Ah I love the spin

Do you remember when former Finance Minister Volpe announced a ‘record’ amount of funding for health care and the Opposition sarcastically remarked that it has been a record each year for the last 40 (i.e. it has been going up for 40 straight years?

Deja vu only the Opposition is now the government.  They must have kept the same spin doctors.

Here is some highlights from the government press release:

New Brunswick experiences record labour force statistics for 2008 (09/01/09)
(CNB) – New Brunswick’s annual averages showed record labour force and employment levels in 2008 as compared to previous years. These were some of the highlights as Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Donald Arseneault reported today on the province’s annual average labour statistics, following the latest release of Statistics Canada’s labour force survey.

I feel bad for journalists who are expected to figure out all this subterfuge.  They are some serious stats guys jumbled up with the spinners. These guys will use the month over month data when it looks good, use the annual average data when it looks better than the alternative and use the month over the previous 12 months when that looks the best. Or, like the previous government, will ignore it all and talk about  two or three year data or resort to term like ‘record’.

Here is the data raw and unvarnished:

According to the latest Labour force survey – there has been zero growth in employment from December 2007 to December 2008.  Nationally there are 98,000 more people working in December 2008 than in December 2007.

The annualized data (averages) do show the growth mentioned by the government in its press release but here is how it stacks up to other provinces (% growth rate in employment 2007-2008).

Growth in employment (2007-2008)

Canada 1.5%
Newfoundland and Labrador 1.5%
Prince Edward Island 1.3%
Nova Scotia 1.3%
New Brunswick 0.9%
Quebec 0.8%
Ontario 1.4%
Manitoba 1.7%
Saskatchewan 2.2%
Alberta 2.8%
British Columbia 2.1%

Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 282-0002.

So the second worst growth rate in employment from 2007-2008. Now here is another chart for your digestion:
Growth in employment (2002-2008)
Alberta 20.5%
British Columbia 17.8%
Canada 11.9%
Ontario 10.9%
Saskatchewan 9.5%
Quebec 8.7%
Prince Edward Island 8.5%
Nova Scotia 7.2%
Manitoba 7.0%
New Brunswick 6.7%
Newfoundland and Labrador 6.3%

Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 282-0002.

Now if you go back and read the departmental releases for 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002 do you think you will get this data? Of course not.  This stuff has become not about a government department reporting on the labour market.  This has become about publishing a political spin report.

We need some third party, unbiased reporting on key data such as population, employment, GDP, migration, housing, income, etc.  You simply cannot rely on the official government press releases on this stuff.  It’s not that they are inaccurate.  It’s just that they are sliced and diced as much as they need to so they can spin out a positive.

So, like in previous months, I will play the role of spin doctor and write my press release for the Minister:

New Brunswick continues to face serious economic challenges(09/01/09)
(DNB) – New Brunswick’s annual averages showed limited employment growth in 2008 continuing a trend spanning back to the early 2000s. Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Donald Arseneault reported today that these numbers confirm that the government’s strategy to attract business investment and grow the economy needs to be the top priority of government.

Minister Aresenealt states “it is unacceptable that this economy is not creating enough jobs to provide our citizens with economic opportunity here in their own province”.  “We also realize there are thousands of our citizens that have to work far away in Alberta just to provide for their families back home in New Brunswick”. 

The Minister concluded his remarks by saying “this government is committed to reversing this trend and we will do so”.  Until we reach at least the national average employment growth rate we will not be satisfied”.  There is almost no way we will reach economic self-sufficiency on our current path.”

4 thoughts on “Ah I love the spin

  1. Terrific post David. It helps to explain why the general public has a casual attitude towards ED.

    Do you think ED will ever emerge as an election or party platform issue as long as the voters are fed, and seemingly consume, such BS?

  2. Ultimately that is the paradox. The government wants on the one hand to convince people that we need massive change in how we do things in order to reach economic self-sufficiency. In my opinion that requires a consistent and deliberate message of urgency. But there is a short term political need to dope people up with this spin and the two are diametrically opposed, IMO.

    But the spinners are what they are. They are paid to spin. For the last 20 years they have have been told to make bad numbers look reasonable and reasonable numbers look outstanding. What if they were given a different mandate? What if the spinners were told to craft messages that conveyed a deep sense of urgency and the need to make serious effort in the area of economic development in a way that didn’t negatively implicate the short term politics of the thing?

  3. To remove embedded (perhaps unavoidable) political influence from PR through new hires, perhaps the ED arm of goverment should be a crown agency that runs like a business.

  4. You have company David. On CBC TV tonight Robert Jones reported on the worst NB job declines in recent times and mocked the NB news release claiming “record performance”.

Comments are closed.