Saturday, June 21, 2008


It is said that Ontario is poised to become a "Have Not" province as it struggles against the collapse of the North American automobile sector. My native province of New Brunswick has so burdened the economy since the invention of the steam engine destroyed the bustling sailing ship building industry in the 19th century.

Somewhat like General Motors in Oshawa and Windsor; shipbuilding never regained momentum after Admiral Nelson's New Brunswick pine masted warships won at Trafalgar. For good measure the development of aluminium confirmed the 'kibosh' to the pine plywood industry which flourished when airplanes were built of wood during the two great wars of the 20th century. Thus, in New Brunswick, "Have Not" is not status: It's a birthright!

In New Brunswick unless your name is Irving, McCain, Oland or Ganong: expect to be relegated to "Have Not" status. Lest I digress. McCain is not the Senator from Arizona, but the world's largest supplier of french fried potatoes. Oland's is Moosehead Breweries, a premium brew shipped world-wide. Ganong's is candy (more in a second) and Irving is pretty much everything else a multi-billion dollar family empire can own.

Ganong Brothers of St. Stephen, New Brunswick is credited with inventing the chocolate bar near the turn of the 20th century (That's right - Not Hershey's). As a student in the late 1920's my mother worked there one summer as a maraschino cherry chocolate hand-dipper. Yum!

One wonders why when New Brunswick's lumber and paper making industry is on its knees. Almost a dozen sawmills and three paper mills closed just in the last year, Ganong's can't find factory workers to fill its jobs? Just last week, after struggling for months to find local workers, Ganong Brothers brought in 23 families from Romania to fill its vacancies. It still has at least 15 jobs waiting.

Ontario's lesson is the same faced by Malcolm Bricklin about 35 years ago when he tried to build the SV-1 sports car at factories in Saint John and Minto. The story of the collapse of the Bricklin automobile is the stuff of legend and a black mark in New Brunswick's history. Malcolm Bricklin has said frequently since that he couldn't keep the factories staffed. That New Brunswick's boom and bust cycles, and Canada's generous human resource safety nets, had conditioned the workforce to put-in only the number of weeks required to qualify for Employment Insurance (E.I.) and then quit to collect weekly payments from the government.

The conditioning of 150 years of "Have Not" status has lingering and nefarious effects which Ontario should note lest it be too late.

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