The Myth of Statistics

Politicians love to throw around statistical one liners such as ‘led the county in growth’, ‘lowest unemployment in a generation’, etc. When the stats go in their favour they shout from the highest heavens. When they don’t, there’s always an excuse. I still remember Premier Lord suggesting that he ‘didn’t believe’ the extremely poor employment numbers during the last election campaign. He didn’t believe the most respected statistics agency in the world – Statistics Canada.

That’s why I am curious why the Premier and his propaganda arm, the Times & Transcript, did not jump on the manufacturing shipments story this month. New Brunswick led the country in the growth of manufacturing shipments from October to November. Surely a good news story.

Yes, it is a good news story – but like all statistics – be wary. As I have discussed elsewhere in this blog, there has been considerable growth in our manufactured goods exports over the past few years. However, when you remove petroleum products (i.e. the Irving Refinery), there has actually be a substantial decline in almost all other manufactured goods exports.

Not to understate the importance of the Refinery but it doesn’t create a lot of wealth or jobs for a large number of New Brunswickers the way a sawmill does or other forms of manufacturing.

The underlying problem remains. The sectors that have driven this economy for decades are losing steam and will not get it back. And there is no plan to develop alternative industries to take their place.

Therefore, we are looking at some very tough years ahead.

But the spin machine will march on.