A Tale of Two Twinnings: Routes 7 & 11

New Brunswickers love their highways. New Brunswickers love talking about their highways. AND New Brunswickers love talking about what highways should be twinned next. It’s a common subject and one which can be brought up with any resident just about anywhere to get an opinion on the subject.

Because New Brunswick’s population is still made up of a significant rural population many residents are spread throughout the regions of the province. Although the province is not that large compared to an Ontario or a Quebec, a sizeable portion of its population lives outside of its major population centres, so having connecting highways that are both efficient and safe for travel are important to a large number of residents as well as businesses.

In total, New Brunswick has roughly 825KM of twinned, four-lane highway for a population hovering around 755,000.

A lot of discussion in the past has revolved around two Highways that likely should be twinned but haven’t been for whatever reason you’d like to believe. Some in Saint John will make the joke that there is no twinned highway to the Capital from Saint John for a good reason, and the lack thereof shows Fredericton’s contempt for the southern port city. Others, in Kent County, may point to political favouring and posturing as why Route 11 may not have been twinned in the past, or a dwindling population in rural parts of Northeastern New Brunswick. Others have been very pro-twinning, stating that it will bring economic impacts and tourists (more-so for Route 11) to areas currently underserved by them, whilst others go further and say twinning highways will pull tourists away from local towns (Charlotte County Route 1).

It’s a tricky and sometimes controversial subject.

ROUTE 11

Route 11 is, at this stage, the most likely to be twinned in New Brunswick as there is currently work being down to twin a short segment from Shediac Bridge to Shediac River. Initial, potential plans for Route 11 had it being twinned as far north as Miramichi, but as the following numbers indicate traffic does not warrant twinning that far north.

The following are AADT (Average Annual Daily Traffic) numbers for Route 11 from 2010, 2012, and 2014.

aadt-route-11-2010-2014

These numbers highlight increasing traffic between Shediac and Richibucto until it tails off further north before further tailing off the further one travels north. The Province of New Brunswick and Department of Transportation indicate that an AADT of roughly 8,000 is the amount required to investigate twinning of a segment of highway, and nearly all of Shediac to Richibucto will meet that in the near future with its current trending. The sections of Route 11 north of Richibucto barely meet half of that requirement currently.

aadt-route-11-2014

The current project underway is twinning a section of Route 11 from Shediac Bridge to Shediac River, a short section of the southern portion of Route 11. Traffic dictates this is (or will be soon) needed further north towards Bouctouche. Further twinning north to Richibucto seems to be destined as well, although this will depend on political expediency and safety concerns.

Those that desire full twinning of Route 11 seem to be grasping at straws at least as far as the AADT numbers indicate. The numbers do not pick up high enough again until Route 11 is well into Miramichi and crossing the Miramichi River, and are only high enough for that river crossing. Although full twinning would provide a higher degree of safety for motorists the traffic numbers are not there to warrant it, and the CBC lists Route 11 as having a lower collision rate than other two-lane highways in the province.

In fact, one report on Route 11 twinning from 2012 found that safety concerns were not warranted on Route 11 compared to other routes in the province.

ROUTE 7

Route 7 is the primary highway route connecting two of New Brunswick’s largest population centres: Saint John & Fredericton. For a stretch of highway less than 100km in length connecting two major NB Cities it would seem obvious that this would have been twinned and would have the traffic necessary for that twinning. However, Department of Transportation’s AADT numbers tell a different story:

aadt-route-7-2010-2014

These numbers highlight Route 7’s stagnating, and in some areas decreasing, traffic trends. If we remove sections of Route 7 that are shared with Route 2 from Oromocto and Fredericton we’re left with a particular trend: The average traffic on Route 7 between Oromocto and Saint John has been decreasing from an average AADT of 6,201 in 2010, to 6,077 in 2012, to 5,750 in 2014. The biggest loss of traffic are in Nerepis (-210), Welsford (-1,270), and Petersville (-540). The North section near Geary and the South section nea Grand Bay have seen increases over this time frame.

On the whole it seems likely that Route 11 is on the precipice of twinning whilst Route 7 is heading in the opposite direction, at least for its full length. The newly opened twinned section which bypasses Welsford (and replaced an awful winding section which traveled through the time) seems to have dwindling traffic, or at least its numbers have fallen as the new bypass has replaced the old. Time will tell if these numbers continue to trend.

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The People’s Alliance: Where to go from 2014?

Being the fifth out of five parties is not an enviable position to be in for the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick. It’s been six years since the party was first formed and it is interesting to note the direction it has taken in those six years. Formed seemingly as a protest party it has developed nicely into a fringe party in the province, slowly eating away at the popular support of the bigger parties. But where do these votes come from – and where will they come from in the future?

Despite garnering only 2.14% of popular support in the 2014 election there is a bit more going on than that. Running a slim slate of 18 candidates (in 49 ridings) the party received 5.88% of popular support in ridings it ran in. The highest  received was leader Kris Austin’s 28.48% in Fredericton-Grand Lake. Due to the joys of vote-splitting within the first-past the-post electoral method, Austin lost his riding by a mere 25 votes behind the PCs Pam Lynch. Liberal Sheri Shannon finished 47 votes behind Austin, meaning that all three finished within a percentage point of each other.

Other PANB candidates saw varying degrees of success. Former Liberal Leroy Armstrong received 10.39% of the vote in Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins, good for third behind the PCs and Liberals. Wes Gullison received 8.61% in Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin, again good for third in that riding. Three other PANB candidates received over 5% popular support in their ridings. Compare this to 2010’s results where only three candidates received over 5% in their ridings (with Austin topping at 19.95%) and the improvement is obvious.

panb-top-five-results-2010-2014

The overall improvement is a popular vote total increasing from 4,389 in 2010 to 7,964 in 2014, a total improvement of 1.18% to 2.14%. What is even more important to note is where these votes come from, and in what ridings the PANB does well in. All of the ridings are similar, and all of the areas where they succeed in receiving votes are similar as well.

In the Albert riding, where Bill Brewer received 7.66% of the total vote, these votes were gleaned from the more rural areas of the riding. Hillsborough voted 11.58% for PANB, and 12.20% in Riverside-Albert. This is compared to sub-4% in the more urban Riverview. LeRoy Armstrong’s results in Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins are similar. His total of 10.39% is buffeted by 12.84% received in areas like Bloomfield, Passekeag, and Moosehorn Creek. Armstrong was second in voting in Apohaqui and a consistent third place through Roachville and Penobsquis. However, in more metro Sussex, he lost ground to the NDP and Liberals, the latter of which he would push for second in some rural areas of the riding.

 

Similar numbers can be seen in Joyce Wright in Charlotte-Campobello and, of course, with leader Kris Austin in Fredericton-Grand Lake – where Austin easily swept Chipman and Minto before losing support as the riding moved towards Fredericton. Gullison’s numbersare aided by a 28% showing (and 2nd place) in Upper Miramichi, which evaporates to just above 2% in Baie-Ste-Anne.

The ridings where the PANB received more than 5% of the total vote are the following:

  • Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin
  • Albert
  • Sussex-Fundy-St.Martins
  • Charlotte-Campobello 
  • Fredericton-Grand Lake 
  • Carleton-York

None of these ridings are within the Big Three cities of New Brunswick, although a few are on their borders. These ridings are mostly rural and encompass some medium-sized centres, most notably Sussex and St. Stephen.

So what does this all mean? Simply put, the PANB does well in Angolophone, rural New Brunswick. This isn’t an overly shocking revelation. For the PANB, they’re a simple, easy, and rather straightforward party with simple, easy, and relatable policy points. They do have some lofty goals that I think would be difficult to implement (such as free voting for MLAs in the Legislature) but I think some of their policies are well-intentioned moving forward.

With the future of rural NB very much up in the air (as noted on this blog frequently), and a population increasingly becoming urbanized, are the PANB going to be the party that represents the dwindling rural population of the province? Perhaps. For the PANB to increase their support they’ll need the rural population for sure, but will also need to break in a bit more in more urban areas. Of course, the PANB would benefit from a larger slate as well, and would do well with candidates in Gagetown-Petitcodiac and New Maryland-Sunbury. The issue of Francophone voters will have to be resolved over time: PANB candidates in Kent North and Kent South received 1.44% and 1.96% respectively in 2014.

In 2010 PANB only fielded 14 candidates in 55 ridings (25% of ridings). In 2014 that number increased to 18 candidates in 49 ridings (37%). For 2018, i’d imagine a good goal for them to have would be having candidates in at least half of the province’s ridings. That means finding seven more candidates. The PANB fared decently well in some ridings in 2010 for which they had no candidates in for 2014, including areas like Miramichi, Saint John and the Fundy Isles. Expanding in areas like suburban Fredericton and filling in the remainder of the rural anglophone ridings would likely see them poke above the 10,000 vote barrier with their current trending.

What would help the PANB immensely would be Austin winning his riding in 2018, similar to the Greens breaking through in Fredericton-South in 2014 with David Coon. Having that exposure and ability to have an outlet on the public stage would be huge for the party in legitimizing itself. A lot of voters in NB think that the PANB are an anti-Francophone party and are keen to place their votes elsewhere. Having their leader in the Legislature would legitimize them immensely and help with their exposure moving forward. Exposure to the public is key, as well as not looking like a temporary fixture. The PANB are moving there slowly but surely, which will require patience and a keen eye for policy points. So far the party and Austin have done well in that regard.

In terms of other parties, a lot depends on the future of the PC Party Leadership race. The PANB are surely hoping a candidate like Monica Barley comes out as the winner. Having other hopefuls win, like Jake Stewart or Mike Allen, would almost certainly eat into PANB’s rural vote and provide for a big roadblock for their increased exposure. Having Barley win wouldn’t affect their goal areas as much, it has to be said.

The Liberal Government’s policies have come across varyingly in different areas of the province. One area that should be noted is St. Stephen, where the Liberals were pushing for the alteration/reduction of services to the hospital in that town, leading to protest. PANB has garnered over 6% of the vote in Charlotte-Campobello the past two elections and one has to think that number will rise as more and more pressure is applied to the rural area from Fredericton and the larger urban centres. The PANB must be watching the situation closely, just as leader Kris Austin was with the Potash Mine closure in Sussex earlier on in the Liberal mandate. These are prime areas for the PANB to make some serious gains in 2018.

panb-municip-results-2014

On Electoral Reform

Yesterday the New Brunswick government announced potential reforms to the electoral system in the province. These changes are wide and deep, looking at potential changes to the voting age, changes to donation limits, and how New Brunswickers vote; either online or changing the entire electoral voting procedure as a whole.

Electoral reform has been a sticky subject in Canada as of late with the Federal Government proposing similar changes at the national level. The opposition Conservatives feel that a referendum is needed to provide enough public support to implement these changes. The argument, at least from the ruling Liberals, is that because they ran in the 2015 election on the promise of changing the electoral system, and subsequently gained a majority government, that this is support enough for the government to enact these changes.

The Federal Liberals have also had to jump through hoops regarding how the electoral reform committee is composed and also are facing difficulties regarding their timelines for implementing a full range of changes in time for the next federal election in 2019.

The New Brunswick proposal faces similar issues. No committee has been struck as of yet and this committee is supposed to be publishing a final report on these proposals in January 2017. For anyone who has had any experience working with government at any level should know this is an ambitious target and it seems doubtoful it will be met accordingly. Even if it is met it would still have to be put through the legislature and all of the due diligence that comes with that.

In the event the Liberals are able to pass the electoral reform legislation in the Spring of 2017 it leaves the government and Elections NB with roughly 12 months to implement changes in time for the next provincial election in the fall of 2018.

What’s more important than timelines of course is what these proposed changes are! So let’s take a look:

The Good:

Changing donation limits
The most important of these reforms is the possibility of reform or (hopefully) complete removal of corporate and union donations to political parties or independent candidates. Nova Scotia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and the Federal government have restricted and removed corporations and unions from donating and thus holding influence over candidates. It’s a smart move for a province as unique as New Brunswick with such large industry for such a small population. Removing these donations removes possible foul play and undemocratic practices that generally floats around with private and union forces affecting politics and really forces parties to look for donations from citizens – the people actually voting for them.

Allowing for permanent residents to vote
Permanent residents are people who live in the province much the same as anyone else. There have been calls recently for permanent residents to gain the vote in municipal campaigns which was not mentioned in this discussion paper. Still, it looks like progress.

Fixed election dates
This proposal is pretty straightforward and has already been implemented at the federal level. A fixed date for an election every four years provides for stability and reliability, particularly for organizations such as Elections NB which needs to make preparations for elections. This does not mean elections cannot be held more frequently than four years (no confidence votes, snap elections) but does mean that they’re set in stone and must be held within a four-year time frame.

The Unlikely:

Online/Internet voting
Internet voting poses a number of difficulties which were previously found in Quebec when the Chief Electoral Officer in 2005 found issues with online voting mechanisms. A lack of transparency, accountability, ability to verify voters, and costs are among many of the issues surrounding online voting or the creation of online voting kiosks. As of yet, none of the costs for this have been outlined, so it remains to be seen what the financial implications would be.

“The technical audits and tests helped to determine that electronic voting systems are exposed to many risks since they have limited or no formal protection and security measures, thus making them vulnerable to technological attacks. In addition, the systems are thus exposed to major service or network defects and breakdowns.” – Elections Quebec, 2006

I see no issue in making things easier for voters to cast their vote but I have seen nothing proposed by the government in terms of a serious plan on this to offer any reasonable yea or nay at this point. Perhaps the January Report will glean some light on this.

Anything > FPTP Voting
There’s no doubt that first-past-the-post is a wildly inefficient system of voting. It’s the simplest, and it works, and that’s about it. The major issue revolves around convincing an electorate that it would be wise to tinker with it, and so far four of those votes have been rejected in various provinces across the country in the past twenty years. As of yet there hasn’t been much support or momentum for a change in voting system in New Brunswick despite reports developed over a decade ago recommending them.

Is FPTP a flawed voting system? Sure. Is it the easiest to understand? Absolutely. Do I think New Brunswickers would support a change in the way they vote if it was put to a referendum? Not a chance.

The proposed alternatives are outlined very well in the discussion paper and it provides good graphics and explanations of how they work. I am supportive of the current one-member-per-riding system with a ranked ballot with the victor requiring 50% of the vote to be elected. Other alternatives, like party lists, get into the murky waters of party officials not tied by area or region ending up in the legislature and opens up the door to fiddling…and not the kind on the roof.

[I’m also supportive of the province further cutting down on the number of ridings in the province from the current 49 to a more reasonable 45 or 41, but that recommendation is nowhere to be found]

The Bad:

Lowering voting age
Although an admirable and understandable goal I don’t see much from a policy perspective to support this. The negatives, such as allowing those to vote who may not have a full understanding of what their vote is going towards, far outweigh the positives on this file. It would be wiser for the government to provide for more education on civics and allow interest to swell from that.

It’s clear that lowering the voter age is an attempt to increase voter turnout in elections but lowering it may very well have the opposite effect. Allowing a whole new segment of the electorate to vote is great but if they vote at levels below the average they’ll only serve to drag down turnout further. There’s nothing that I can find that shows that 16 and 17 year olds are kicking down the door to be heard….the discussion paper mentions that there will be fewer and fewer of them in the coming years. No growth in this demographic.

What government should be aware of is that turnout in elections, although important, isn’t the be-all, end-all measuring stick of how interested an electorate is in the political process. Turnouts rise and fall based on elections and can swing for many different reasons. Elections with higher turnouts generally have a specific issue or decisions revolving around them that leads to more people heading to the polls. An example of this would be the 2010 election which reversed a trend in NB of successive falling turnouts. Why did turnout rise in this election? It likely had to do with the incumbent Graham Liberals seeking to sell NB Power. Big ticket issues like this generally drive turnout up. NB either doesn’t have these issues come up during elections or political parties are too afraid to step on toes to bring them up in the first place.

The idea that government can create a more “effective” legislature by making it easier for underrepresented groups to become elected to the legislature is laughable at best. Having elected members from more diverse backgrounds doesn’t provide for a more effective legislature –  it simply provides for a more representative legislature (and that is always up for interpretation). The issues surrounding the legislature would still persist whether the entire legislature was made up of women or visible minorities or not. Many issues remain, like the lack of sitting days, overall lack of decorum, and many others.

There are many ingrained issues surrounding the legislature and political culture in New Brunswick as a whole. Creating reforms for electoral reform with the goal of fixing these issues points the finger at the electorate as the cause for these issues – this is simply untrue. New Brunswick’s voters haven’t driven the province to economic stagnation. New Brunswick’s voters haven’t restricted legislature sitting hours this session. These issues rest with the elected members of the legislature and the ministers and premier of the province. Surely efficiencies can be found within the political system rather than pointing the finger at voters.

New Brunswick voters do, and can, have the power to change who sits in the legislature after all.

It remains to be seen if all of these proposed changes will make it to the (presumably very rushed) final report in January but from what I can see I would be particularly surprised if all of them were implemented in time for 2018. Why is the government deciding now to push this issue? The Liberals did mention some parts of this in their 2014 Election Campaign [“Investigating means to improve participation in democracy, such as preferential ballots and online voting.”, pg. 37] but made no mention of changing the entire electoral process.

If that’s the goal why not tie a referendum vote onto the general election vote in 2018? It would be simple, a good election platform for them to build off, and would negate the negative press of a government trying to force reforms on an electorate that didn’t really ask for them. Perhaps they think they would lose such a vote.

A referendum tied to the general election in 2018 would almost certainly raise voter turnout – isn’t that what’s being sought for in the end?

New Brunswick’s Shifting Population

New Brunswick’s population has seen a relative, but modest, rise in the past 25 years compared to other provinces in Canada. New Brunswick has continually ranked 8th (out of 10, rising to 13 provinces and territories) in total population for over 100 years between 1911 and 2011.

Between 1991 and 2011 NB’s population has increased from 723,900 to 751,171. PEI has seen a fairly steady annual rise in its population, climbing from 129,765 to 140,204 in that same time period. Nova Scotia has climbed from 899,942 to 921,727.These numbers easily pale in comparison to larger provinces in the country which routinely bring in thousands of new citizens each year (which is another issue altogether revolving around immigration).

Most important amongst these numbers is the urban/rural division of population. It’s became a large trend in the 20th century and is only now beginning to pick up steam in Atlantic Canada…the biggest reason for this would be the economies of which Atlantic Canada was based upon: Agriculture, Fishing, Forestry. These are all very rural economies in comparison to, for example, manufacturing.

Urban/rural division is important because it can significantly alter how a province delivers its services and how it runs on a day to day basis. Nova Scotia has one very large urban centre which accounts for nearly half of its provincial population (Halifax) and as such most of Nova Scotia’s major institutions, schools, and services are found in this centre. New Brunswick, on the other hand, has three smaller urban centres which do not reach half of the province’s population (although they’re getting closer) which leads to services, institutions, and schools being spread throughout. It’s a bit more expensive and cumbersome when a province is trying to grow when everything is spread out.

The Canadian national average in 2011 was 81% Urban and 19% Rural. NB sat at 53/48, with only PEI having a lower % of urban population. The biggest difference between Canada’s largest provinces and its smallest? Canada’s largest provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, BC) all have Urban percentages north of 80%. In fact, ONT and QC haven’t been at NB’s 53/47 split since 1921 and 1911 respectively. To put it one way, NB is a century behind the urban/rural development split of Ontario.

2011 URBAN%/RURAL%

NL 59/41
PEI 47/53
NS 57/43
NB 53/48
QC 81/19
ONT 86/14
MB 72/28
SSK 67/33
AB 83/17
BC 86/14

NB’s rural population hit a high of 378,686 in 1991 and has been falling ever since [1991 is a convenient year as it’s the earliest Census data that I have access to]. Between the five-year census periods NB’s rural population has fallen anywhere between 16K and 1K in each period. The Urban population, on the other hand, has risen from anywhere between 15K and 6.5K. During the period of 1991-2011 NB’s Urban % has gone from 48% to 53%, with rural of course going in the opposite direction.

For definition’s sake, StatCan refers to population centres of under 1,000 or with less than 400 persons per sq. km as “rural”.

But we can get deeper than just province-wide numbers. Where is that rural population depleting? Where is that urban population increasing? What are the pros and cons to this shift?

RURAL LOSSES

What i’ve done with the data is fairly simple. I’ve gone into each City, Town, Village, and Parish in NB and tracked their population through each census between 1991 and 2011. Using that, i’ve grouped the province into 55 units focused around a town or population centre. In 2011, the smallest centre in population would be “Canterbury”, which consists of the area roughly of Canterbury Parish, Canterbury Village, Meductic Village, and North Lake Parish. The largest population centre is Moncton, consisting of the City and the Parish of Moncton.

The subregion with the biggest % drop in population between 1991 and 2011 is “Gloucester Nord”, consisting of New Bandon, Saint-Leolin, Maisonette, Grande Anse, and Bertrand. Collectively they’ve gone from a population of 5,566 in 1991 to 4,131 in 2011. This area loses roughly 500 people each five years. As Bertrand and New Bandon were both over 1,000 people in 2011 it is entirely possible for both of them to drop from “Urban” to “Rural” for 2016, further exacerbating rural drop (at least in the eyes of StatCan).

The runner-up subregion for population lost between 1991-2011 is “Sainte-Anne – Saint-Leonard” in Northwest NB. Declining -20.90% in those twenty years, or roughly 1% per year. The biggest fallers in this subregion are Ste-Anne-de-Madawaska, Saint-Andre, Riviere-Verte, and Notre-Dames-des-Lourdes

Other subregions with significant population drops from 1991-2011 include Balmoral (-18.74%), Campbellton-Dalhousie (-17.97%), Rogersville (-15.39%), and Shippagan (-15.11%). See a trend in any of these?

URBAN GAINS

On the flipside, some areas have grown by leaps and bounds. Dieppe, in another universe to all others, increased by 118.87% between 1991 and 2011 (10,650 to 23,310). Harvey-Kingsclear by 33.38% in this time period. Kennebecasis (Quispamsis/Rothesay) by 22.40%. Moncton by 20.59%. See a trend in any of these?

Saint John was the only of the Big 3 Cities to show a decline during this period. Saint John’s decline is supplemented by an increase in its surrounding suburban areas, particularly in Quispamsis.

Most important in these numbers is the strong growth in the suburbs of the Big 3. Dieppe’s growth is (partly) due to its proximity to Moncton. The growth in the Kennebecasis Valley can be attributed to its proximity to Saint John. The growth in Kingsclear to Fredericton. We can look at these numbers and come to the conclusion that the City of Saint John is losing population but that statement would neglect the growth that’s occurring just outside of its border. Although these suburbs are not “urban” it is much easier to service them than someone living in a much more rural, distant area.

(The Finn Report (2008) actually touched on suburban citizens leeching off of urban services in the cities; which would in turn raise taxes and fees on those living in the cities. It’s a fascinating read.)

NORTH/SOUTH DIVIDE

All of the largest fallers were located in Northern New Brunswick. All of the largest climbers were located in Southern New Brunswick. It’s no secret that the North is losing population and the South is gaining population. Are the two related? Perhaps.

Northern decline can be linked to the relative age of its population and the lack of a substantial, dependent, widespread economy and industry. Northern New Brunswick is older and more rural than their counterparts in the south. Restigouche has a median age of 48.7, with over 20% of its residents over 65. Gloucester county has similar numbers.

To put this plainly: The rural areas of the province that are declining are also its oldest, meaning that this decline is only going to continue at a faster rate as the baby boomers enter retirement. How quickly this decline will quicken remains to be seen, but without any sort of youth injection in these areas it seems unlikely they’ll ever recover from their current trajectories.

URBAN/RURAL SERVICING

Jean-Guy Finn makes a quick note about cost-servicing as age increases:

“Shifts in population will also impact the nature of services delivered. As populations in some communities age, service requirements will also change. For example, recreation programs and facilities may need to be adjusted, transit systems may have to be improved or made more accessible, and land use plans may have to be adjusted to better reflect evolving housing needs.”

Although Finn’s Report highlights the need to coordinate local governments better to be more effective for the taxpayers within them it also highlights a changing environment in New Brunswick. That environment is that suburban and urban centres are growing whilst rural centres, and unincorporated areas, are declining.

The following is a list of all 55 subregions i’ve created for the purpose of this examination:

NB SUBREGION POPULATIONS

The common trend is gains made by the Big 3 Cities and their suburban units with big falls to more rural urban centres or northern centres. Not a single subregion that could be classified as “Northern” grew in population for the period 1991 to 2011. In fact, many of them dropped a fifth or sixth of their 1991 population. These trends will continue due to the relative average age of these areas, either through relocation or, more glumly, attrition.

On the other hand, the Big 3 and their suburban units fared very well and shared almost all of the population growth for this period of twenty years. In Oromcto, despite the Town of Oromocto declining in population, both Lincoln parish and Burton parish increased at a faster rate than Oromocto declined.

In Westmorland you can almost see the ripple effect that Moncton is having on that county. Moncton’s 20% growth became 118.87% in Dieppe, which becomes 21.88% in Shediac, which becomes 6.82% in Westmorland East. By the time we reach Sackville, the growth tapers off to 0.58%. The same is true in the Western direction as well, with growth being seen in Petitcodiac/Salisbury. These can almost be attributed to distance to the major urban centre, with high growth seen within a sort-of half hour circle of the city. By the time we reach Sackville, Hillsborough, or Bouctouche that growth tapers off due to relative distance from the City.

Another area that is worth investigation is the shared areas between the Big 3 cities. Are they growing? The answer is yes (and no). The corridor between Moncton and Saint John, which i’ll refer to as the Kings County Corridor (KCC) has been growing steadily for the past twenty years. Kennebecasis saw 22.40% growth, Central Kings 8.42% growth, Sussex 2.11% growth. Petitcodiac/Salisbury 7.04% growth. This distance phenomenon occurs again: Growth dissipates as you exit Saint John and bottoms out roughly 45 minutes away in Sussex before increasing again as you near Moncton. Sussex is almost exactly halfway between the two and that subregion has the lowest growth of the KCC. It’s no coincidence.

The corridor between Saint John and Fredericton is a bit different as the majority of it is a very large military base, Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. There isn’t much room for development here. The corridor between Moncton and Fredericton is a bit different, however. The area of Grand Lake, consisting of  Cambridge-Narrows and Coles Island on the Trans-Canada Highway has still seen steady decline despite being between the two. The major decline in Grand Lake is due to the decline of Chipman and Minto, which are separated from the Big 3 and on no real route to anywhere of major urban importance. If our distance theory is correct this is due to the fact that these areas are in excess of 30/45 minutes from the major centres. Oromocto, which lies on the route to both Moncton and Saint John from Fredericton, has seen steady growth.

What we can discern from these numbers is that the Big 3, the large urban, suburban, and exurban areas are driving all of the growth in New Brunswick and will continue to do so. It’s areas like Minto, Chipman, McAdam, Campbellton, and Shippagan which no longer have relatively strong local economies and are not convenient to major urban centres that are going to continue their decline. Centres like Miramichi, Bathurst, Edmundston, and Grand Falls-Grand Sault are simply too separated from larger, growth-driven areas to benefit from any of that periphery growth themselves.

The 2016 Census is going to be a continuation of this trend and it’s going to be great for some areas and very poor for others. If the Provincial government were wise it would be looking at these numbers with both hope and concern and would be altering the service models in order to accommodate these changes.

On Uber and Saint John taxis

In the past month city councils in Ottawa and Toronto have legalized the ride-sharing app known as Uber.

For those unfamiliar, Uber’s app on your smartphone can be used to find vehicles that operate the same as taxis without the need of having to call or wait for taxis. Uber drivers, unlike their taxi counterparts, do not have to operate under municipal taxi laws (like having very expensive plates) and generally use their own vehicles in their spare time to make extra income on top of jobs they usually already have. The bonus of the Uber app is that you can watch via GPS where your car is in relation to your position; can split-fares with friends; never have to physically exchange money in the car; and, you can rate drivers (as well as drivers rating you as a passenger).

Because Uber does not pay the (sometimes obscene) price of municipal taxi plates their rides are generally much, much cheaper. My experience in Ottawa has been rides with Uber being anywhere from 15% to 40% cheaper than regular taxis depending on distance….along with a better overall customer experience. I’m not going to sugar coat this: Uber is a considerable step up over taxis when it comes to reliability, convenience, and pricing.

Part of this is the reason why taxi companies have been fighting so hard in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. The Taxi industry’s monopoly over local transport has been under attack as it has quickly become superceded by new and better technology. Part of this isn’t the taxis fault; Municipal guidelines, when they’re not spotty and very outdated, are generally very expensive and costly for individual taxi  drivers.

This should all sound familiar to residents of Saint John who have a very vocal, and very outdated, municipal taxi industry. Whilst other cities in Canada are having conversations about using smartphones to hail cabs and how to make lives easier for both taxi drivers and transport users, Saint John taxi drivers are fighting against meters in 2016, something that other cities have had in place for decades.

Saint John’s taxi demands are dishearteningly out of place and time. Taxi drivers in Saint John believe that once a vehicle is inspected and deemed safe it should be permitted to be used as a taxi. That’s any vehicle ever. Regardless of age. Uber Ottawa cannot be used with a vehicle more than six years old. Toronto Uber vehicles must be inspected twice a year. These taxis in Saint John have resisted metres for decades on the claim of rising fares ( and their proof is using a metre on one taxi as a test for such a system with zero outside oversight. Just accept their findings as absolute truth, yes?).

Saint John has had a plethora of issues with its taxi industry in the past…from overcharging cruise ship passengers for simple trips, to this metre issue, to having a fleet of cars where a majority (65%) are older than seven years. Saint John is a large, vast city, with a difficult terrain; difficult to get around in without a vehicle. Saint John Transit, for all of its benefits, does not have a consistent enough frequency or coverage area to make it a reliable, dependable transit option off of the main routes. This is where taxis come in and where they can be an actual benefit to the population.

I see three options:
1) Seek out Uber, or a company like it, to completely revitalize the taxi and private transportation company (PTC) environment in the City. Allow competition between the monopolized taxi industry and newer private industry. With its large area for a relatively small population this sort of company should have a steady base of users so long as the company is not targeted negatively and viewed as outsiders.

2) Encourage current Saint John taxi companies to modernize and join the 21st century of taxi, spurred on in many areas by the entrance of competition. How difficult would this be given the taxis insistence on fighting even the smallest of changes (metres)?

3) Do nothing, and let the status quo remain.

Uber, and PTCs in general, allow normal citizens to make a bit of extra income by driving and delivering others around without the necessity of owning an expensive taxi plate at the behest of a taxi company, which require hours and times and places without your say. An Uber driver has their own free will to work as little or as much as they’d like, depending on their own preferences, and are encouraged to drive more with surge pricing during peak hours or days (think holidays, cruise ships, major events).

To put it simply: View Uber drivers as part-time workers. They can be a student trying to cover tuition at UNB, or a bartender trying to pay off car insurance, or a parent trying to save money for their child’s education. Taxi drivers do all of these things, as well, but they have to work taxi as a full-time job with much less personal freedom in their work environment.

Perhaps i’m making the assumption that something like Uber or another PTC would work tremendously well in Saint John – I don’t know for sure; but could their introduction be any worse than the status quo? Saint John is actually the perfect market for developing sensible, evidence-based urban transport: It has a reasonably-sized population spread across a very large and hilly area. It’s difficult and financially unfeasible to reach a lot of it by bus, and expensive by taxi due to its expanse and the zone coverage that the current taxi industry wishes to maintain for obvious reasons.

There’s more at play here than just taxis: the overarching theme that cities in the Maritimes are falling behind their Canadian counterparts in modernizations such as this. If NB is serious about wanting to attract back the young people that have left it needs to seriously consider having municipalities that are strong and able to adapt to changing technological times. Encourage entrepreneurship.