Brunswick News, owned by Irving, not immigrants, crushes rural New Brunswickers – NB Media Co-op
As a research project committed to rural social justice in New Brunswick, RAVEN (Rural Action and Voices for the Environment) is compelled to respond to an editorial cartoon by Greg Perry published February 11 in all three Brunswick News dailies and an accompanying editorial on so-called “double taxation.”
The cartoon depicts a rural New Brunswicker holding a “Welcome Immigrants” sign who was run over by immigrants as they made their way to urban areas.
What message does the cartoon send?
The cartoon suggests that immigrants are a problem for underserved rural New Brunswickers.
The cartoon suggests that while rural New Brunswickers are welcoming, they are being trampled by immigrants. The cartoon puts rural New Brunswickers last in an imaginary queue that sees some people – urban dwellers and immigrants – as more worthy of social services than rural people.
This cartoon is dangerous. It perpetuates racist stereotypes that immigrants are ungrateful people who take advantage of the services and programs available to them, only to move on to other places.
We know that many immigrants stay and some leave. We all have the right to move, stay, leave or return home. Immigrants have the same choice. Yet the cartoon begs a question: Why would immigrants choose to stay, when provincial newspapers unfurl the racist whistles of ungrateful immigrants hurting rural people?
The cartoon accompanies another editorial in the Brunswick News, owned by Irving, on “double taxation”. The article beats a drum to create a tax refund. It’s a facile and incoherent argument that goes like this: giving a tax refund for non-owner occupied housing will create affordable housing.
the New Brunswick Tenant Rights Coalition and GLANS have both pointed out that people who own more than one property are not eligible for the tax reduction on owner-occupied housing, what the Irving newspapers insist on calling a “double tax.” Giving landlords a tax break on their non-owner occupied rental properties will not guarantee that they will stop raising rents. It will only line their pockets. If the goal is to prevent rent increases and create affordable rental housing, rent control would do the trick directly.
In fact, giving tax breaks to landlords would simply create an even more favorable environment for landlords in New Brunswick, which would further increase rents, as it would incentivize real estate speculators and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in their profitable takeover of rental properties across New Brunswick. The problem is property speculation, not tax breaks for homeowners.
Indeed, granting homeowners a tax refund – ie removing illogical “double taxation” – would empty the public coffers. In 2010, the fact that there was no tax refund kept $60 million in public coffers, which the landlord lobby is fighting to eliminate. Do we really want to give homeowners rebates of millions of dollars, rather than spending that money on health care, education and other social services for all New Brunswickers, urban and rural?
Rural New Brunswick is definitely underserved. Rural communities lack access to health care, including reproductive health care. For example, the Higgs government has further cut rural hospital services to the bone. Many rural residents complain of unsafe roads and poor infrastructure that make their communities unsafe. Many people lack access to reliable internet, which is especially difficult during a global pandemic when education and work have moved online.
In 2019, RAVEN conducted a study of the editorials of Irving’s three major newspapers, Telegraph-Journal, Schedules and transcript and The daily gleaner, on rural issues. The study, published in the Rural and Community Development Journalfound that the editorials, published between January 2013 and December 2017, largely portrayed the idea that the decline of rural communities is inevitable without the development of extractive industries companies.
Additionally, we noted the near absence of concerns about Indigenous rights, pollution, and environmental impacts related to rural business development in the editorials.
In fact, the only time Indigenous peoples were mentioned in the 46 editorials we reviewed, we found a derogatory portrayal of the Elsipogtog First Nation for serving the interests of shale gas exploration: “The Elsipogtog First Nation has been criticized because 85% of its residents are on welfare, while the community opposes seismic exploration that could lead to a national shale gas industry and the creation of jobs (“No future’s built on rights”, October 23, 2013).
We weren’t surprised. the rooted racism in canadian news companies is well documented. Again absent from the public conversation about the impoverishment of an indigenous community, the root causes of this impoverishment, namely the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands.
The Brunswick News, owned by Irving, supports a business agenda for the province, which sees the value of rural New Brunswick as places to extract resources. At the same time, neoliberal government policies ensure that rural communities remain dependent on extractive industries and are deprived of the resources they need to build strong and sustainable rural economies.
What drives economic and social policies resulting in an underserved rural New Brunswick? The same forces that have strangled utilities. It is a race to the bottom for the most disadvantaged people in the province and a race to the top for the wealthiest.
If New Brunswick does not bring in enough tax revenue, it is because our tax system is designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The plan to eliminate the tax refund for homeowners would only exacerbate the problem.
As pointed out specialist in tax havens Alain Deneault, the Irving corporate family failed to pay its fair share of corporate taxes and thus amassed enormous amounts of wealth for the Irving businesses, while impoverishing the province. Yet, without even an ounce of irony, the Telegraph-Journal suggests that immigrants are crushing rural New Brunswickers.
Are rural New Brunswickers getting run over? Yes! But those in the driver’s seat are not immigrants.
Rural New Brunswick is being invaded by companies that engage in reckless resource extraction practices, such as clear-cutting and spraying the forest with glyphosate, and without the consent of the natives and local populations.
Rural New Brunswick, like the rest of the province, is crushed by large investment trusts buy houses, raise rents and evict tenants who cannot pay.
Rural New Brunswick is overrun with editorials and cartoons telling us that New Brunswick is a dying, backward place that can be saved only with resource extraction.
Rural New Brunswickers know our province can work for all of us, not just the ultra-rich.
Rural New Brunswickers know that holding a welcome immigrant sign doesn’t crush anyone and that immigrants create more vibrant rural communities.
Rural New Brunswickers know that holding a welcome immigrant sign doesn’t crush anyone. In fact, it uplifts us all.
Tracy Glynn is a RAVEN Contributor, Editorial Coordinator for NB Media Co-op, and Assistant Professor in the Environment and Society Program at St. Thomas University. Susan O’Donnell is the Principal Investigator of RAVEN and a Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick and of Environment and Society at St. Thomas University. Daniel Tubb is an environmental anthropologist at the University of New Brunswick and co-investigator of the RAVEN project.