New Name, New Ideas.
Community of Creative Citizens As you can see above, our Coalition has taken on a new name. We will still use the same acronym of CCC. This new name defines who we are. We want to be more proactive. CCC believes in empowering local communities to become more involved in the decision-making process, including economic development, education, health and long-term care, and energy. We would like to be the umbrella of the communities and be the third leg of the stool – Politicians, Civil Servants, and Communities. We have a new website, www.cccnb.ca. You can view archived articles and work we have done in the past. We will continue to refresh and keep the CCC website current over the ensuing months.
Over the years many people have wondered why there are so many large buses circulating cities, causing pollution with an average occupancy level of 25-30%, and often less. We asked this question to Charlene Sharp, the new Transit Manager for the City of Fredericton. Charlene comes from a position in the transit department of the City of Toronto, and has a wealth of experience. A summary of our meeting with Charlene is as follows:
- The Transit Department is working nationally with a view of gradually introducing electric vehicles.
- It takes anywhere from 15-18 months to purchase a bus from the time it is ordered to delivery date.
- Buses vary in length from 40’, which is what the Fredericton now uses, to 30’ and downward. The large buses accommodate 36 to 40 people. The cost of purchasing a smaller bus is not significantly cheaper, maybe $100,000 to $150,000 less. As well, the cost to operate a small bus is almost the same as the larger buses (this point has been questioned). There is a need for larger buses during rush hours in the morning and late afternoon.
- The list price for a new 40’ diesel bus is approximately $750,000. A diesel/hybrid is approximately $1M.
- Fredericton is looking at alternative propulsion vehicles. However, battery powered vehicles aren’t without issues and there is a need for more charging stations.
- The challenge is to operate the transit system efficiently. Total daily ridership for the city is low at 4000-5000. Gross operating income in the City of Fredericton is approximately $2M, of which 35% is recoverable. The city is underwriting the transit cost by an estimate of $1.3M. (We are uncertain as to whether this figure includes fleet depreciation)
- It is becoming more challenging to find bus drivers with competition from the trucking industry. Bus drivers make $50,000 annually with good benefits. Transit department employs approximately 50 people.
- It’s been observed that city buses, school buses and French school buses travel up and down the hill with very few passengers. We asked if more efficient busing could be considered.
- Ms. Sharp hopes to introduce a By-law outlining transit rider expectations, and conversely what the transit department expects from riders. Bus security cameras will be installed to address safety issues and liabilities. As well, ‘counters’ to determine the level of ridership at certain times of the day.
- She is preparing a report with specific recommendations to senior staff and Council over the next 6 months or so. Once the report is released, we will review and make our comments known to the city.
- While CCC has not had discussions with other municipal transit departments we suspect they have many of the same challenges.
Quote – I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.Albert Einstein
New Brunswick has a new Minister of Education. Congratulations to Honorable Bill Hogan, we think. What a daunting task?
The Commission report by McLaughlin/Finn stated that French Immersion is not working for the majority of students and hasn’t worked for the past 50 years and should be abolished. They qualified that position by saying it is working well for students who stick with it and finish the program.
Many parents stream their children into French Immersion because of behavior issues and other challenges in the regular English program. School administrators are grappling to find ways to deal with this seemingly intractable problem as there are a host of studies showing that exposure to disruptive peers in childhood has significant long-term consequences for both educational attainment as well as subsequent earnings in adulthood. Exposure to one disruptive student in a class of 25 throughout elementary school reduces math and reading test scores in grades 9 and 10. Exposure to an additional disruptive peer throughout elementary school leads to a 3 percent reduction in earnings at age 24 to 28!
This has gone on too long in schools in New Brunswick and across Canada. We must find better ways to deal with this systemic problem.
The Minister of Education is proceeding with his plans to end the current French Immersion, phasing it out over a 10-year period. This is to be replaced by Conversational French for all, as it is the Premier’s goal to have every child who graduates able to speak conversational French. We believe this is a sensible goal if it can be achieved. Those who wish to increase their level of second language proficiency will need options to do so. As with many policies, the problem occurs with implementation. We caution the Minister not to move too quickly with this program as there are a number of potential difficulties. One of the big issues is staffing. There is currently a shortage of French teachers. While more teachers are needed, advances in technology should be able to assist with second language training. As pointed out in the Commissioner’s report, children learn a second language best outside the classroom. It may be very possible that English kids do not have the same opportunities for social interaction to learn French. This may be even more challenging in rural communities.
CCC advocates for more community involvement in our children’s education including second language training; the community can be a classroom. French communities are able to do a better job teaching their children English than English communities do teaching their children French. French kids have more opportunities to mingle with English kids.
Too often, it seems parents have abdicated their role in their children’s health and educational growth. Children perform better when they arrive to school well-nourished
and rested. Students need support and to be encouraged at home to be successful at school.
Premier Higgs has taken the high moral road in his attempt to introduce Conversational French for all children in our province. There is no question, speaking a second language is an asset for Global Competencies.
Abolition of French immersion may be popular in some circles, but not all. Many parents want their children to be fluently bilingual and eligible for more local/provincial jobs. It does not address the larger issue of protecting each linguistic community and promotion of a bilingual and bi-cultural society. We need to come up with alternative solutions. Possibly offering intense French immersion courses taught during the summer months or after school, or online courses that offer micro credits are options to explore. Another option might be to establish a Language Institute for students and adults of all walks of life regardless of ethnic background. As more and more immigrants migrate to the province from all over the world, there needs to a place where they can go and learn a second or even a third language.
There are a lot of positive things going on within the EECD department. It is not all negative. Policy makers often get caught in the weeds and don’t see the big picture. We would like our schools to educate the whole child – cognitively, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Dr. Ted Dintersmith, an international recognized expert, author and educator writes about “What schools should do” is one resource CCC thinks could contribute to decision-making focusing on education improvements in NB. There are many others within our own province who also can contribute towards the narrative.
We need a plan. The budget is $1.7 Billion dollars annually for 100,000 kids ($17,000 per child). Are we getting a return on our investment and what are the metrics to measure against? We want answers.
CCC and Atlantica Energy co-hosted a workshop on Energy and invited many experts in fields associate with producing energy. Maurice Dusseault, from the University of Waterloo was our keynote luncheon speaker. Others participated in a panel discussion on Natural Gas Exploration in NB, Liquefied Natural Gas Export Opportunities, Small Modular Reactors, Hydrogen, and the Atlantic Canadian Context. The session was moderated by New Brunswick Economist, David Campbell.
To say it was enlightening would be putting it mildly. Some of the best minds in the energy field were at the table. Maurice Dusseault gave us a good synopsis on global issues and concerns. A sampling of the type of questions at the workshop is as follows:
- If natural gas is developed in New Brunswick can it subsidize or add to capacity at the Saint John LNG for export?
- Is there an opportunity to invest with Headwater to develop natural gas locally?
- Is the public more receptive to fracking? (Now referred to as “Hydraulic Stimulation”)
- When and how can we engage with Indigenous communities?
- NB Power has made investments in ARC and Moltex. How is it going to help NB Power be more sustainable? What is the relationship between SMRs and NB Power? Do we get a decent payback, employment, tax dollars. At what cost?
- Is there a firm quote of $3B dollars to repair the Mactaquac Dam? Should this money be spent? Are there any realistic alternatives?
- Regarding Small Modular Reactors, what are the barriers and how can they be overcome? How do you get a business case?
- Do we have enough infrastructure in place to accommodate Electric Vehicles? What is the road map for this to happen in a timely fashion?
- There were many topics discussed but the fundamental question was what is the role of government? At the Federal level we are looking for facilitation of clear policy to allow developments to happen, and effective promotion. The same holds true at the Provincial level. We need leadership in government (s) to develop a PLAN. It is our understanding that the province has set up an energy secretariat and has appointed Wayne Power as Chair of the Committee. He will be part-time. This is a step in the right direction and we look forward to working with him in developing a plan.
- There have been technological advances in fracking in the last few years since the Liberal government put a moratorium on it. A number of wells can be installed in one acre. If the economic and environmental aspects of fracking make sense, this could be a huge boom for the New Brunswick economy. A portion of that money could be used for health care and a host of other services.
- Global warming is real and it has to be dealt with. Think of the rise of temperatures in Europe alone last year. Temperatures have risen at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years. But in New Brunswick, we are not major polluters. We have a vast forest to consume carbon dioxide. There is now only one coal fire power plant at Belledune, while Coleson Cove burns heavy oil and petroleum coke. Relative to the total World Wide GHG emissions, we are about 1%. The analogy would be one person smoking a cigarette. The federal government is pushing for elimination of coal fired power plants by 2030, which is only 8 years away. It’s highly improbable that target can be achieved. With such small GHG emissions in New Brunswick, does it make more sense to defer that target to 2040?
- A public forum will be held on energy by mid-January. CCC will make an announcement and provide details.
Something to think about
Anecdotal story from Daryl B- I have an opportunity to work with a client on a multi-million dollar project. A group of business people from China are involved in the project. My client prepared for the first meeting by having a good display of pastries, cookies, water, juice, etc. None of the Chinese people ate or drank anything. Afterwards speaking with one of the Chinese ladies who work for my client on a full time basis I learned they don’t want to eat anything while they’re negotiating. If anything, they might eat bites of fruit, but very little. They don’t drink anything cold because they believe it will harm their digestive system. Anything that is below body temperature is believed to be harmful ( A herbal Medicine belief). They don’t bring note pads or pens. Only one person takes notes. They don’t want to show their hand as to their title. I was asked to leave the general meeting and meet with a member of their team. She wanted to know if I supported the project.
They move with lightning speed. They want a decision in 2 or three days (giving in to pressure to make a quick decision can result in mistakes). The project involved real estate. They said they would have design of the building completed in 1 month including the interior layout. (Here it takes 6 months). They would also construct the building in China and ship it over and assemble. This resulted in the cost decreasing by 50%. If they could bring over their skilled labor, there would be additional savings. They think long term – not always looking for immediate return in their investment. In essence, they had an answer to every single question or concern we had. Now it’s wait and see if this comes together.
This story demonstrates the kind of world we live in. There is fierce competition all over the world. And for us to survive in New Brunswick we must find ways to increase our productivity. What we have going for us is an abundance of natural resources, which has to managed carefully. Furthermore, we should be more focused on value-added products rather than always shipping our natural resources.
Health & Long-Term Care
This topic is discussed in the media almost every day and at the dinner table often in many households across Canada. For some time CCC have been pushing for a Comprehensive Long Term Health Plan. We asked Premier Higgs why he is not willing to do one, especially when there are capable people available in New Brunswick to work on such a plan. He said he is comfortable with what is presently going on and didn’t see the need for such a detailed plan.
In talking with one of the trustees, we were advised there were 48 projects on the go at the present time. The problem is we don’t know what they are. So, if you make all these changes without a plan, what do you measure against? We read some of the steps outlined in the Throne speech and we support them. We wonder about surgeons and anesthesiologists driving to smaller communities. Is this going to be cost effective and efficient?
The days of every person having a family doctor are long gone. The province would need to attract another 75-100 doctors. Multi-disciplinary collaborative primary care practices are the way to go and some of these clinics are well on their way.
In addition to what the province is doing to attract doctors, there is a program that doctors and citizens in New Brunswick introduced a few years ago known as the New Brunswick Medical Education Foundation Inc. It is a not-for-profit organization to provide return to service medical education scholarships for New Brunswick Medical Students. Recipients may study at the accredited university of their choice, but after graduation they will return to the province or stay in New Brunswick and practice medicine for a period of time.
Citizens of New Brunswick must take more responsibility for their own well-being. The old adage of an apple a day keeps the doctor away still rings true today. Or an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventive care is one of the most effective ways to reduce disease. Citizens need to take steps to reach a healthy weight, to choose nutritious food, moderate consumption of alcohol, eliminate cigarettes and other addictive substances, get adequate sleep and regular screening for disease/illness, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and cancers such as colorectal and breast.
New Brunswick Health Council on line provides a myriad of information. CCC supports this organization and recommends “beefing up” its visibility with more promotion. They have conducted many studies and know where diseases are more prevalent in New Brunswick. In the context of the importance of preventive medicine, this organization should be enhanced to improve its effectiveness.
Think About This
With the new name ”Community of Creative Citizens’ we want to focus on exploring new ideas and bring forth best practices from around the world to impact our province for good. The world is getting smaller and through the internet we can find all kinds of information. This is exciting and as the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of creation”. Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live in and within Canada Atlantic Canada is the best. With all our resources and the pleasures we derive from hiking, biking, snowshoeing, fishing, hunting, boating, golfing and homespun entertainment, we have a lot going for us. However, sometimes we take it all for granted.
Over the last 50 years we have relied on government for leadership and solving problems. In so doing, they have responded and usurped us from making our own decisions. Their response has been in hiring more civil servants to a point of where we now have 56,000 civil servants in New Brunswick governing a population that has only grown 10 per cent in the last 20 years. In Donald Savoie’s book, “Democracy in Canada”, he tells an interesting story. It goes as follows: “A senior analyst in a line department spent more than half his working day looking at news, sports, and porn websites from his desk sadly this was not an isolated case. The department took the unusual step of firing this individual for committing time theft, claiming that he was accepting pay for surfing the internet. The employee appealed to the Public Service Labor Relations Board (PSLRB). He argued that he was not given enough work to keep him busy, and made the point that he had met every deadline and received positive performance appraisals. The PSLRB ruled in favor of the employee and ordered the department to reinstate him immediately.” We do not want to imply that all civil servants are lazy or not doing their job; I know many who are working tirelessly to make things happen but are frustrated with systemic challenges.
For many years there has been tension between politicians and bureaucrats. Ronald Reagan campaigned on “draining the swamp”. So did Donald Trump (remember him?). So did Margaret Thatcher. Brian Mulroney said if elected he would give out a number of pink slips. What then is the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats in New Brunswick? In Richard Hatfield’s day, he “combed” the universe, looking for top people to serve in executive positions in government. He delegated and took their advice often. Is that what’s going on today? It is questionable. As an example, we have had four Deputy Ministers of Health in just six years. We must ask how are decisions made? These are important questions as we are running a $31B business (GDP) with over a $11B budget.
If you do not have confidence in the people under you to make decisions or if you are a micro-manager, then tensions will escalate. Civil Servants will set and wait you out, which many are doing. In some cases, it’s a cul-de-sac. Politicians are waiting for advice from the bureaucrats, while the bureaucrats are waiting for a nod from the politicians. Therefore, there needs to be clear communications, and in so doing the structure may have to change.
The second issue for CCC is a concern over the duplication of services among the feds/provinces/municipalities. You would think we could manage our own resources like rivers and streams. But we allegedly can’t. (I like the story of a disgruntled citizen who called a friend of mine who was at the time a Provincial Cabinet Minister. The caller wanted something done about the flies in New Maryland. My friend said that he was sorry, but flies come under federal jurisdiction.)
The Feds have more and more say of what is happening in the provinces. This is compounded by the fact that most major decisions are made in the PMO Office. Regional cabinet ministers have less and less to say of what is going on in their jurisdictions. The same holds true in the province. There is a duplicating of services. For example, when seeking a building permit for construction of a nursing home, you first go to the city for approval. When approved by the city, you must go to the provincial fire marshal’s office. Why is that necessary when both jurisdictions must abide by the National Building Code? Think of the duplication of policing services. Under the municipal reform changes, many of these issues can be resolved and hopefully operate more efficiently.
Final wisdom from CCC
Whatever your goals you are trying to reach, it is important to have single-minded purpose which enables you to maintain focus despite distractions.
Capital Campaign– CCC need money to operate. I (Daryl Branscombe) have been financing the operation far too long. We will be starting our capital campaign soon and we will send out a letter and budget in a separate e-mail. Our goal is to raise $100,000. We want you to be part of the team. We are becoming more focused on the issues at hand and believe we can make a difference.