(crossposted to CanadaEast)
Premier Shawn Graham released today the government "action plan" on making New Brunswick self-sufficient. The report is 35 pages long. There is also a summary of 15 pages, but if you are going to read that much, I'd suggest going for the real thing.
The issues that I think are key to attaining this goal - population growth, education and infrastructure - were well addressed, and while lacking specifics in some areas, I think we have a good plan.
I particularly like this line: "linking job opportunities here with the skills of those who are looking to move home". With very few exceptions, every New Brunswicker I know who lives away wants to come home. Many of them don't however; either because they don't think it is realistic to find work in NB, or because they are a couple, and finding work for two people at the same time is nearly impossible, thus making the move impossible by extension.
If I take that quote to mean what I think it does, then ex-NBers who want to come home will simply have to send in a resume and the province will do the heavy lifting to match them (and, as required, their partner) with jobs in New Brunswick. This is ingenious because I think that there are thousands of New Brunswickers - and probably other Maritimers - who would jump all over opportunities here if they knew they could find them easily.
With regard to education, there is a focus on some kind of pre-kindergarten learning (it is unclear whether or not this would be institutional), flowing into a stronger focus on "the three Rs" leading into grade 5, and a career-minded focus through high school, with the aim of enabling students to identify a career in which they will excel and enjoy by the time they graduate. In terms of post-secondary education, the language is quite vague. It's the same line we've heard since the L'Ecuyer-Miner report came out, so I guess we'll have to wait a while longer to see whether or not it will be implemented.
There is a lot of talk in the plan of "strategic" infrastructure. I was particularly interested in the reference to rail, something that has declined in the past 20 years in our province - and totally disappeared in Western NB. In France, they have had dramatic success in connecting cities and rural areas using high-speed rail lines. I think this is something NB should investigate as it could really make the province a lot more attractive for investments and company relocation.
I also really like the focus on the film industry, to which I think the geographic features of New Brunswick are ideally suited. Nova Scotia has done really well in this area and, I think, New Brunswick should learn from their example considering we have just as much to offer this industry. Saint John in an architectural sense works as well as (or perhaps better than) Halifax as a stand in for Boston or New York, and we have comparable coastal vistas. Add to that more geographic diversity and sheer number of forests, mountains, rivers and cliffs, offering a multitude of potential shooting locations, and I think New Brunswick could easily grow and sustain a booming film industry.
We still have to wait for quite a few specifics, some of which I assume will be in next week's throne speech, but it is great to see that this file is continuing to be pushed.