Words matter

A colleague of mine sent me an email asking me to tone down my comments about Samuel LeBreton. He said “don’t shoot the messenger”.

I have nothing against LeBreton. I’ve never met the guy. But there are a very small handful of guys the media – and no doubt policy makers – go to for commentary on employment and labour market issues. And I have heard LeBreton go to great lengths in his comments for years about how strong the labour market is, how fast employment is growing, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I have never once heard him talk about 14 straight years of out migration and how that might – just might – have something to do with the lowering of the unemployment rate. No, it seems it’s a lot easier and convenient to just brag about that number.

The bottom line?

In my opinion, for the past 20 years – I don’t know before I wasn’t around – politicians, mandarins and most media types have felt the need to spin everything about the economy as good as possible. Frank McKenna set the tone for this – the spin was in motion. Then Lord elevated this into an art form (i.e. comparing GDP per capita over time). Everyone around feels this need to reassure us that things are good in New Brunswick.

We don’t need to be reassured. I’m tired of being reassured. I want guys like LeBreton and the spin doctors in the government and others to cast a wide lense on this stuff. To tie it into the broader economic and social challenges (i.e. population decline). I would like guys like LeBreton (the guys that are supposed to be credible on these issues) to tie this stuff together. Call centre jobs have been the single biggest private sector driver of the NB economy for the past 15 years. He should be asking where the next round of export driven private sector jobs growth will come from. He should be the one talking about out-migration. He should be the one talking about how the private sector jobs aren’t generating enough tax revenue to keep up with the cost of government services (hence the need for more Transfers).

And all this stuff is not hypothetical. It’s all laid out in the Self Sufficiency report – from just a few months ago.

So, he may think he’s doing the right thing serving up these softballs every month telling us all not to worry – things are great. But I think everyone would be better served if we all shelved the McKennaesque “everything’s booming” rhetoric and migrated to a gut check about the real state of things in New Brunswick.

As for the “shooting the messenger” thing, I think we are way beyond that in New Brunswick.