Pinch me, but I am sure it is 2013, not 1974. The obsession of government after government with economic development by energy megaproject in New Brunswick goes back to 1974 when Richard Hatfield announced he was going to build Point Lepreau, the first of many planned nuclear reactors to be put in the service of powering the American economy. Now it's David Alward who is singing the praises of fracking for shale gas to fuel the American economy.
We need to encourage a diversity of small and medium-sized enterprises which can help sustain our communities for the long term, as we follow a new path to a greener, more local, and fairer economy.
I launched my New Economy tour five months ago to see whether the seeds of a new economy are germinating across New Brunswick. The good news is they are sprouting, but the bad news is they are receiving little encouragement or attention from our policy-makers.
In Petitcodiac, I visited Maritime Geothermal, the largest manufacturer of geothermal heat pumps in Canada. This is green technology that uses renewable energy from the Earth to heat and cool homes and buildings. In Lameque I visited a renewable energy coop that is hosting a commercial wind farm to put green power on the grid. In Sackville, I met with the members of a builder's cooperative called EnerGreen Coop who build passive solar homes which need very little energy to keep them toasty warm.
In Moncton, I had visited Dolma Food, a neighbourhood grocery story that specializes in locally-produced and processed foods. The great thing is you can try some of the local products at their lunch counter. The owner Hossein Barar is doing so well, he has just opened a second store in Dieppe. Similar growth is happening in Fredericton with Real Food Connections and with the establishment of Cé d'ici which serves local and organic foods in their café and two school cafeterias.
Consumer demand for local food is of course creating opportunities for new farmers. I visited Alain Rouselle and Eva Rehak in Saint Maurice, two young farmers who operate a CSA to supply organic produce to customers in Dieppe and Moncton. Similar farming operations have sprung up all over the province.
Speerville Mill near Debec is producing organic flours and cereals sold all over Atlantic Canada, creating a market for local grain farmers. And then there is Mr. Tomato in Rogersville where Patrice Finnigan is producing organic tomatoes in a commercial greenhouse heated with sawdust.
While in Bathurst, Denis Hachey, my host at my bed and breakfast L'Étoile du Havre, told me about a brilliant initiative he is promoting to expand the tourism sector in the Chaleur Region. He wants to use the legend of the Phantom Ship in the Baie des Chaleurs, much as the Danish have used the legend of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, to expand the tourism sector. The centrepiece would be a large metal sculpture of the ship built in Bathurst Harbour complemented by an annual festival.
In Miramichi, Elizabeth and Glenn Copeland have opened a Performing Arts School where they teach acting, dancing, singing, and puppetry. Arts and culture are areas of our economy that too often get overlooked, but present tremendous opportunities to contribute to both our social and economic-well being.
This is just a taste of what the New Economy in New Brunswick has to offer, but we have to make a conscious choice to take this route. A clear policy to substitute locally produced goods and services for imported ones, would be big help. This is the kind of initiative Green MLAs can champion from the floor of the Legislature.
I am doing my best to focus public attention on businesses, coops and community organizations I have been visiting on the tour. Be sure to visit the Green Party's You Tube Channel or our Facebook page to see the videos I have been posting.
My New Economy tour continues through the summer.
David Coon, Leader