A Good Economy Stinks – A History of the New Brunswick Economy

The title says it all. The nose knows a strong economy, especially when it comes to New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada

In the most recent episode of the East Coast Cannabis Hour, I had the chance to talk to Chris Dickie. Chris is what you might call a “multi-sector expert.” Chris has worked in startups, NGOs, and government departments with the same overarching goal: transforming New Brunswick’s natural resources into valuable products and economic opportunities. In this episode of the ECCH, Chris tells us how cannabis makes sense for the Atlantic Canada and New Brunswick’s economy when considering the assets and economic history. 

We got onto the subject of opportunities in cannabis and how it might enhance some of our core sectors like aquaculture and agriculture. For some reason talking about aquaculture caused a flashback memory of when I lived on New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula in the late 70s and early 80s. It got me thinking about New Brunswick’s economy over the years, and how our great successes have something in common.

As a kid, I lived in Saint Marie Sur Mer and then Pokemouche before moving to Newcastle ( part of Miramichi City today). Saint Marie is a coastal town just outside of Lamèque, NB, and in the late 70s early 80s, there were fish processing plants everywhere. The one thing I distinctly remember is that it stank! It stank, but there were a lot of people who worked those plants. 

Source: The Island Fishermen Cooperative Association (IFCA), Lamèque, New Brunswick

We moved to the Miramichi in the mid-80s, and I remember thinking about the one upside of moving. I liked it on the Peninsula, but I loved the idea of leaving the fishy smell behind.

You can imagine my disappointment when I realized that the mid-’80s turned out to be a booming time for the pulp and paper industry, and we moved no more than 8km (as the crow flies) from Boise Cascade Paper Mill. The one thing I distinctly remember is that it stank, too! It stank, but just like the fish processing plant of Saint Marie, that was the smell of jobs for hundreds of families.

On the subject of money-makers that stink: dairy accounts for 42% of New Brunswick’s livestock population. That represents a value that is second only to potatoes. Many of us know Sussex for its vistas of rolling hills, but the same smelly story repeats itself. Dairy cattle is no one’s favourite smell in the world, but we look the other way when jobs are at stake.

Dairy Cow Statues in Sussex, NB

So in as much as we like to fight it, New Brunswick is a resource-based province. The creation and transformation of those resources stink. We can do what we can to mitigate the unpleasant odors, but the fact of the matter is that a good economy stinks!

Even though the smells weren’t pleasant when I was a kid, I don’t remember much complaints from adults. As an adult myself, I clearly understand why. People didn’t complain because, one way or another, it meant a paycheck for someone, from the grocery store clerk to the car dealership salesperson. Today, we have fewer fish plants and fewer pulp mills, and, arguably, the economy stinks for other reasons. 

As Cannabis Coordinator, I’ve heard lots of push back on cannabis operations moving into the region. These pushbacks seem agnostic of whether it is an indoor or outdoor growing operation, even in rural areas—one of the leading complaints being potential odors. When one of these operations are proposed, “not in my back yard” is a common response from the public.

As the sector develops and discovers opportunities, don’t be one of those people – have an open mind. Evaluate the net benefit to your communities. A licensed cannabis cultivation operation needs to hire business leaders, administrators, plant health technicians, general labor, and even microbiologists. This operation spins off into support for the surrounding community in the form of transportation, real estate, raw materials, utility services, and professional services. And don’t even get me started on the wealth that follows when we turn the cannabis material into high-value nutraceuticals.

Cannabis can be part of rebuilding the New Brunswick economy and contributing to our core sectors. 

Source: MY Pure Play 100 Index

Consider the fact that these operations are NOT fly by night. It takes significant investment, due diligence, and risk to obtain a license from Health Canada. Cannabis companies (including hemp) do their best to mitigate any inconvenience to their neighbors. 

The Cannabis Sector and its entrepreneurs could very well be the heroes in New Brunswick’s economic rebound story, at least in part, if we let them. Remember, the cannabis plant is a bit of wonder because it is one of the few plants that allow entrepreneurs to transform every aspect of the plant into something more valuable than the whole. Chris Dickie and I discuss just some of the ways (but by no means even scratch the surface) of how cannabis can enhance our current resource-based economies.  

Remember, a good economy sometimes stinks!

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