Wicked Ideas

The sandwich generation – with extra pickle

Ever wonder why politicians in New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia spend so much time and energy chasing after job announcements? Here’s why. In less than three years children and seniors are going to be equal to the size of the traditional labour force. That’s a big problem because it’s going to have a massive impact on the three social programs we value the most: education, health care and welfare programs.

Here’s how:

1. Personal and corporate income taxes adds up to just over one-third of each province’s own-source revenue. Combine it with consumption taxes (i.e. the provincial portion of HST) and the taxes we pay out of pocket are about two-thirds of government own-source revenue in PEI and New Brunswick, and about three-quarters in Nova Scotia. Own-source revenues does not include equalization and transfer payments.

2. That means income taxes (both personal and corporate) and consumption taxes are essential for governments to maintain government services.

3. The heaviest users of government services are children and seniors, which is completely logical because the kids are in school and as we get older we require more health care services.

4. Up until now, we’ve had a workforce that has been able to support this dynamic, even as the Maritimes population stagnated, because the baby boomers were in the workforce.

5. However the baby boomers are beginning to retire, the generation directly behind them – Generation X (yeah, that’s me and the Wicked Ideas crew) –is much smaller and the baby boomers’ kids, known as Generation Y, the Millennials or the Echo generation are not convinced the Maritimes is the place for them, largely because they can’t find jobs in the fields they want to work in.

We all can’t – or want – to build a pipeline, construct ships or work offshore.

Chew on that – and then let us know what you think.


To see where we got our stats, check out the division of government revenues from Statistics Canada and Stats Can’s population projections here. We used the low growth projection because that has been the historical trend here for the past few decades.

Lisa Hrabluk

Writer. Social Thinker. Founder, Wicked Ideas. Find me hanging out where culture, people and ideas collide. wickedideas.ca


  • It’s a great opportunity to start a business that caters to an older demographic.

    It’s not good for the maritimes in general however. I don’t want to generalize but I find the older a person gets the less tolerance they have for risk.

    We need creative, passionate people to turn this trend around quickly and I am afraid that it’s the younger generation that is going to be burdened with doing that.

  • I find this very interesting as I have often found myself thinking about the boomers who are set to retire ‘soon’ and can’t help but think that once they retire there will be many more job opportunities available to Gen Y here in NB. Some of us would be willing to hold on for 3 years or so and work in lower paying jobs or jobs outside our fields of training, but much longer than that just won’t work. I know I’m over simplifying the implications of this on tax revenue etc, but I can’t help but think back to earlier discussions about why so many are choosing to leave NB.

  • Erin – you’re making me think of Wilson Philips!

    That was dating myself, wasn’t it?
    I go through a variety of emotions when I read posts like yours and think of the other posts I’ve received, on this site and over on FB, about people who have left and have lots of opportunities, career advancement and financial rewards, particularly in Calgary. Damn. That’s my reaction. Damn, that people who stay in the Maritimes have to make so many compromises to stay here. Angry, sad and inspired.
    We gotta change it Erin. We just gotta change it.

  • We do have to change it and I think with people like yourself leading the charge, we will. Exactly how, I am not sure, but we will get there.

    Your use of the word ‘compromise’ in your response to me earlier has struck a chord with me, as have many of the comments from people who talk about their ultimate decision to leave being based on better opportunities for work and compensation in other areas of the country. I guess I react to these sentiments in that I feel that there are so many intangibles that are important to me beyond work and money that make me want to stay in NB. Of course, money and work are necessities, but they are not my primary drivers. I often say that I would take a job opportunity that is a little outside my field and I would accept compensation that I may feel is lower than what I might find out west, just to stay home. Being near my family and friends truly has value. While relationships don’t pay the mortgage, they certainly are good for my mental health 😉 For what it is worth, I have many friends that have remained in NB and are doing very well. I’m reaching out to them tonight to bring them to this discussion as well.

  • These are great insights Erin. I’ve been thinking a lot about building a life in the Maritimes and what people need in order to accomplish that – and be fulfilled at the same time. As I’ve been thinking and working to bring Wicked Ideas to life I have become immersed in the Maritimes ICT community. Right now, they are obsessed with recruiting people to work in this sector because there simply aren’t enough people trained in data analysis and programming for all the jobs. I’ve learned a lot from them about determining what kind of person you need for your organization and then targeting that type of person in a very precise way. Oftentimes it is as much about a personality type as it is about a specific skill. I wonder if Maritimes policy makers should think in a similar manner. What type of person would thrive here?

  • My brain’s starting its 10 pm shutdown but wanted to share an idea from I piece I just happened to read before I saw your post. It’s from ROB Insight (behind their dreaded paywall!) and is called, “What if the problem isn’t overpopulation, but is the opposite”

    The piece is here if you can successfully link to it: http://goo.gl/5HWWGv

    The essential argument is that world population will fall, rather than continue to rise, by 2100. This will cause labour shortages even in the developing world because of declining birth rates in urbanized areas.

    I looked up NB’s birth rate and it was under 1.5 in 2011. Wonder if attracting immigrants is only part of the policy solution to our labour market and overall population. Maybe we need a baby boom of our own!

August 2018
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