Sending Chisholm Pothier to the Olympics

Those of you that read this blog know that one of my biggest grumblings about government is that they do so much ‘marketing’ now that no one – even interally to government – can figure out the difference between the spin and the reality.

For example, Finance Minister Volpe issues a ‘backgrounder for budget deliberations’ and it looks like a marketing brochure for the PC Party of New Brunswick. A backgrounder should have the good and the bad – and even the ugly – so that people can add in a meaningful way to the discussion. Volpe’s budget ‘road show’ is more like a PR exercise than a serious and thoughtful discussion about serious challenges facing the province.

Same goes with just about every document published by the government these days. You will rarely read (if ever) in a provincial government publication that the population in New Brunswick is in decline. I have never seen this. Yet the implications of this are massive. Population decline is tying up Saskatchewan in knots. That subject pervades the whole policy development landscape there. But here, it stays quietly under wraps until there is some external influence to address it (like media pressure).

Let’s be clear, Bernard Lord and his cabinet have known that the population is declining since they arrived in office in 1999. The migration, immigration and birth/death data is widely known among policy makers.

So, with that as my own form of backgrounder:

This link takes you to CBC’s medal count page for Turin.

By clicking on the gold, silver, bronze and total buttons at the top of the table, you can rank countries by gold medals won, silvers won, etc., or by total.

Rank countries by gold and Canada looks pretty bad.

Rank countries by total and Canada looks okay – fifth place as of right now.

Rank by bronze and Canada vaults way up to second place – We are doing so well … this validates our amateur sports policy … etc.

This looks like a good metaphor for how New Brunswick governments cherry-pick economic data.

I propose we send Chisholm Pothier (Press Secretary for the Premier) to the Olympics.

You see Chisholm could help position things for the Canadian Olympic team. “We had the best Day 7 in the history of the Olympics” or “Our Bronze medal count is up 50% from this time last Olympics” or whatever.

The Premier’s Office is so good these days at selectively choosing statistics (and getting them published in the media) that I am sure that Pothier would have us coming out of Turin with the best effort in history. Canadians rejoice!

Anyone who can spin population decline and well below average economic performance on just about every economic statistic (GDP growth, housing starts, employment rate, etc.) into prosperity for all could do wonders I’m sure.

Just keep in mind PC Leader Lord’s comments in 1999 before the election: “We are going to replace the spin doctors with real doctors”.

Or maybe I got that wrong. Maybe it should read “We are going to replace the spin doctors with real spin doctors”.

Yes, that must have been it.

With time the mind gets a little hazy.

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