VOCL 009 – L’Acadie – A Nation within New Brunswick

Twitter Show Summary: The NB Study Group’s 5th day on the road as part of the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.  Places visited included Bathurst, Caraquet, Lamèque, and an amazing supper in the Miscou Island lighthouse. Intro Hi there!  Welcome to the 9th episode of the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast. You can now […]

Written By chris

On May 26, 2013

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Show Summary: The NB Study Group’s 5th day on the road as part of the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.  Places visited included Bathurst, Caraquet, Lamèque, and an amazing supper in the Miscou Island lighthouse.


Hi there!  Welcome to the 9th episode of the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast.

  • You can now hear VOCL using Stitcher Radio on Demand. It’s a free app that you can download at stitcher.com or in the app stores (iPhone, Android, and most tablets).  You can listen to all of your favourite shows, plus discover the best of news, entertainment, and sports on demand.  There are tens of thousands of shows and stations to choose from, but I really like the fact that you get customized recommendations.  When I was looking up VOCL, several other leadership-related podcasts came up – why not create a leadership-related playlist? (I won’t mind if you listen to others; I encourage it).  You can also connect to your Facebook account and comment on the episodes (I love feedback!).  Get Stitcher today –  you can download at stitcher.com or in the app stores.
  • GooglePlus (still learning about this one)
  • Would anyone be interested in a VOCL presence on Pinterest?

Summary of GGCLC so far:

  • A broad range of speakers from academia, business, and non-profit.
  • Already started touring NB, speaking with non-profit, businesses and political figures (including the Premier and Lt Gov.)

We will now look at the main topic of the show – the New Brunswick Study Group’s 5th day on the road as part of the 2012 GGCLC.


  • Read the blog
  • Cross-reference with notes, and additional info.
    • iPad, Zagg Folio, and iThoughts were lifesavers!
    • I sometimes cringe a little when I catch errors, the main focus was to get the information out there.
    • Any additional information.

Let’s go back in time!

VOCL Main Feature

NB – 8 June 2012 – And Then There Were 4 (cars, that is) 

The effectiveness of our Military Liaison Officer is really starting to pay off – we were collectively able to make our 5 A.M. departure time. We have truly settled into the routine, packing the luggage into the bus in a third of the time that it took us at the start of the trip. As we started driving towards Bathurst, some folks decided to chat about various topics, others decided to have a little bit more sleep. We were back in our groove within a half an hour when we pulled through the sleepy town (which town isn’t sleepy at 5:30 A.M.?) of Saint-Quentin. And then we headed east along the Resource Road. We were moving at a fast, bouncy and bumpy clip heading to Bathurst (“BATT HEARST”). Several moose were spotted on the side of the road, but scattered into the woods before any pictures could be taken – perhaps the sound of the bus bottoming out frightened them.

Moose Crossing the 180 Highway to Bathurst

Moose Crossing the 180 Highway to Bathurst

We pulled into Bathurst at about 8:30 and were greeted at City Hall by Mayor Stephen Brunet, Paula Jones (Hall08 GG alumni), Brian Kenney (Liberal MLA) and three union executive members (Euclide, Ray and John). We learned from Mayor Brunet that the city of 12,000 people is an important hub for the whole northern peninsula, with three beaches, golf courses, and many other amenities. The mayor shared a description of his town that he heard from a member of the mining community – “Club Med for Miners” – people like working here. The city airport infrastructure is a vital part of the community as many citizens use it as a means to fly in and out to other provinces. The mayor has plans to renovate the airport with longer runways in order to accommodate bigger planes that would allow connections with Labrador. He would also like to modernize the infrastructure and increase the size of the post-security waiting rooms to accommodate the current and future needs.

This introduction to Bathurst led into our first presentation by union leaders. Paula provided us insight into the healthcare union. With 350 members serving 200 beds, they have experienced several challenges over the years. She covered how they used collaboration with other unions and the government to save the pensions benefits – this resolution was made just last week.

Euclide gave us a good understanding of the Bathurst Mines, scheduled to close next year. The mine has 900 direct employees, but with works surrounding the mines, the numbers swell to close to 1500-2000 people. With so many good paying jobs, the mine will have a large economic impact when it closes. The company did not come looking for concessions before deciding to shut down the plant; dialogue may have resulted in a different result. Close to 200 people in a position to retire, but they chose to stay there. At least the mine was given advance warning of the closure – a decade or so ago, the Bathurst mill had just shut overnight.

Ray covered union operations in the lead smelter located in Belledune – it’s 30 minutes away so it can sometimes get forgotten. They process the concentrate from Brunswick mine. Without the mine, the smelter would not have been started, but now has the possibility to exist without the mine. In adapting to changing circumstances, the plant is becoming a “custom smelter”. In the past the government got involved to ensure that the processing of resources would stay local, creating jobs in the North. In order to stay competitive in the future, the company looking at cutting pensions, salaries, non-core business and other concessions. Ray also provided several occasions in the past that has generated some level of mistrust in what has been proposed by companies. Finally, Ray closed with the aspect that unions attempt, whenever possible, to either buy union-made or locally-made goods

Brian provided historical insight into the mining in Bathurst – it has been in effect since the 1700s. The government is looking at how to get away from a resource-based economy; it’s heavily dependent on the US.  Mining in NB is generational, so it has become an “expected” way of life.  Government is also involved in reducing/mitigating the loss of the mine, speaking with management over the ears and developing partnerships to discover more ore.  It’s not all doom and gloom, however, since Bathurst is still a vibrant community.

John from the Bathurst District Labour Council explained how his organization is the municipal arm of unions. With 1700-1800 members, there are 13-14 different unions in the area. He works with the various unions on their campaigns, but also on employment standards acts, unemployment insurance, workplace compensation, etc. They also work on economic development and were involved in the erection of the local monument of mourning. He was very proud of Bathurst’s 71 consecutive Labour Day parades. From the mine closure perspective, there will be a decrease of revenue and resources within BDLC.

Panel discussions gave an overview that NB has lost many union jobs over the years, even though it is a resource-rich province. The further north you go in the province, the greater the prevalence of union jobs. The unemployment rate in the north is at least 1.5 times greater than the provincial average. It was a great discussion, and the attendees felt that they had a much better understanding of unions as a result.

Of course, not everything will go according to plan. Although the event was foreshadowed, we found out at the end of the session that our new bus of fewer than 5 hours was broken. While some remained behind at city hall to sort out the issue with Ottawa, others had the opportunity to spend more time in Bathurst. We got to see the monument of mourning and got to visit the gorgeous waterfront development that includes an observation tower that affords an incredible view of the surrounding region. Since we had missed the opportunity to volunteer at the centre the night before, we gave a collection to Paula to convey on our behalf.

A new bus company was chartered, but the bus wasn’t available until the next day. So, we all piled into rented cars (well, three rented cars with the fourth belonging to Robert, our ever-resourceful Provincial Chair) to head to Caraquet to pick up the program. Met on arrival by Camille Thériault, President of the Les Caisses Populaires Acadiennes (CPA), we were immediately treated to a very tasty lobster lunch. Although many have had lobster before, this was the first opportunity for many to actually wrestle with the lobsters themselves – there were small lobster bits flying all over the place.

Lobsters with Camille Theriault

Lobsters with Camille Theriault

Echoing the observations of Monique Leroux from Mouvement Desjardins, Camille took the opportunity to talk about credit unions. They are not only a place for the local communities to do their banking (150,000 New Brunswickers) but serve as a focal point for community involvement, sponsoring many community sports teams and events. People today shop differently. They are less loyal to their financial institutions than they were in the past, and as such, the CPA has been forced to close 20 centres. He highlighted that, like all enterprises, the CPA has to be more efficient, but keep the heart and core values of the existing CPA. The CPA is a significant presence in Caraquet – the local payroll is approximately $10M. The challenge is that NB is a rural province – organizations must cut infrastructure and live within their means.

We then proceeded to our waterfront motel for the next two days in order to check in and transfer our possessions from the bus that had limped down from Bathurst during our lunch. Since the bus company has changed, we, unfortunately, had to say goodbye to Carla our driver- although the buses didn’t perform well, she was a most amazing and pleasant person. She was part of the team and our collective experience; she will be missed.

We were greeted by the smiles of Keith Chiasson, Francesca Degrace, and Suzanne Arsenault. Not only were they going to be our tour guides for the next few days, but they also arranged for us to have an interim bus (for those keeping track at home, it’s our third bus in the province) and organized for local drivers to take our cars back to Bathurst. We could now leave the cars behind, and carry on with the rest of the program in the gorgeous Acadian Peninsula. For people who did not know us or the GGCLC, they really went out of their way to make sure we had a great visit, especially considering the challenges we had experienced with transportation.

Our next stop was the Hospital Park in Lamèque. Guided by Shelley Robichaud and her team, we got to hear the success story of this aspect of the Vitality Health Network (they serve the North). With guiding principles such as participation, planning, collaboration, and teamwork, they are very community focused. There are some big challenges in providing health care to such a wide region. There is no transit system, and taxis are rare. Informative pamphlets don’t always work (illiteracy), so they have taken to the airwaves to create popular radio programs about various health issues. The key health issues in the area are the management of chronic disease, smoking, overweight/obesity, lack of exercise, and low self-esteem and low resilience (stressed). Shelley concluded with various factors that she identified as strengthening her organization: community involvement, respect, persistence, engagement (community, employee and senior management), and administrative structure.

We were then whisked away to see a local wind farm. A project totalling $115M and 30 windmills, we were informed how the local community created a co-op of adjoining property owner. They were able to create a united front, asking for Requests For Proposals to place a wind farm on their properties. The Acciona windmills are imposing figures, standing 26 stories high and possessing 123′-long blades, and generating electricity for 8,000 homes.

local wind farm

A local wind farm

We then went to the end of the world – not really, but it certainly felt like it. At the very tip of Miscou Island, one could imagine that they are the last person on earth. You can barely see the far-off land, affording an unobstructed view of a most spectacular sunset. We actually got to eat supper inside the lighthouse – we are only the second group to have supper there in the 150-year history of the lighthouse. Eating a scrumptious meal of oysters, lobster sushi, shrimps, and scallops, we were entertained by a great band fronted by Sandra LeCouteur. Her soulful sound was harmonious with the surroundings; due to the shape of the lighthouse, it seemed like the music was surrounding us.

Seafood at Miscou Island Lighthouse

Seafood at Miscou Island Lighthouse

Sandra Lecouteur

Sandra Lecouteur

All too soon it was time to head back to Caraquet, but at least we get to stay in the Acadian peninsula tomorrow. 

We finished travelling west when we reached Florenceville-Bristol, then we finished travelling north when we reached Edmunston, now we’re heading east towards Bathurst and the Acadian Peninsula.  We did skip the northernmost portion of the province in Campbellton and Dalhousie – the former is one of the road access points to the Gaspé peninsula.

Bathurst area = my hometown.  There since 9 years old, Haché family area.  A bilingual area.


  • http://www.bathurst.ca/
  • Talked about it in Edmunston (AWC), but really start seeing Acadian flags everywhere. http://www.cbc.ca/acadian/feature_acadian_flag.html.  Quote from website – “The Acadian flag was established at the second Acadian Convention in 1884 at Miscouche, Prince Edward Island. Father Marcel-Francois Richard designed it and brought it with him to the event. Like the flag of France, it is blue, white, and red. The gold star at the top left is the Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), there to seek the guidance and protection of the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the Acadians. This flag represents Acadians worldwide. It is conserved at Musée Acadien, Université de Moncton, in Moncton New Brunswick.”

Stephen Brunet – Mayor

  • Too big to serve the geography based on the money raised in taxes.
  • Continue striving to serve the whole area.
  • Have own police force and fire-fighting force.
  • Wastewater plant is 42 years old, but water is modern.
  • The Aquatic Centre had 100,000 visitors.
  • Snowmobile trails – 100s of miles of groomed snowmobile trails.
  • The ice rink with a rubberized track for walkers – home of the Bathurst Titan hockey team.
  • Rail isn’t being used anymore – at risk of losing.
  • Have a new position – economic development officer.
  • Natural resources-based community – mining, woods, fishing, farming.
  • The industrial park has lots of fabricators from various areas – Labrador is seen as a great potential (600 miners may be involved).
  • 43,000 people used Bathurst airport last year – lots to Fort McMurray.
  • 2 CCNB campuses.
  • 1,500 people employed by Chaleur Regional Hospital.
Meeting with Union Leaders in Bathurst

Meeting with Union Leaders in Bathurst

Panel Discussion

Paula Doucet-Jones

  • Details covered in the blog; happy that she coordinated this panel to provide multiple union leadership viewpoints.

Euclide Haché – Brunswick mines (Paula – closed 10 May 2013 after 49 years)

  • People came from fisheries, farms, forestry.
  • Mine produced 10,000t / day, main products lead and zinc.
  • Union
  • North is very much unionized, and being a miner is recognized as a trade in NB.
  • Steelworkers in the region are very strong – have gone on strike for over 10 months.
  • The company did not come looking for concessions before deciding to shut down the plant (although there was a three-year extension prior to closing).
  • If there had not been a union, there would be no pension, no severance – they would have just walked away.
  • People don’t want to leave Brunswick mine, so they will have to look at other jobs.  Retraining being paid by the employer and the government and is being organized through the CCNB.
  • Mine closing may increase the tension amongst the other trades due to the influx of other people.
  • The closing also has the possibility of creating an exodus from the region.
  • Airport looking at plans to expand the airport (runway is too short, and the terminal is too small to meet new security demands); modifications to accommodate a greater range of aircraft, especially as the entire East Coast gets developed.
  • Not mentioned in GGCLC – Brunswick mine won safety award for safest metal mine in Canada the month before we got there (bittersweet).

Ray Godin – Xstrata smelter in Belledune, NB.

  • Mine and smelter have always been married, but with separate management.
  • They process the concentrate from the Brunswick mine, but are now becoming a “custom smelter” – money-maker is silver.
  • The fate of smelter closing is ever-present – at one stage, the future was being looked at 3 months at a time.
  • Historical levels of mistrust.  Wage freeze for the union, then 6 weeks later non-union staff got 15-20% pay raises.

Brian Kenny – Largely speaking, the company (Xstrata) doesn’t want to have anyone come in behind and compete on the open market – the assets (buildings) will likely be torn down.

  • The previous Liberal government tried to sell NB Power to Quebec, defeated in the last election.
  • Ties in with the March/April 2013 Atlantic Business magazine article written by Alec Bruce regarding Frank McKenna – Frank still sees this as a great deal, but may not have been communicated well to the electorate – “It was poorly presented.”.

John Gagnon – points were raised on the blog…

Discussions regarding union versus non-union.  A lot of union labour jobs have been lost.  South is public sector employees, North is private sector employees.  Pamphlet had 21% for real unemployment rate, now down to about 17%.  Still higher than the 10% for the province.

Getting pretty frustrated with the bus – missing lots of opportunities!

Found a piece of driftwood, would become significant later.

Acadian Peninsula

The Acadian Peninsula is primarily French (and proud of their French culture), but many people we interacted with spoke English very well; those who didn’t tried really hard (always apologizing).  http://www.peninsuleacadienne.ca/en

Camille Thériault, President, Caisses populaires acadiennes

President, CPA – http://www.acadie.com/en/contenu.cfm?id=2065


  • 1200 employees (at least 1000 at $20+/hr) – Employ well educated young people – 60% university education.
  • $70m in payroll – $10m in Caraquet alone (payroll and billing).
  • Should be in Moncton, not Caraquet, but they like it here.  Does not anticipate moving to Moncton, but if they did it would be devastating for local area.
  • Not looking at a bigger market (US) – the advantage is that they are local and make quick decisions – the niche is $1m-$5m for small-to-medium business.

Provincial thoughts

  • Not getting a chance to see another premier, so we used this opportunity.
  • Former Premier site- http://www.gnb.ca/legis/publications/tradition/premiers/theriaultc-e.asp
  • Does not see McCain closing in Florenceville or Grand Falls – very efficient plants.
  • K-12 – Les Caisses gives books to schools.  If we can inculcate in them and their parents the importance of reading and writing, NB will collectively improve.
  • Challenge is that we are a rural province – must cut infrastructure and live within your means.  We need a government that makes decisions for the right reasons instead of getting to be elected.  The vast majority of politicians are there for the right reasons.
  • Emerging sectors – shale gas.  Can we marry natural resources and environmental concerns?  Our regulations need to be the best in the world.

Mini Tour

Meeting our “tour within a tour” at the hotel – Keith Chiasson, Francesca Degrace, Suzanne Arsenault, with Léo-Paul Pinet being responsible for the overall coordination.

Suzanne Arsenault - Keith Chiasson - Francesca Degrace

Suzanne Arsenault – Keith Chiasson – Francesca Degrace

Leo-Paul Pinet

Leo-Paul Pinet


Soyez les bienvenus sur le site Web de la ville de Lamèque !

Hospital Park in Lamèque

  • Shelley Robichaud (Director), Dina Chiasson, (Community Director), Marie-Josee (Community Development Worker)
  • Community (15,715 citizens ) is very important for them, not just the hospital. In the 40’s Lameque and surrounding area had higher child mortality rates – local priests and congregations worked to solve. 1992 – dropped from 43 to 12 palliative care beds in the hospital. 1996 – a pilot program to develop collaborative practices. 2003 – became a community health centre. Own their role in developing community services. Has walk-in clinic, 130 staff.
  • Community advisory community tasks – needs assessment, prioritization, and recommendations.
  • Marie-Josee is a community development worker (1st in the province). Training volunteers to provide information on various chronic issues, placing ads on the radio.
  • Area challenges –
    • large families (38 children between 3 women)
    • a poor community so children need to work,
    • books in English even though families here are in French
    • geographic reality
    • seasonal economy
    • a high unemployment rate
    • average revenue low
    • youth and others moving towards urban areas.
  • 12 determinants of health (as per World Health Organization)
Shelley Robichaud

Shelley Robichaud

My feeling – In spite of all of the challenges, they are very proud of their community and are fighting hard to keep it.

Lamèque wind farm

  • NB Power will be buying power at the normal rate.
  • Six companies bid on the build (including some Canadians), chose a Spanish company (Acciona) that had partnered with a New Brunswick company.
  • Blades arrived in Belledune, shipping was interesting (remember blades 123’ or 37.5m long).
Miscou Island Sunset with Chris Hache

Miscou Island Sunset with Chris Hache

Miscou lighthouse

Miscou Island Lighthouse

Miscou Island Lighthouse

  • No additional information from the blog.
  • One of my favourite pictures from the trip is one of Eric posing under the light, and taking the picture as the light is shining.
Eric Prud'Homme gets a bright idea

Eric Prud’Homme gets a bright idea

Sandra LeCouteur


Resources and Articles

To Be Perfectly Frank” by Alec Bruce in Atlantic Business Magazine

Discussed in the main portion of the show, a fascinating read on the perceived challenges and opportunities within New Brunswick by one of the province’s former premiers.  We also got to hear about his presentation to the 2012 GGCLC back in VOCL 2004.

(The link to the original article is no longer available)

For many voters, decision comes down to leadership” by Terry Donnelly and Jeremy Allingham at CBC News

People are looking for political leaders with qualities such as integrity and charisma. Differences between Christy Clark (LIB) and Adrian Dix (NDP).  We now know that voters chose Clark’s team (# of polls ad % of the popular vote), yet she lost her seat.

Original article can be found here

Infographic: How Canadians feel about Stephen Harper’s Leadership” by Trish McAlastar at the Globe & Mail

4 metrics based on data from nanosresearch.com – leadership, trust, competence, and vision for Canada. Data coverage from Mar ’11 to Mar ’13. Generally high, except for significant drops in Apr ’12 and recently Jan ’13

(The link to the original article is no longer available)

I’m Chris Hache, asking you to be VOCL for a better Canada.


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