was the entire social services corps of western Maine, hearing presentations on regional poverty. Which we have plenty of.

Must have been a good day for pondering and (hopefully) planning to improve the place -- kind of a Spring Cleaning.

6:43 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Sherwood, bless you. That's a very kind thing to say at a time when I'm feeling some serious burnout. When I walk around downtown Fredericton and see *dozens* more brown faces than I did when I began working in this field 10 years ago, it really makes me feel good - like I've been a small part of a team that has really *done something* in my community. (And eventually, I hope, my province.)

Mike, it seems to me that you are enjoying your foray into small-town news publishing and small-town democracy in a genuine and - if this isn't too "new-age" a term - joyous way. I love reading your posts about town-hall democracy and the like. Sounds to me like your passion for news, publishing and reporting has been revitalized, and it's a wonderful thing to witness.

10:07 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

I am astonished at the diversity of population up there. Having all the sophistication of many 'merkins, I figgered folks in your part of Canada were largely leftover Scots and some Eskimos (that's probably not the right word, either).

8:16 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Hi, M.E.
Didn't you get the Political Correctness update? ;) It's Inuit now. ("Inuit" means "The People" in the majority dialect in Canada's north and is how they refer to themselves.)

See how edjemacational this blog is?

9:11 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

oh, inuit all along....

'tis verra edjicational.

11:57 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

"oh, inuit all along"

I canNOT believe I've never seen that pun in the word "inuit" before. YOU, madam, are edjicational.

9:17 p.m.  

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