LeHogan strikes again

Did you catch the Times & Transcript’s reporting of the latest Labour Market Survey for Canada? Before I give you Al Hogan’s spin on it, let me give you the unvarnished version:

-New Brunswick added an estimated 400 jobs in March out of a very strong 51,000 for the country as a whole. New Brunswick has 2.3% of the national population so just reaching the average job creation rate the province would have had to add 1,200 new jobs.

-Even more profound, urban Moncton’s unemployment rate is now up to 8.1% from 6.2% last year in March and up even more from its lows in the 5% range. Moncton now has the highest unemployment rate among the three urban areas in New Brunswick.

-The vast majority of the tepid employment growth since 2000 has been in retail sales, government-related and other sectors that rely on the local economy. Export oriented jobs have been declining – manufacturing employment is down by over 7,000 since 2000.

So, having set the table, here is Al Hogan’s headline on Saturday:

N.B. jobs at record levels
Latest figures from Statistics Canada show 6,300 new full-time jobs created in March, pushing total to 302,500

For Al Hogan, 400 more jobs means 6,300 new full time time jobs and 5,900 less part time jobs.

He goes on to work in ‘commentary’ from the province’s chief propagandist: Samuel LeBreton:

LeBreton said the trend is for growth in the economy and continuing decline in the unemployment rate.

“It looks very positive,” LeBreton said.

“It could very well be going down below nine per cent. I would not be surprised.

“The labour market should be doing well and with this (provincial) budget we expect to see quite a bit of money around.”

He added that the recent federal spending announcements should crank up the economy too.

Compared to a year ago, around the province there has been strong employment growth in the northeast, northwest and southwest, LeBreton said.

Now, let’s think about this for a while. 400 new jobs (increase in employment over last year) and LeBreton is quoted as saying there has been ‘strong employment growth in the northeast, northwest and southwest’? What does that mean? 8 new jobs in Moncton, 22 in Saint John?

Al Hogan and LeBreton use amazing language to describe one of the worst performing labour markets in Canada since 2000. ‘Record’, ‘very positive’, etc.

So, in the interest of brevity and the need to limit keystrokes, I have decided that from now on when there is a Times & Transcript story that quotes Samuel LeBreton, I am going to amalgamate the two into ‘LeHogan’. You will all know what I mean by that and it will cut down on effort.

In closing, I’ll just reiterate my points all along on this.

-Al Hogan should not, in my opinion, be using the Times & Transcript as the propaganda department for the ‘re-elect Lord’ campaign. Not even publishing a story at all about New Brunswick’s population decline – the numbers came out last week – and putting ridiculous spin on a tepid labour market (record this, record that) can not be in the public interest.

-Samuel LeBreton is not employed as a spin doctor by the province. Trained economists should speak ‘truth to power’. Any labour market analyst that could look at the data coming out of New Brunswick and make such comments has left the domain of an unbiased economist reporting on facts and entered the murky waters of trying to manufacture spin to prop up a government-sponsored notion of prosperity. The same goes to the Department of Finance ‘economists’ who put together the annual budget preconsultation document. This should be a factual, unvarnished view of the New Brunswick reality so that folks can make informed comments at the prebudget meetings. Instead, it is the most varnished spin I have ever seen in my life.

In my opinion, when the trained economists and professionals whose job it is to ‘speak the truth to power’ slip into full propaganda mode, it is a very serious problem. Remember, these are the guys that are providing elected officials with briefing notes and analysis of the economy. If they are in full spin mode, then nobody gets access to the real economic situation. So, in that sense, the economists and professionals should shoulder much of the blame for the lack of government action on economic development.

Now, the reaility is that many of these experts may be ‘speaking the truth to power’ internally and we never see it – and it is disregarded. If that is the case, you can forget my last statement.

LeBreton and his colleagues should be the first to be sounding the warning alarms. Hey guys, we are in a depopulation mode and simultaneously a rapidly expanding government budget mode. When we look at where the revenue is coming from to pay for the rapidly expanding government budget, by far the largest amount is Federal government transfers.

Then when we look at the underlying economic trends to see if the above situation will be improving or getting worse over the next 5-10 years, we see decline in our primary industries – our bedrock industries – and increases in government-related industries and secondary industries such as retail.

Outside of Alec Bruce’s columns, you will never read anything that reflects this reality in the pages of the T&T and that’s a crying shame – literally.

But I must point out that this seems to be exclusively politically motivated. Al Hogan is quick to hammer local and Federal politicians. So, following this line of reasoning, if Shawn Graham were to get elected as Premier, I think we could expect to see reams of negative economic stories on a weekly basis.

I am not kidding about this. Go back and read the T&T during Camille Theriault’s short tenure as Premier or the last few years of McKenna. I remember this all too well as a former economic developer. Company x would create 300 jobs and the T&T would run a headline (I’m paraphrasing here) like: Government closing hospital beds and giving money to highly profitable corporations.

So, maybe the issue here is change. Maybe a Liberal or NDP government in New Brunswick would stimulate some truth on economic matters out of the T&T. It would, undoubtedly be spun out to the extreme the other way, but I would prefer that to the pablum we get today.

Another reason, methinks, for a change.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to LeHogan strikes again

  1. Anonymous says:

    I dont’ understand where he gets the 6300 new jobs line from. Is he making it up or does it come from somewhere..if they are out and out lying then that is a far bigger concern that simply ‘propagandizing’.

    I’d add two points. First, people should be writing, calling and cajoling the CBC to make sure they give extensive coverage to such statistics. They are literally the only place where New Brunswickers hear any issues or facts. If they aren’t giving the labour statistics then they should.

    Second, Ok, that’s it, what I’m going to do is set up a web site JUST for economic statistics for the province. If anybody has a good name for it, I’ll register the domain name. If the CBC already has a site that does that let me know. I know they are covered in this blog, trouble is, only three blogs show up at a time in editorial form. I think a site with just the various numbers would be a benefit.

    I’ve been through the stats and they are pretty clear so I think it would be pretty objective just to have the stats, but some comparitive statistics might be OK too.

    If they come out once a month then I don’t think it should be too much of a hassle. I think perhaps there may be a point to posting your comments, since they include the source (the newspaper) and an analysis.

    I know people love calling me paranoid, but the central question that should be asked is, is Al Hogan Bernard Lords gay lover, or is there a reason why an Irving paper is so far up his butt. Again, look at the quarter billion going to forestry, look at the quick passage of the LNG deal, look at Lord’s constant arguments against Maine’s LNG.

    If that isn’t a good political/corporate soldier, I don’t know what one is. If you were a company who owned the newspapers, wouldn’t YOU want to keep in power the guy who’s been doing you so many favours? That seems pretty straightforward to me, hell, I”D be doing the same thing (maybe, well, no, not really)

  2. scott says:

    Your analysis was flawless right up to the last three paragraphs.

    This economic decline is the result of decades of mismanagement from both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.

    The province is in massive crisis and the solutions will not come from traditional party rhetoric.

    What this province needs is a true reformer which will tackle the tough problems head on. In other words, we need a dose of truth and reality.

    More of the same will just not cut it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    David, do you have readership stats from your blog?

    Are there are a lot of gnb.ca IP addresses reading your pages?

  4. Anonymous says:

    There’s a difference between ‘mismanagement’ and just plain old problems with representation. Mr. Savoie has been mimicing what has been said since confederation-without representation atlantic canada is way down the list.

    The reality is that any place where New BRunswickers really NEED the feds, they’re nowhere to be found. As Charles Leblanc notes at his site, last spring’s Senate COmmittee on Media Monopoly was even more damaging than the one from 1972 which found that the Irvings were in fact running a monopoly.

    The feds continually push natural resources and some funds for government, but as said here before, no money for industry like R&D or automotives.

    The question people need to ask is whether politicians have the ‘clout’ necessary to combat these corporations who don’t want new investors in the province. Can NB say no to Irvings LNG is they have the power to end his political career? If they can lie in one direction, they can certainly lie in the other.

  5. David Campbell says:

    I’ll check on the readership stats but I personally know that a few GNBers read the blog (they have told me). As for the last comment, I have said before that my new mantra vis-a-vis Fed/Prov relations is “with or without you”. I personally find this would be a liberating approach. NB should say we are going ahead with an aggressive economic development strategy with our without you. If the Feds want to genuinely help, great. If not, do it anyway. I agree that we have been complaining (as Savoie points out) since before Confederation about the national government’s direct role in the marginalization and decline of Atlantic Canada. But will we still be saying this in 50 years? 100? It would be great if PM Harper would go to Germany with Premier Lord and pitch large multinational firms to locate in New Brunswick. It would add more heft to the sales pitch. Same goes for any ‘package’ required to get them here. But I haven’t seen this type of joint sales effort in 15 years so I don’t expect it to start now.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Very true, but to be a wet blanket, the ‘with or without you’ strategy was also tried right after the second world war. The reality is that this is just one website, not even a government one, so the probability that the exact same arguments are made in 50 or 100 years is VERY likely, if history is any judge. So get comfortable.

    However, there is not too much point blaming the feds because the reality is that the province simply can’t do anything about it. Short of pulling a Quebec and saying ‘we want out’, there is little that can be done.

    Provincially though, there are problems. When you have a province barely getting by, voters looking at health and education, then there is very little room to say ‘we’re adopting a huge spending spree in economic development’. The reality is that ACOA and business development already have a bad reputation, every body thinks its just paying off rich guys-and in many cases it is.

    However, there are things the province should be doing. Take a look at the recent announcements in Ontario, the province is contributing 50 million each to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the Institute for QUantum Computing. Again, these were set up by the university, municipality, province and feds.

    A good part of the money was donated by the billionaire head of RIM, which basically was born from the university. In New Brunswick….hmmm…anything?

    Heck even the City of Sudbury built the massive Science North, if you ever see it it is a true wonder. It was a mistake for Fredericton to call theirs “Science East” because its’ literally an embarassment. A few exhibits set up in an old jail.

    So you do have to spend money to make money. I think that’s been agreed by many here, the question is, how do you get a government to do that? And how do you decide what to spend it on?

    Again, I’m going back to my idea of Universities. That’s where research money goes, that’s where private investment goes, and that’s where new products come from. There’s a reason every city in Ontario has one. They wouldn’t actually even have to be buildings, they could be online.

    However, take a look at the tories. Carr is sitting in the legislature talking about medical school partnerships and actually said “we’ll do it with anyone”. They are trying to partner up with an established medical school and begging each one to set up in NB.

    That’s not really too inspiring to medical schools, especially when its a poor province knocking on your door. But to return to Sudbury, a city with a similar depopulation problem, they got off their asses and built a brand new medical school and now also is a big hitter in clinical trials.

    I fail to see why a CITY can do that, and an entire freaking province can’t!

  7. David Campbell says:

    A quick update. I can’t tell if GNBers are reading the blog. If they are I hope they take my comments (mostly) as constructive. I have tremendous respect for public servants. And I say that in all sincerity having been a former one. I can’t speak for them all but I will say that the ones I worked with were a great crew.

    Apparently, the blog averages 300 unique readers per day and over 500 on heavy traffic days, particularly after one of my CBC commentaries.