A mini critique of John Hamm’s economic record

Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm has decided to step down so I’ll take the liberty of doing a very quick and dirty economic review compared to New Brunswick. Did Hamm beat the Lord on economic performance? Let’s see.

Employment Growth:
Always one of the best measurements of economic success – particularly in the jobs-poor Maritimes, Hamm bested Lord on this one – almost doubling the employment growth performance of New Brunswick from August 1999 to August 2005. Both, however; are well under the national employment growth rate during that time.

Nova Scotia:
Employed in August 1999: 416.2 (thousands)
Employed in August 2005: 446.3 (thousands)
Growth Rate: 7.2%

New Brunswick:
Employed in August 1999: 336.8 (thousands)
Employed in August 2005: 349.1 (thousands)
Growth Rate: 3.7%

Employment Rate:
Another win for Hamm. The Employment Rate in Nova Scotia creeped up to 58.6% of adults during his time in office while NB’s stayed the same.

Nova Scotia:
Employment Rate in August 1999: 57.2
Employment Rate in August 2005: 58.6

New Brunswick:
Employment Rate in August 1999: 55.3
Employment Rate in August 2005: 55.4

Unemployment Rate:
Another Hamm knockout- Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate in August 1999 (adjusted) was just slightly lower than New Brunswicks. By August 2005, it was 1.4% lower – a steep drop.

Nova Scotia:
Unemployment Rate in August 1999: 9.6%
Unemployment Rate in August 2005: 7.2%

New Brunswick:
Unemployment Rate in August 1999: 9.8%
Unemployment Rate in August 2005: 8.6%

Population Stats:
We won’t give either Premier credit for births and deaths (unless you think I should) but we will look at immigration and my personal favourite, interprovincial migration. All numbers are for the period 1999-2005.

Nova Scotia recieved almost twice as many immigrants during the six year period. On the net interprovincial migration (the net of folks moving out versus in), both provinces are still losing population but Nova Scotia is dramatically outperforming New Brunswick (if you can call it that). During the six year period that both Premier’s have been in office, New Brunswick has shed 8,428 people through out-migration to other provinces (net) while Nova Scotia dropped less than half that number at 3,779 (net out-migration).

Immigrants:
NS: 11,343
NB: 5,291

Net Interprovincial migration:
NS: -3,779
NB: -8,428

GDP Growth:
On the broader, GDP growth measurement, both provinces had similar growth rates – both under the national average during the period.

Conclusion:
Who should be retiring? Hamm made a few key strategic moves on the economic front that are interesting – I’ll leave the critique of them for another day. For example, he spun off the attraction of businesses to Nova Scotia into a separate entity governed by a private sector board of directors (Nova Scotia Business Inc.). This organization did a few innovative things like the Payroll Rebate program which lessens the risk of government grants to businesses as the incentive is not paid out until the payroll has been spent. No such innovations in New Brunswick – our guys still trot out the ‘forgiveable loan’ program initiated years ago by a previous government.

On the results front, Nova Scotia has outperformed New Brunswick on just about every indicator. Sure, you can blame this on oil & gas, or Cape Breton subsidies or whatever else you want but at the end of the day – Nova Scotia has kicked NB’s arse for six years and somebody here should be taking notice.

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0 Responses to A mini critique of John Hamm’s economic record

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ironic that you post this on the day that it was announced that housing costs have increased 10% in Moncton and Saint John. Irvingnews claims that it’s due to “low unemployment and high economic growth”, which is sort of like saying “I have a car, therefore I must have a million dollars”. There are hundreds of factors that can affect housing costs, and of course hundreds that can affect economic indicators. An interesting study would be to go region by region, since Moncton certainly doesn’t have the same economic problems as Edmunstun or Campbellton. Likewise, in Nova Scotia i wonder if Halifax is propping all of NS up. I wonder just how many jobs are due to oil and gas.
    One other thing that you rarely mention though, is New Brunswick’s provincial debt. I had heard that NB has a much lower debt, I checked it out but couldn’t quite understand the figures. One other issue of interest is the $6 billion that NB supposedly has sitting in a NY investment firm (not literally). The liberal party touted this out at their reply to the throne, but you almost never hear about it.
    Of course we can’t forget oil and gas, for your future critique I’d personally like to know how this payroll rebate works and exactly what types of companies benefit from it. That’s some good info. As a Prop rep activist, I’d be interested in what effect their minority government will have since it usually takes a few years for economic indicators to catch up to policy. I did note that the Chamber of Commerce had an article that said minority governments were bad for business. No duh, but OUR government certainly isn’t any good to anybody who is thinking of competing against Irving. Soon Irving’s will be providing cheap power to their companies, making it impossible to compete with them. Ironically, this is what led to NB Power in the first place.

  2. David Campbell says:

    ‘IrvingNews’ as you call it has what I call McKenna Syndrome – that is only talk about good economic news. The Times & Transcript literally hasn’t published a ‘bad news’ economic story on New Brunswick for months. There was one exception, however. Their economics columnist Alec Bruce, I think his name is, recently did a half page rant in the T&T on the economic woes in New Brunswick – but that certainly is not reflected in the paper’s editorial style.

    Even Moncton, which is supposedly booming, hasn’t seen a new downtown office building in over a decade (with the exception of a plain looking call centre building – not a real high rise office building). In addition, during the 1990s, Moncton’s growth was 37th out of 100+ urban areas in Canada – and worse than all urban areas in Alberta. Now, in my estimation, 37th is not exactly booming but I guess that is based on what you are comparing to.

    As to your question on the payroll rebate, as I understand it, a company will get a percentage of their payroll costs rebated if they create new jobs in Nova Scotia. So, if Convergys hires 300 people in Truro and has a $15 million payroll, they will get say $500k back each year for three years. The idea is to provide incentives to create and sustain jobs without taking on the risk of a ‘forgiveable loan’ which is given all up front and then if the company closes – the government loses the money. The incentives given by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick pale in comparison to the southern US states and even southern Ontario for specific sectors such as auto and aerospace where companies routinely get $100k per job created (compared to a few thousand per job in the Maritimes).

    In terms of the minority government in Nova Scotia, it seems to me that provided interesting benefits – it certainly allowed for more compromise and adjustment based on a broader constituency.

    But I defer to you on this issue as I don’t really know the vagaries of democracy.

    On the Irvings, again, I have heard both sides – the dominant, competition crushing government manipulating billionaires or the great entrepreneurial success story that has resulted in tens of thousand of jobs and billions in economic activity.