New Brunswick

Student website gives New Brunswickers a lesson in economics

A group of university students has created a website that aims to simplify important economic issues to New Brunswickers while keeping tabs on the province's successes and failures.

BoostNB.com includes reports and status updates on the province's key economic goals

On their website, students from the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University say they want "to provide the public with easy access to straight-forward, fact-based information about the New Brunswick economy." (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

A group of university students has created a website that aims to simplify important economic issues to New Brunswickers while keeping tabs on the province's successes and failures.

The website, boostNB.com, includes reports and status updates on a wide variety of economic goals — many of which are outlined in the province's economic growth plan.

It looks at things such as GDP growth, labour research and development, export demand, interprovincial migration and post-secondary education rates. The website is managed by students from the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University.

Dan Zimmer, an economics student at UNB, said the group wanted to make the data simple.

"We've done the best we can to be honest and keep everything publicly accessible," Zimmer told Information Morning Fredericton.

Tracking economic performance

Coloured tabs offer status updates on the province's economic goals — green means there's been progress while red means progress has stalled. A black tab could signal an uncertain status.  

Prof. Herb Emery said visitors to the site now will see "a lot of red with some green shoots."

"The idea is that we can follow the progress of the province, we can figure out if a solution is working or if ... a new direction might be needed," said Emery, who hopes to keep the project going every year with new students.

The data they've collected suggests that traditional sectors such as fishery, tourism and petroleum processing have been keeping the economy afloat, but have not necessarily enriched the province

"The question that we should be confronting New Brunswickers with is, 'Do we believe we can do more with our traditional comparative advantage — forest, fish, tourism, petroleum processing? Or do we have to start thinking about how do we add a new sector it?'"

He said that's a debate that politicians and the public need to think about because some New Brunswick don't see a future as a resource-based economy.

"The puzzle we have is how do we achieve that without the wealth created from the resource sector in the first place?"

Helpful for entrepreneurs

Zimmer said people can also use the information to make decisions about things such as setting up a business.

Business owners can look at data for unemployment rates or the cost of land.

"Anybody opening a business in New Brunswick needs to know that there are consumers who want to buy the product," he said. "And if they look at New Brunswick and see a smaller population, combined with things such as a higher unemployment rate, they may decide to open that business someplace else.

"New Brunswick does have some benefits going for it [such as] low land costs … which would make it more desirable than other provinces, but there are other factors as well."

Education is main goal

Zimmer said the website aims to explain what's working in New Brunswick's economy but also show where improvements could be made.

"Overall, the main goal of the website was just to educate the public and to let them kind of come up with their own decisions on what should be done to improve it," he said.

Zimmer said students will look at the data results in 2028 to see if any improvements have been made.

With files from Harry Forestell and Information Morning Fredericton.

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