N.B. asked citizens to suggest taglines for licence plates; here’s what they said

PLATE EXPECTATIONS:
N.B. asked citizens to suggest taglines for licence plates; here’s what they said

When the Progressive Conservative government took power in New Brunswick just over a year ago, it had a lot on its plate. Or plates, as it turned out.

Last March, the David Alward administration announced it would phase out use of the “Be… in this place” tagline on New Brunswick licence plates first instituted in 2009 by the then-Liberal government.

“It is no secret that many New Brunswickers never liked this slogan when it was introduced,” Margaret-Ann Blaney, the minister responsible for Communications New Brunswick, said at the time. The province said it would seek public input on a suitable new tagline, or whether one was even necessary at all.

Using New Brunswick’s right to information law, Atlantic Business Magazine obtained a list of suggestions submitted via the internet. They range from the patriotic to the idiotic, from the proud to the loud.

According to the government’s Oct. 6 response, citizens made 1,264 suggestions through the website. The most popular choice, by far, would see the slogan zoom back to the future. Up until 1972, New Brunswick plates were christened with “Picture Province.” (There was no tagline at all from 1972 to 2009.) More than 250 respondents — roughly one in five — suggested the resurrection of “Picture Province” or a close variation.

Other citizens’ ideas were bursting with pride: “One people two languages.” “Life done right.” “Beautiful – bilingual.” “Le Nouveau-Brunswick: ma fierte.” Others were more, ahem, flippant. One riffed on the about-to-be-discarded tagline: “Don’t be in this place.” Another lamented the province’s fiscal situation: “9.4 billion in debt and increasing.” Many suggestions referenced the ongoing dispute over shale gas exploration: “Don’t Frack NB!” and “Frack Off” were two of the pithier choices. One thirsty citizen opined on his desire for a liquid solution to the issue: “Beer Me.”

There were the mystical — “Dream… See… Do” — and the quizzical — “We haven’t heard of you either.” Another showed impressive knowledge of geography: “New Brunswick, that place beside Nova Scotia.” At least two were phrases that could be considered to have sexual connotations. One of those respondents helpfully added that “imaginations will do the rest.” Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Less comical is the cost of the original “Be… in this place” brand to New Brunswick taxpayers. A senior bureaucrat acknowledged to a committee of the legislature in October that the slogan was a failure, and cost $840,000 — more than triple initial estimates.

The government has stressed that it will use up all existing stocks of materials with the tagline — including licence plates — before any new materials are ordered.

As of Atlantic Business Magazine’s mid-December deadline, New Brunswick had yet to publicly announce its plans rolling forward.

By Rob Antle

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