Hump Day: All hands on deck for good ship New Brunswick!

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

New Brunswick’s ‘brand’ is in bad shape. It pains me to say so, especially for someone who has chosen to live and build my career here. Even when friends and colleagues pulled up stakes and moved away, I was determined – and unashamedly so – to stay.

If you’re a real estate agent, don’t drive over to my house to leave a business card in my mailbox just yet. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not giving up on the province that I truly love. I’m not abandoning my home – literally and figuratively. After I die, I fully expect throngs of distraught readers to line up to sob and throw themselves upon my grave – which naturally will be located somewhere in this fine metro area.

And before the opposition parties frantically tear this column out of the newspaper and post it to their office bulletin board thinking that it’s some anti-government diatribe, I can assure them that nothing could be further from the truth. Our branding problem happened a long time before the current government took office.

New Brunswick is in desperate need of a branding campaign to get us out of our doldrums. Everything will be fine if we intend it to be so. Getting everyone in the province to buy into that is another story — and pushing the naysayers aside will be essential.

What I mean by branding in this sense is not some cutesy logo, but the feeling we get when we think about our province. For years, it’s been negative economic news day in and day out. I can’t think of anything more depressing than listening to one more news story about how we’re all pretty much just five minutes away from packing up shop and sailing on a rickety old boat to Bangladesh to work in a sweatshop clothing factory to pay off our debtors. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t some truth to our economic woes. And I’m not saying that we don’t have to tear off a very big bandage all at once no matter how much it hurts. I assume this week’s provincial budget will be about as bad as it gets for a long time. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of steadying New Brunswick’s economy.

Now that the powers that be have successfully created a public demand for an increased HST and the imposition of tolls on our highways, it’s time to take those measures and others and start to rebuild our finances. You know things are bad when people are practically begging for a higher sales tax and new road tolls.

But now, we must change the channel and start to reinvigorate our province’s shattered confidence. I say that because I’ve never in my life heard so much pessimism from the business world. Unfortunately, when it comes to negativity in the corporate milieu, it’s often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even people who are doing well start hoarding and holding back investments, removing even more money from the economy and making things exponentially worse than they were before.

New Brunswick needs to restore the confidence, vim and vigour in its step. I don’t mean by just paying lip service to it. I mean by actually believing it – by restoring true, heartfelt, generally accepted hope in our future. Hope is a powerful tool. It gets governments elected. It breeds investment. It causes great things to happen. I’m supremely distressed that many New Brunswickers are losing hope.

We need to stop catering to the lowest common denominator leaving asinine, hateful, intolerant and anonymous comments online. We need to put politics aside and bring together government, opposition, the private sector and industry associations in a campaign to restore our hope. We need young people to stop automatically assuming that they need to leave New Brunswick to earn a living and raise a family.

In 1984, the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce ran a very successful feel-good campaign with the catchy slogan,“Greater Moncton, We’re OK!” This was in the dark days following the closing of the CN Shops when a shadow was cast over this city. It may surprise the younger crowd today, but the campaign was sorely needed at the time. Thankfully, it worked brilliantly!

As simplistic as it sounds, something similar is required in New Brunswick immediately. We need a bi-partisan partnership between the private sector and government to help spread the word inside this province that we’re not down and out. We’re just beginning. There is hope for the future. It will get better.

In fact, we need to set our mindset to the fact that it is our expressed intention that things will get better. This isn’t just crossing our fingers and tossing a coin. An expressed intention is much more than that – and it will require all hands on deck. And if you aren’t ready to be part of the solution, then stand aside and let those who are ready get to work.

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