Good night, and good luck

I just got back from watching that film about Edward R. Morrow, Good Night, and Good Luck. While this is no action thriller, it is an interesting film. It’s shot in black and white and weaves in actual footage in a clever fashion.

I’m not a movie reviewer but I will say that having already read about Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Communist hunting activities in the 1950s, I was struck once again about how disinformation can be a powerful tool.

I in no way equate modern day New Brunswick to that time but I think that disinformation as a political tool is alive and well in this province. I got in the mail (as I assume all New Brunswickers did) on Friday my “Pre-budget Consultation” document – paid for by our tax dollars so I assume it was meant for us to review and then be able to have an intelligent discussion (or consultation) about what the budget priorities should be for 2007.

I wonder how much it cost to write, publish and send this document out to 300,000 New Brunswick households? A million dollars? More? Less? No matter. You could have just as easily stamped a PC Party label on that document and called it a promotional brochure for the party.

There was not one shred of objectivity in that document cover to cover. Not once piece of information that would be useful in a ‘budget consultation’. They cherry picked (and then greatly massaged) about a dozen or so statistics and then wrote up a bold piece of public relations.

Nothing about population decline. Nothing about serious industry challenges. Nothing about the increasing dependance on Equalization. Nothing about having the second highest unemployment rate in Canada. Nothing about obesity. Nothing about the least active poopulation in Canada. Nothing about the lowest rates of education in Canada. Nothing about the lowest level of household Internet connections in Canada. Nothing about the lowest level of research and development in Canada.

Just a few massaged statistics. Take my favorite (hence I gripe about it almost daily) – GDP per capita. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a province or country is one measure (and not a very good one) of the size of the economy. On a per capita basis it measures the size of your economy adjusted for a better comparison to larger or smaller economies. In our famous “pre-budget consultation document” we are shown a big chart showing that NB has out-paced the country over the Lord’s time in power for GDP per capita.

Now the fact is that we have underpeformed the rest of Canada all but one of the years Lord has been in power for GDP growth. That is, simply, the growth of the economy (i.e. economic growth for you slow learners). However, because New Brunswick is having serious population issues, on a per capita basis, the figures look somewhat better.

But think about the twisted logic of that (disinformation). If New Brunswick’s economy lost half its population, its GDP per capita would look better than Alberta. But that would be cold comfort, wouldn’t it?

Then my second favorite disinformation – exports. The Irving Refinery came on line early in Lord’s mandate and added something like $1 billion to the overall exports from NB. Presto! Great statistic! NB leads country in exports growth! But peel away the refinery and we are hurting on a while whack of different industries that are dependant on exports. But no mention of that in the “pre-budget consultation document”. No, we are told that exports are booming.

Thanks very much, Mr. Irving.

I know that some of you will Google disinformation and come up with a differing definition than mine. But look beyond definition to the point I am trying to make.