A mini critique of John Hamm’s economic record

Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm has decided to step down so I’ll take the liberty of doing a very quick and dirty economic review compared to New Brunswick. Did Hamm beat the Lord on economic performance? Let’s see.

Employment Growth:
Always one of the best measurements of economic success – particularly in the jobs-poor Maritimes, Hamm bested Lord on this one – almost doubling the employment growth performance of New Brunswick from August 1999 to August 2005. Both, however; are well under the national employment growth rate during that time.

Nova Scotia:
Employed in August 1999: 416.2 (thousands)
Employed in August 2005: 446.3 (thousands)
Growth Rate: 7.2%

New Brunswick:
Employed in August 1999: 336.8 (thousands)
Employed in August 2005: 349.1 (thousands)
Growth Rate: 3.7%

Employment Rate:
Another win for Hamm. The Employment Rate in Nova Scotia creeped up to 58.6% of adults during his time in office while NB’s stayed the same.

Nova Scotia:
Employment Rate in August 1999: 57.2
Employment Rate in August 2005: 58.6

New Brunswick:
Employment Rate in August 1999: 55.3
Employment Rate in August 2005: 55.4

Unemployment Rate:
Another Hamm knockout- Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate in August 1999 (adjusted) was just slightly lower than New Brunswicks. By August 2005, it was 1.4% lower – a steep drop.

Nova Scotia:
Unemployment Rate in August 1999: 9.6%
Unemployment Rate in August 2005: 7.2%

New Brunswick:
Unemployment Rate in August 1999: 9.8%
Unemployment Rate in August 2005: 8.6%

Population Stats:
We won’t give either Premier credit for births and deaths (unless you think I should) but we will look at immigration and my personal favourite, interprovincial migration. All numbers are for the period 1999-2005.

Nova Scotia recieved almost twice as many immigrants during the six year period. On the net interprovincial migration (the net of folks moving out versus in), both provinces are still losing population but Nova Scotia is dramatically outperforming New Brunswick (if you can call it that). During the six year period that both Premier’s have been in office, New Brunswick has shed 8,428 people through out-migration to other provinces (net) while Nova Scotia dropped less than half that number at 3,779 (net out-migration).

NS: 11,343
NB: 5,291

Net Interprovincial migration:
NS: -3,779
NB: -8,428

GDP Growth:
On the broader, GDP growth measurement, both provinces had similar growth rates – both under the national average during the period.

Who should be retiring? Hamm made a few key strategic moves on the economic front that are interesting – I’ll leave the critique of them for another day. For example, he spun off the attraction of businesses to Nova Scotia into a separate entity governed by a private sector board of directors (Nova Scotia Business Inc.). This organization did a few innovative things like the Payroll Rebate program which lessens the risk of government grants to businesses as the incentive is not paid out until the payroll has been spent. No such innovations in New Brunswick – our guys still trot out the ‘forgiveable loan’ program initiated years ago by a previous government.

On the results front, Nova Scotia has outperformed New Brunswick on just about every indicator. Sure, you can blame this on oil & gas, or Cape Breton subsidies or whatever else you want but at the end of the day – Nova Scotia has kicked NB’s arse for six years and somebody here should be taking notice.