Cute parlour trick

I just reviewed the Question Period from the NB Legislature for Friday. Here’s a quote the Premier made:

“That is why, as our member stated this morning, there are close to 30 000 more jobs in New Brunswick this year than there were in 1999.”

Now anybody with a computer and Internet access can see the real numbers (admittedly that’s only 55% of Nbers):

Total Employment (November 2005)- 000s
351.5 (seaonally adjusted)
352.2 (actual data)

Total Employment (November 1999)- 000s
341.3 (seaonally adjusted)
340.0 (actual data)

Unless I am missing something, if we look at year over year employment (seasonally adjusted or actual) there are only about 10-12k more people working according to the only reliable source of that type of data – stats can.

Maybe this is like some form of parlour trick that I am unaware of but I would sure like to know how they came up with that whopper. They must have some methodology. I can’t believe that they would throw a number out there without some defensible rationale. I suspect there are a few non-Al Hogan journalists that would actually check this out.

When a government is out trying to sell the province in other countries, I think they need to have the best marketing pitch possible. NB is the ‘best’ place for business, et. al. This is normal. But when the government turns that marketing on its own citizens and even more shocking on its own bureaucracy, that to me is a violation of their fiduciary duty.

Now, I am not one to whip around big words, but this one is important. If you study business law or ethics you will hear about this issue of a ‘fiduciary duty’. It simply means that a corporation’s directors and managers have a responsibility to spend investors money as if it were their own (this is a loose definition but let’s not get tripped up here). Or in other words with all due care and diligence. Further, corporations have an obligation to speak the honest truth to those investors about the state of the company’s finances and business operations.

Let’s use a quick example. GM is having a very hard time right now. But if you watch the advertisments on TV, those cars are the best in the world. GM is the best manufacturer of cars in the world. Et. al. But when GM files its SEC filings to inform investors of the state of the company, they paint a grim and honest picture of things.

Now, take that model to the government sphere. Everything published by government, it seems to me, looks more like marketing materials than SEC filings. Prosperity Plan updates. eNB updates. BNB reports. All twisted and framed through a marketing lense to ensure that NBers think things are great. And when there is a media report that is not so rosy (take the recent Literacy thing but before that standardized test scores and before that R&D) and the government will say “Oh, we have a ‘plan’ for that coming soon.”

Who can we rely on (outside of crazy, erratic and unverifiable bloggers) to simply give New Brunswickers a clear picture of what’s going on? Al Hogan? Come on.

I think the NB Auditor General should have responsibility to report each year to New Brunswickers the unvarnished truth of a host of metrics ranging from economic to educational to infrastructure. These should be compared to other Canadian provinces and even US states if possible.

Call it an SEC filing for the government.

Then New Brunswickers themselves can decide where they want politicians to spend their dollars.

Who did this to us? Was it McKenna? Who turned government into this monstrous marketing spin machine? What would be wrong with government reporting the actual state of the union?

I dunno.

You tell me.