FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s capital started diversifying its economy away from the civil service two decades ago, says Mayor Brad Woodside.

Fredericton has seen tremendous growth in the area of information technology, software development and engineering, he said Wednesday.

“About 20 years ago, and I happened to be mayor at the time which is why I know, the civil service jobs were not as plentiful as they were at one time,” said Woodside.

“That was something that was taking place across the country.

“It seemed that governments were shrinking in terms of employees.”

Because of that, city hall hired Coopers Lybrand, a Toronto-based consulting company, to do an economic development strategy for Fredericton, said the mayor.

The result was a document called Vision 2000.

Woodside said the city didn’t want to be all things to all people. Instead it decided to become a so-called “smart city” and focus on information technology, high-tech jobs, software development and engineering, he said.

“That has really taken us to our status today as a smart city and created a lot of jobs in those sectors,” said the mayor.

“That is what we have been doing over the past 20 years and that is what we continue to do.”

Woodside was responding to ongoing hints from the Liberal government that the civil service will be downsized. Details are expected in the March 17 provincial budget.

He was also reacting to comments by Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, and Kevin Gaudet, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, both of whom have said that the city needs to diversify its economy.

Woodside said he found the comments strange in light of what the city has been doing.

Woodside said the civil service remains an important part of the city’s economy. But he said the civil service has been shrinking for the last two decades.