March 29, 2007
FREDERICTON (CNB) - Eight out of 10 participants in a series of focus groups believe New Brunswick society must be prepared to take some risks and make a commitment to change to achieve self-sufficiency.
The Self-Sufficiency Task Force commissioned four focus groups to gauge public opinion regarding themes arising from the seven realities that are the foundation of the task force's work. The focus groups were held in February and March in Edmundston, Bathurst, Saint John and Moncton.
The themes the groups were asked to address included population growth and labour force development, risk and commitment to change, economic growth through business attraction, and investment in strategic infrastructure.
"Much of the deliberation within the groups was not whether there ought to be risks taken to achieve self-sufficiency, but on what the risks ought to be," said Michelle Robichaud of Judith Arbow Consulting, who co-ordinated and led the focus groups. "All groups agreed that change was necessary and that to move toward significant change, risks had to be taken. The discussion often centered on government risk, but several groups also mentioned that residents, politicians, communities and employers alike had to take risks and work together if the province was to grow."
A commitment to change was particularly strong in Bathurst and Moncton, with 94.4 per cent of respondents rating it as important.
The four groups also agreed that the environment was an important issue and had to be taken into account as the government designed its self-sufficiency agenda. For instance, all groups voiced strong opinions that economic growth should not come at the expense of the environment.
The groups also made the connection between the environment and an investment in strategic infrastructure. Generally, they want to reduce the environmental impact of expanded or enhanced road development, and some suggested increased use of rail for both commercial and public transportation. In addition, the groups supported the expansion of wireless communications to connect communities and reduce commuting.
Regarding economic growth and business development, the focus groups mentioned the need for strategic investments and spoke of using public/private partnerships to reduce risk.
Overall, about 60 per cent of respondents believe economic growth is a very important issue, but there were slight regional differences. In Saint John there was a 50/50 split between those who thought it was important and those who did not. In Moncton and Edmundston, more than 75 per cent said economic growth was important.
Finally, population growth was seen to be important by 70 per cent of respondents, particularly in northern New Brunswick, where 87.5 per cent of participants in Edmundston and Bathurst rated it very important.
The focus groups were arranged and conducted by Judith Arbow Consulting of Saint John. Questions were asked based on the discussion points within the task force's first two Reality Reports, Part I: At the Crossroads and Part II: An Export-Driven Economy.
Groups of eight to 12 people were formed by random selection within broad criteria, to achieve a measure of balance. Judith Arbow Consulting sought diversity by considering such factors as gender, age, race, language and occupation. No provincial or federal department employees or members of the media participated.
The consolidated report is available on the Self-Sufficiency Task Force website at: http://www.gnb.ca/2026/.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brendan Langille, Communications New Brunswick, 506-444-5070.