The Puppet Masters: Irvings Stranglehold on NB

18 08 2014

Irving’s Stranglehold on New Brunswick: The Puppet Masters

By André Faust

Economics, business and politics is just one big game where all the players involved are playing to win, each playing their individual strategies to get the maximum payoff from the game they are playing. According to game theory there isn’t anything wrong by playing strategic games. However, there are limitations to strategic game playing. The problem which can arise from such games is when one of the players sets themselves to have total control of the game and develops a dominant strategy that guarantees them the maximum payoff at the expense of the other players.


Irving is one of those players that has achieved supreme dominancy in the province of New Brunswick. There are other big players who are native to New Brunswick, such as the McCain’s, and the Ganong brothers. What distinguishes these two players from the Irvings is the focus of their business, which is not to control every aspect of the provinces economics. The Irving’s on the other hand have played their chessboard over the years which has allowed them to take control of almost every aspect of the economics of New Brunswick, they have taken control of the forestry resource, the petroleum resource, the infrastructure, plus created child companies to support their core parent companies, so much for the free market.

So how do we classify the Irvings, are they an oligarchy, a monopoly, a plutocracy, Corporatocracy? It seems that the Irvings have a little bit of all the above. Maybe they are in a class of their own “Irvingnisum”, characterized by compulsive anxiety disorder, “the fear of not being in control”.

While there are some who would argue that the Irving conglomerate is good for the province of New Brunswick, others would argue their business endeavors is not good for the province. Granted that those who are employed by Irving see Irving as a good thing but this is a narrow perspective, the wider perspective is the province as a whole, does their corporate activities benefit all New Brunswickers?

Let’s examine New Brunswick for a moment, New Brunswick has a landmass of 73,000 km², and a population base of approximately 751,000 and dwindling. Now this is interesting because Irving owns a significant portion of New Brunswick’s landmass and most part tend to be strategic property holdings with the objective to lockout any other big players from entering the province and competing for both human and natural resources. In effect this creates a closed system that Irving has total control of. Unfortunately, this closed system can only support a finite number of workers to keep the Irving interest in operation, and as a consequence it is system that either expands or contracts at the whims of the Irving family, forcing New Brunswick’s unemployed to leave the province to find work elsewhere.

If you look at the number of Irving employees proportionally to workers in other sectors such as the tertiary sector you will find that a significant part of the working population is working for the Irvings either directly or indirectly.

One of the principles of business whether small or large is to get the maximum return with the minimum expense, that minimum expense expresses itself in low wages. Anecdotally, the Irvings are well known for paying low wages to maximize their returns.

Because Irving has a large number of employees relative to the other sectors of the economy, Irving, as part of their game strategy has place a stranglehold on the provincial government. Their influence is so great that they can shut down any of their operations without significantly effecting the whole of their empire to create economic hardship for those displaced workers and use the shutting down of operations as a leverage to force government to cave in to their demands, usually those demands is to take the hard-earned tax dollars from new Brunswickers to finance their corporate growth. But this is all part of the game. The solution is to introduce new rules to the game such as diversification of industries. What government has to do at least, in part is earmark taxpayers dollars to assist new companies to create new industries that are totally independent of servicing the Irving interest.

In a recent talk liberal opposition leader Brian Gallant emphasize the importance of bringing in new emerging industries and developing training for new Brunswickers to have the skills to partake in these industries which is on the right track to create employment in the province.

In order to keep New Brunswick’s population and to grow the population, we have to bring in other industries and lessen the dependency on the Irvings for economic growth. If we do not expand our industry base beyond the traditional industries that are controlled by the Irvings, politicians of New Brunswick will continue to be the puppets of the Irving Empire!




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