LeHogan strikes again

Did you catch the Times & Transcript’s reporting of the latest Labour Market Survey for Canada? Before I give you Al Hogan’s spin on it, let me give you the unvarnished version:

-New Brunswick added an estimated 400 jobs in March out of a very strong 51,000 for the country as a whole. New Brunswick has 2.3% of the national population so just reaching the average job creation rate the province would have had to add 1,200 new jobs.

-Even more profound, urban Moncton’s unemployment rate is now up to 8.1% from 6.2% last year in March and up even more from its lows in the 5% range. Moncton now has the highest unemployment rate among the three urban areas in New Brunswick.

-The vast majority of the tepid employment growth since 2000 has been in retail sales, government-related and other sectors that rely on the local economy. Export oriented jobs have been declining – manufacturing employment is down by over 7,000 since 2000.

So, having set the table, here is Al Hogan’s headline on Saturday:

N.B. jobs at record levels
Latest figures from Statistics Canada show 6,300 new full-time jobs created in March, pushing total to 302,500

For Al Hogan, 400 more jobs means 6,300 new full time time jobs and 5,900 less part time jobs.

He goes on to work in ‘commentary’ from the province’s chief propagandist: Samuel LeBreton:

LeBreton said the trend is for growth in the economy and continuing decline in the unemployment rate.

“It looks very positive,” LeBreton said.

“It could very well be going down below nine per cent. I would not be surprised.

“The labour market should be doing well and with this (provincial) budget we expect to see quite a bit of money around.”

He added that the recent federal spending announcements should crank up the economy too.

Compared to a year ago, around the province there has been strong employment growth in the northeast, northwest and southwest, LeBreton said.

Now, let’s think about this for a while. 400 new jobs (increase in employment over last year) and LeBreton is quoted as saying there has been ‘strong employment growth in the northeast, northwest and southwest’? What does that mean? 8 new jobs in Moncton, 22 in Saint John?

Al Hogan and LeBreton use amazing language to describe one of the worst performing labour markets in Canada since 2000. ‘Record’, ‘very positive’, etc.

So, in the interest of brevity and the need to limit keystrokes, I have decided that from now on when there is a Times & Transcript story that quotes Samuel LeBreton, I am going to amalgamate the two into ‘LeHogan’. You will all know what I mean by that and it will cut down on effort.

In closing, I’ll just reiterate my points all along on this.

-Al Hogan should not, in my opinion, be using the Times & Transcript as the propaganda department for the ‘re-elect Lord’ campaign. Not even publishing a story at all about New Brunswick’s population decline – the numbers came out last week – and putting ridiculous spin on a tepid labour market (record this, record that) can not be in the public interest.

-Samuel LeBreton is not employed as a spin doctor by the province. Trained economists should speak ‘truth to power’. Any labour market analyst that could look at the data coming out of New Brunswick and make such comments has left the domain of an unbiased economist reporting on facts and entered the murky waters of trying to manufacture spin to prop up a government-sponsored notion of prosperity. The same goes to the Department of Finance ‘economists’ who put together the annual budget preconsultation document. This should be a factual, unvarnished view of the New Brunswick reality so that folks can make informed comments at the prebudget meetings. Instead, it is the most varnished spin I have ever seen in my life.

In my opinion, when the trained economists and professionals whose job it is to ‘speak the truth to power’ slip into full propaganda mode, it is a very serious problem. Remember, these are the guys that are providing elected officials with briefing notes and analysis of the economy. If they are in full spin mode, then nobody gets access to the real economic situation. So, in that sense, the economists and professionals should shoulder much of the blame for the lack of government action on economic development.

Now, the reaility is that many of these experts may be ‘speaking the truth to power’ internally and we never see it – and it is disregarded. If that is the case, you can forget my last statement.

LeBreton and his colleagues should be the first to be sounding the warning alarms. Hey guys, we are in a depopulation mode and simultaneously a rapidly expanding government budget mode. When we look at where the revenue is coming from to pay for the rapidly expanding government budget, by far the largest amount is Federal government transfers.

Then when we look at the underlying economic trends to see if the above situation will be improving or getting worse over the next 5-10 years, we see decline in our primary industries – our bedrock industries – and increases in government-related industries and secondary industries such as retail.

Outside of Alec Bruce’s columns, you will never read anything that reflects this reality in the pages of the T&T and that’s a crying shame – literally.

But I must point out that this seems to be exclusively politically motivated. Al Hogan is quick to hammer local and Federal politicians. So, following this line of reasoning, if Shawn Graham were to get elected as Premier, I think we could expect to see reams of negative economic stories on a weekly basis.

I am not kidding about this. Go back and read the T&T during Camille Theriault’s short tenure as Premier or the last few years of McKenna. I remember this all too well as a former economic developer. Company x would create 300 jobs and the T&T would run a headline (I’m paraphrasing here) like: Government closing hospital beds and giving money to highly profitable corporations.

So, maybe the issue here is change. Maybe a Liberal or NDP government in New Brunswick would stimulate some truth on economic matters out of the T&T. It would, undoubtedly be spun out to the extreme the other way, but I would prefer that to the pablum we get today.

Another reason, methinks, for a change.