Saturday, August 21, 2004

Stay White and Die

"Why Atlantic Canada Remains White and Poor"

Yesterday, John Ibbitson, in the Globe and Mail opined that Atlantic Canada remains economically challenged because it has failed to attract immigrants of colour. Well, well. Who would have thought that regional prosperity depends wholly on a province’s ability to attract immigrants of colour? According to Mr. Ibbitson, all that is needed to do to turn the economic tide in the Atlantic Provinces is to recruit immigrants of colour. Stay white and you’ll die. Premier Lord, you have your marching orders – off to Sudan you go! Someone tell Alberta that provincial decline is imminent unless they attract a larger share of immigrants of colour.

Two years ago, just like the Atlantic salmon, I returned to my first home in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick after an absence of 10 years. I encountered a surface level of prosperity that I had not seen before. What caused the change in this traditionally depressed region? Apparently, it was the direct result of generous EI benefits for the seasonal workers in the lumber industry. Now that may or may not be true throughout the province but I hardly think that increased transfer payments from the federal government to help pay defray the cost of services that new immigrants traditionally need will improve the economy, nor for the life of me can I fathom how a native of China, India or Africa will revive the forest industry in the province with or without a university degree.

When my mother was young she left New Brunswick to seek employment in Toronto. She applied for a job as a typist. At the interview she was advised point blank that because she was from the Maritimes her salary would be substantially less than the wages advertised. Maritimers have learned to expect prejudice from Upper Canadians and the sad part is that in 2004 nothing has changed except the excuses. As long as prejudice is offered as the “excuse of the day” as the root cause for economic decline in the Maritimes the downward spiral will continue unchecked.

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