Dig a little deeper, Lisa

I can’t help myself. This weekend’s article in the Telegraph Journal by Lisa Hrabluk is a tailor made example of how reporters are just rewriting what they are being told by government spin doctors.

A few examples:

On the job creation front – she only quotes 2004 data because that favours the government. On the export front, she goes back four years. Weekly earnings – she only quotes 2003 data.

Hear’s a thought, Lisa. Why not complete a full review of the economic performance going back to the start of the mandate instead of using the cherry picked data put out by the province? If you did, here is what you would see:

  • Third worst rate of job creation (employment growth) in Canada from end of 1998 to end of 2004 (6% growth compared to 19% on PEI, 11% in Nova Scotia and 11% nationally.
  • Exports are up strongly -but remove petroleum products and and the past three years almost every major category is down and down significantly – a major concern (see my previous blog on this).
  • Year-end unemployment rate has dipped below 9.5% but, and I can’t believe that no reporter has ever looked at this, there are still communities in New Brunswick where 30% or more of the total workforce uses the Employment Insurance system each year. Also, we have the worst record on population growth/decline among the four Atlantic provinces since 1999. Oops. Forgot to mention that.
  • She talked about the declining level of government transfers to people as income support. She forgot to mention the new Equalization formula that will bring hundreds of millions in other Canadian’s tax dollars here because our economy is not strong enough to generate anywhere near enough tax dollars to pay for even basic government services.

Finally, why the heck is she using 1983 as a comparison date for GDP growth? I’ll tell you why. Because the Premier’s Prosperity Plan has as a goal signficantly reducing the GDP gap with the Canadian average and we only reached the national level once in his five full years in office – again a much poorer showing that PEI, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Until somebody in government or the media or in the pubs starts telling people the truth, we will continue to flounder. In 2001, the PEI spend four times as much as New Brunswick on economic development (adjusted for population) and they have outspent New Brunswick for at least the last decade. The result? 19% employment growth, a new aerospace cluster, record exports (not inflated by the Irving Refinery).

Hrabluk and her colleagues continue to provide the government with the rationale to cut into economic development spending even deeper. A study out last year found NB was last in Canada for economic development spending (this was lauded by the Times & Transcript by the way).

In order to be a ‘have’ province (and I believe the economic self-sufficiency should be the long term goal of any province), we would have to lead the county in economic growth, population growth and income growth for something like 40 or 50 years. In the last five, we have lagged the country on all three measures.

Here’s a final thought. Maybe all reporters covering economic issues should be required to have some training in the field. In addition, maybe instead of just rewriting government press releases, maybe we should dig a little deeper.

In the long run, somebody might thank you for it.