Reinforce the margins

Yesterday, in Miramichi, the conversation came around to economic development and the issues facing New Brunswick, especially the northern part of the province. I was told that a couple of years ago the foresters in the province said that we had about eight years of industrial harvests left and the fishermen felt that there weren’t even that many years left for an industrial fishery. At the same time it seems that governments at all levels are working on the assumption that nothing will change, in spite of certain sustainability task forces.

Rob Paterson has noted that in the province next door, PEI, there are also significant demographic issues:

By 2015, there will be more Islanders over 50 than under. Soon there will be more over 65. Who will do all the work? Who will lead the economy? Who will pay all the taxes to keep all us old folks in retirement homes? PEI will have the least amount of young except Newfoundland. Can we afford to have 65% of them as dependent as the old dears aged 85?

My main deduction from this is that all of our children will have to be net contributers (not just economically) to our society. However, our industrial schools are marginalizing too many children. Meanwhile, Alec Bruce tells us how highly qualified and educated immigrants are barred from fully contributing to our society:

Meet the physician from the Middle East, certified in three crucial specialties. Yet, no hospital in the Atlantic Provinces will touch him because the paper he carries does not convey designations familiar to provincial licensing authorities.

Meet the teacher from Arkansas, a graduate of Harvard and MIT. She works as a nanny in one of New Brunswick’s poorly funded day care centres, where she wipes noses, prepares snacks, and recites Dr. Seuss to pre-schoolers.

Meet the engineer from Hamburg, an expert in bridge and overpass design. He’s a delivery man in Fredericton who deploys his considerable mathematical abilities to reconciling the day’s take with tomorrow’s cash float.

We are facing economic, political and environmental challenges, and we have to fully engage all members of our society, from school-age children to newly arrived immigrants. We cannot afford to marginalize anyone, because it’s from the margins [the edges] that innovation will come.

One indication of the lack of willingness to even contemplate new ways of doing things is the wide condemnation, without an offer of alternatives, of the Post-Secondary Education report. I would say that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. My own effort to develop one way to face the post-industrial future has been the creation of a work & cultural Commons, and it seems that we are finally making some headway (more to follow on this).

So to anyone who is complaining – get off your butt and do something creative. We need everyone to get involved in creating options, because the folks on the margins [historically, the innovators] aren’t being allowed to participate (yet).

3 Responses to “Reinforce the margins”

  1. Karyn Romeis

    You raise some very valid points, here Harold, which need to be addressed notwithstanding the rest of what I have to say here.

    I would just like to raise the possibility that the three cases listed might be doing their current jobs because they find them fulfilling. I realise that this is perhaps unlikely, all things considered, but it is possible.

    I get a little worried by the tacit denigration of such jobs. They form an integral part of our society and represent an honest way to make a living. Imagine, if you will, a child in a class where the teacher says, “Unless you do better, you’re going to wind up flipping burgers at MacDonalds!” as if to indicate that this is the epitome of failure. What message does that communicate to the kid whose Dad flips burgers for a living or who has himself been considering it as a career option?

    I have a fried who is a nursery nurse. It pays a pittance, but she loves the work and is really good at it. She makes it possible for parents to go out and earn a far better living than she does, entrusted with taking care of their very precious children. But ask her what she does for a living and she says “Oh, I’m just a nursery nurse.” Just. I am on a one-person mission to wean her off that word!

    We need our nursery nurses, our pizza delivery guys/gals, our cleaners, our garbage collectors. They do good and important work. When and why did society decide that the very people who facilitate the lives we lead should be made to feel ashamed of what they do?

    Sorry – soapbox moment!

  2. Harold

    I had similar thoughts when I first read Alec’s post, Karyn. I agree that we can find fulfillment in any job/work. My understanding is that these three people were not satisfied with their roles in Canada, and would prefer to be working in areas that use their skills & experience. Thanks for your soapbox moment, as multiple perspectives are necessary for us to understand and to envision a better future for all.

  3. Alec

    Of course, I meant no offense to those who choose to do these tasks (or, in fact, choose to love the work they do, regardless of what it is). My only issue is with a system that promises one thing and delivers another to foreign workers. They don’t choose that particular betrayal.


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