Herb Emery, columnist and Vaughan Chair of Regional Economics at the University of New Brunswick, has drawn a clear link between competitive energy rates and sustainable jobs in a recent blog post on the Atlantic Institute for Policy Research site.

Emery looks at some of the key factors that explain why the province’s manufacturing exports stalled during the past decade leading to stagnation of the economy and the population. He focuses particularly on northeast New Brunswick which has not recovered from the loss of large industry.

Emery examines the loss, by 2008, of major, foreign-owned mills in Dalhousie, Miramichi and Bathurst. While the mill owners blamed factors such as slowing demand for paper, inflationary costs and a high dollar, Emery directs blame at the exceptionally large increases in electricity prices for large industry which took place between 2003 and 2007.

“From 2004 to 2007, power selling prices to large industry increased by 30 per cent in New Brunswick, compared to 17 per cent in Nova Scotia and eight per cent in Quebec. The Atlantica Centre for Energy reported in 2010 that by 2009, ‘industrial electricity rates in New Brunswick were well above the median in Canada and the United States and 40 per cent to 90 per cent higher than areas that directly compete with New Brunswick firms in the forestry industry’,” Emery says in the post, which was also published in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.

Emery’s analysis also shows that dramatic drops in emissions – thanks to the shuttering of industry – leads to loss of jobs. As he says, the northeast of New Brunswick has never recovered from its industrial losses and that enormously helped the province reduce emissions, but at a high cost. Industries can be closed, or not approved, but the price is far fewer jobs. He argues slow, steady change is better.