The 3rd Place Prize Winner of the 2015 AIMS Essay Contest is…

Congratulations Justin John Baird!!! 

3rd Place, $500 Prize Winner
of the AIMSonCampus 2015 Essay Contest

This year’s essay contest brought many creative submissions analyzing the deepest issues affecting Atlantic Canada. Students were asked to write both a policy report and an op-ed on any issues they felt could “right the sinking ship” that is our region. Enter Justin Baird.

Across his two excellent pieces, Justin carefully and persuasively addressed the largest elephants in the room: Atlantic Canada’s low rate of urbanization, and the high rate of out-migration. With so many young people leaving our provinces, Justin believes our governments are failing to provide the proper incentives for them to stay. For him, this means better jobs, lower taxes, and the promise of student debt relief.

Justin is currently a Bachelor of Education candidate at Saint Francis Xavier University, and expects to graduate in 2017. So naturally in the first essay we’re sharing, he begins with an anecdote that must hit him close to home — the emigration of talented young educators to foreign lands simply to find employment:


brain drain

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the graduation ceremony of one of my closest female relatives. While the ceremony itself was quite long and uneventful, I had an interesting encounter with the daughter of one of my coworkers. She explained to me that she had graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and was planning to sign a contract with a teaching company. Rather than staying in Canada however, she stated that she was going to travel to South Korea within a few months in order to work with one of the companies she was interested in.

I was intrigued with her response and questioned why she was willing to go halfway across the world to teach when she could just as easily teach in Atlantic Canada. I was somewhat surprised to learn that finding a full-time job as a qualified teacher in many locations throughout the Maritimes was difficult and she was quick to explain that if she were to stay in her hometown then it would be likely that she would be reduced to sporadic substituting due to the difficulty of finding a job in her hometown.

She was not the only person to follow this career path as well, as she told me that many of her friends had also gone overseas to locations like South Korea, China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia in order to obtain employment with many staying abroad in their new homes for years at a time. I did some more research on my own and discover that this path is common not just for the field of education as well. Whatever field of employment one might discuss, it is becoming a common occurrence for graduates to fly to locations like the oil fields of Alberta to rake in money for the application of their skills rather than staying in their hometown.

As a result, the Maritimes are experiencing a brain drain that would make even the most famished of zombies go hungry. This is a rather surprising reality given the seemingly positive situation the provinces should expect to find themselves. Atlantic Canada is packed to the brim with some of the finest universities in the world and thousands of students come from others areas of Canada and abroad in order to study and obtain a degree at our schools.

Unlike other areas throughout the world however, the Maritimes are unable to convince graduates to stay and instead, many go abroad in order to apply their talents and skill elsewhere. This is becoming so common among graduates that the classic folk song Farewell to Nova Scotia could be used to describe the flight of talented young professionals from the Atlantic Provinces to other far-flung locations.

If Atlantic Canada is to remain an economically strong and vibrant sector of the country then it is necessary for governments to do more to retain graduates and entice them to stay. We trained and prepared these young men and women for future employment and we need them here if we are to grow stronger. Whether it be through lower taxes, benefits for those who buy a house for the first time, or more leniency with student loans, the Atlantic provinces need to put a stop to the emigration of young and educated individuals because at this current moment, sixteen major universities in four small provinces are equipping the leaders of tomorrow with the skills they need to work abroad rather than at home.

By Justin John Baird

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