Ready to take risks

The TJ is reporting this morning on a series of focus groups held by the self sufficiency task force. Here are some conclusions:

The overwhelming majority of New Brunswickers who participated in a series of focus groups are ready to take risks to achieve economic self-sufficiency, as long as their health and environment are not sacrificed.

…eight of 10 participants in the focus groups agreed the province must take some risks to attain self-sufficiency by 2026.

“I was really impressed again with the individuals suggesting that self-sufficiency was a worthwhile goal, self-sufficiency was something that they would be willing to work with government, with industry, with commerce to move forward towards,” Robichaud [the consultant] said in an interview.

Now, after reading this article, my first thought was what ‘risk’? There is absolutely nothing in the article to state what ‘risk’ people are prepared for their government to take in the pursuit of self-sufficiency.

That’s what I dislike about polls, surveys and focus groups. The ask open ended questions and devolve into generalities. A poll will ask, for example, what do you think the top priority of government should be? And the answers are ‘health care’, ‘education’, ‘environment’, etc.

If the question was “New Brunswick is going down fast. If the government doesn’t stop the population decline, many of your communities will cease to exist within a generation. What do you think the top priority of government should be?

Of course, pollsters reading this post would scoff that this is not objective. But, is any poll, survey or focus group valid without context? If you took ten people in a room for a focus group and starting asking them what the ‘priority of government’ should be and while they were in the room a large war broke out in Canada, don’t you think they would change their mind based on the context?

I won’t belabor this point too much because I have in previous blogs except to cycle it back into the TJ article today.

What ‘risk’?

Would they agree to ‘risk’ health care (they said no in the abstract)? If the government said they were freezing health care expenditures at the 2007 until 2010 and plowing that dough into ‘self sufficiency’ would they agree with that?

Would they agree to the ‘risk’ of tax increases (not if Al Hogan gets his way)? No pain no gain, folks.

Would they agree to the ‘risk’ of amalgamating small communities into one larger municipality? Based on the discussions I have had in these communities – that’s a non-starter. Remember old Bernie said he was going to get rid of LSDs and dropped that promise like a hot potato when he realized there would be a little political heat.

Would they agree to the ‘risk’ of diverting funds from other spending areas into economic development? I’ll believe it when I see it?

Would they agree to the ‘risk’, gasp, of running a small deficit in order to have funds for economic development? You would see heads rolling up and down Queen Street in Freddy Beach if one penny of red ink flowed out of the Leg.

So, what risk are New Brunswickers prepared for their government to take on? It’s easy to say things like this but put your money where your mouth is.

No, I think the dopiness of the past almost a decade now has turned us into a state of comfortable numbness. I was told that Richard Hatfield was concerned about population trending in the 1970s! If this is true, imagine what old Tricky Dick would think today.