Love those ol’ cliches

I love cliches. I don’t really know why but I am always using them and on the look out for new ones. You know: He who laughs last, laughs best; Looking for a needle in a haystack; Put your foot in your mouth; Get your foot in the door, etc.

A personal favourite of mine is “government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector creates jobs”. I came across this one in an economic development strategic plan that I read this morning. It was actually quite full of cliches, I guess the consultant was paid per quip.

Anyway, I paticularly like this cliche because most of us say without even thinking. Even in the old days when I was out recruiting business to move here I would find myself making such comments.

The government sector in Canada represents one fourth of the entire economy (around 24% of GDP give or take). In places like New Brunswick, the government sector is even larger. As I have pointed out before, the vast majority of net new jobs created in this province over the past 7-8 years have been in public sector roles such as health care and education.

But beyond just the tens of thousands of government and public sector workers in New Brunswick (around 90,000 persons paid by the taxpayer out of a total employed workforce of around 350,000), the government also subsidizes various industries to create jobs. Think LNG, think call centres, think agriculture. Then there is the money governments put into research and development and other activities that ‘create jobs’ so to speak.

So, in a place like New Brunswick, you’d be almost better off with a new cliche: “the private sector doesn’t create jobs, government creates jobs”.

But, that just doesn’t have a nice ring to it, does it? Plus, our friends at the CFIB and AIMS would hyperventilate just looking at that particular string of vowels, consonants and spaces put together side-by-side.

So, let’s go on using our time honed cliche. Just don’t actually look at any numbers or anything.

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0 Responses to Love those ol’ cliches

  1. scott says:

    Here’s a cliche I just made up: “Policy creates numbers, so if the policies are poor, the numbers will be too.”

    Which is why some still bragg about big government and poor private sector accomplishments. [i.e. call centres] In other words, the numbers reflect the shortsighted visions of the public policy makers.

    Which is why I would be proud to be associated with people from the CFIB or AIMS, especially if it means stopping this harmful ethos dead in its tracks.

  2. David Campbell says:

    Scott, take the soapbox over to Charles Leblanc’s blog. Lately you have been insinuating things here that are not accurate. With regard to the government and jobs, I am clearly just stating a fact here. You can hit me over a head with your soapbox but your boy Bernie Lord expanded public sector jobs by the thousands while the private sector withered. And Stephen Harper has increased government spending by 14% according to the CTF. Even Alberta, that bastion of free will and free markets has seen its government spending go up dramatically (obstensibly as a ‘dividend’ for its economic success). So where do believers in small government go these days for a beer? The truth in Canada is that when there are good economic times, governments spend and spend and spend. Even Tory governments. And places like New Brunswick, with weak economies, get hundreds of millions in Equalization and other Transfers to spend and spend and spend some more. So, keep up the drive by smears I don’t care – but I think deep down you and I are on the same page here.

  3. scott says:

    You can hit me over a head with your soapbox but your boy Bernie Lord expanded public sector jobs by the thousands while the private sector withered.

    Remember, I had the guts to challenge my own party when they were off track. [povincially: prosperity plan, current opposition strategy, immigration stategy etc. federally: ACOA, corporate welfare, etc.] So when it comes to economic development, I do not see it as a means to criticize one party, supporter, newspaper editor or leader over the other. However, your blog has remained consistantly critical against people who are no longer in power while glossing over the fact that the current admnistration is fumbling the ball on a host of issues. In other words, you are no longer an objective observer, but another partisan defender of the status quo. And you can’t have it both ways in our province, you either stand up for what’s right or you don’t stand up at all.

    As for drive by smears? My comments above are fair and not personally insulting. I just state facts and argue them (and consistently I might add). For what it’s worth, my comments are very moderate compared to the daily insults of newspapers (both Irving and Hogan), not to mention, any think tank or politician who dares to challenge your 1990’s NB ethos.

    I sense by your irritablity you would prefer that there be nobody left in this province to challenge the status quo that has existed here for decades. Be careful what you wish for, David.

    And btw, I used to think we were on the same page, maybe we still are, but your constant insults and ad hominems against good people are starting to ware thin on my patients.

  4. David Campbell says:

    That’s just plain silly. I’m disappointed.

  5. scott says:

    So am I regarding the personal attacks. I’m not saying that you make bad points, you just add useless insults that cheapen your arguements. I could be wrong, but go through your last 30 or so post. You are much harsher in the body of your posts than you are in the comments section. The opposite of me.

  6. mikel says:

    Gee, short tempers and without even a comment from me!:) Gotta love that. Keep in mind guys that NOBODY that runs a blog is happy with the ‘status quo’. That would be just plain silly.

    David has been pretty strident about the liberals so far, but be fair, they haven’t done much. He didn’t join the chorus denoucing the credit union deal, but that’s not surprising, it wasn’t a cut and dry issue. But on plenty of other things he’s been as vocal as ever, I can even name specifics.

    Scott’s first post was two thirds accurate, the third was just opinion. From where I stand David is quite right that government creates more jobs than private industry, and Scott is quite right to point out that that is the way the system is designed. Of course Scott needs to PROVE that statement, whereas David’s statistics speak for themselves.

    I think Scott is perfectly right in his opinion, and remember, nobody has so far said anything specific, so once again we’re just arguing ideologies-“my dad is bigger than your dad”

    I think Scott is right, but for exactly the wrong reason. Take forestry, here it is PERFECTLY obvious that ‘bad policy’ (which creates those numbers) creates bad numbers. So no surprise, foreign corporations like Irving and UPN still make money, while laying off people all the time.

    We can debate it specifically some other time, but there is TONS of evidence out there that forestry regulations that favour organic forestry, such as used by India and Natives (when government doesn’t dictate their policy) creates GOOD numbers, meaning more jobs, more local wealth, healthier forests, more diversity. Those are GOOD numbers, from GOOD policy. But thats not the AIMS line.

    Of course here David has a tough time since it is foreign nationals that are robbing the province blind in forestry, but I doubt even David will say that foreign investment should be without limits, he’s even stated his caveats. And New Brunsick is a resource province, meaning arguing for FDI means most NBers respond with “what, like our forest industry???!!”

    To be fair, that was a bit of an overreaction David, Scott’s claim for the most part backs up what you frequently state. Scott is quite the free market idealist, albeit one who has never actually read ‘wealth of nations’ or its precursor ‘theories of moral judgement’. And to be fair, as you state, if you run around the world looking for a ‘free market’ you’ll have a tough go. Maybe on some vendor streets in asia, but that’s it.

    I’d hate to see you two guys bicker when you usually get along so well, I’m trying to think of something inflammatory just to get you both on side…..oh yeah…MORE MONEY FOR LOCAL SERVICE PROVIDERS!

  7. scott says:

    I think Scott is right, but for exactly the wrong reason. Take forestry, here it is PERFECTLY obvious that ‘bad policy’ (which creates those numbers) creates bad numbers. So no surprise, foreign corporations like Irving and UPN still make money, while laying off people all the time.

    Very true, Mikel. And the voice of reason to boot…I’m impressed. lol OK, just a second, I have to struggle to get back up on my soapbox. 😉 There, I’m up without a scrape.

    It’s interesting you mention the forestry sector as an example. As a former bottom feeder in the industry, I believe if there was more competition in the open market, then that situation wouldn’t exist in New Brunswick.

    For example, as a freshmen student at university, I worked as a tree planter for Irving Reforestation. During my year there, I was capped at what I could earn no matter how many trees I planted or how hard I worked. Btw, the cents per tree was way below what the market was offering in Canada as nobody made more than anybody else as it was based on group planting. For the record, the highest we were paid was 60 dollars in one day.

    That same year, I actually planted outside Amherst Nova Scotia for two days and all the workers there were people who couldn’t find employment and were just there long enough to draw a pogie check. No joke, one of the days I was there I guy mentioned that he was quitting as soon as friday hit because he had topped up his weeks. And he did this right in the middle of a contract. Do I blame him? No, because it wasn’t worth it for him to pay gas to get to the woods to earn a lower wage than Irving. In other words, he was not being rewarded for his wor. Again, our weak, uncompetitive market has allowed this practice to go on.

    So did I work for Irving the following summer? Being a competitive worker and a believer in being rewarded for your efforts, absolutely not. I made the trip to work for a smaller company in British Columbia which offered a fair rate per tree. As well, you worked on your own plot of land and were not discouraged to go full steam ahead. What was surprising is there were manymore companies, at least 20 that I encountered there, that offered competitive rates. Much higher than in New Brunswick. For the record, I earned an average of 230 dollars a day and made enough in two months working less hours to pay for my entire tuition. Almost six time the amount I made working longer, slower hours the entire summer with Irving.

    I know it’s just one example, but what wrong with the picture above? Three things: 1.) people have lost hope in the market as they are no longer willing to work all year round for bad wages if the government can subsidize (at a higher rate) staying at home away from the job market. 2.) having no competition breads a very unhealthy market locally. For some reason our provincial government’s try to convince us that foreign nationals, low taxes and less government are bad when in retrospect having a bloated government who promotes a monopoly is even worse. (i.e. Shawn Graham boasting in Gatineau about another Irving refinery) I’m not against that industry per se, but I am against only one company having dibs on it and offering people less than market value for their work. (i.e. my tree planting example) 3.)people are not educated enough to wade trough the rhetoric coming from Fredericton. In other words, as I said before, many ppl are happy with spewing out the same old swan song if it will save their own hide. It’s sad because the ppl they’re defending are the same ppl who will prevent them from earning what they are worth on the market.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post, so much better without the ideologies. That’s good to know, and of course I’m always interested in examples that show how Irving affects local workers, so I’m going to clip and save that.

    There is one problem though, and that’s just because something MAY work in one case doesn’t mean it will work everywhere. However, let’s stick to forestry.

    There IS competition in New Brunswick, they are called small woodlot owners. However, as they frequently complain, its hard to be competitive when the government basically gives away huge tracts of land to five lease holders.

    So there IS competition, however, here the evil word ‘subsidy’ creeps in. However, the subsidies favour the corporate sector, so we never hear that its ‘unfair’ and the US didnt’ include the province in its trade war.

    So ideologically speaking, I think Scott is right….competition is good. So Scott would point out that bad government policy hands stuff to these subsidized big players, which kills competition.

    However, to return to my frequent refrain, do you actually think that the government sits in a tall tower and decides to favour policies that will result in more unemployment for New Brunswickers (voters), will have environmental damage that voters will have to deal with down the line (flooding), and will ruin recreational areas for those voters?

    Now, people are fine to believe that if they want to. But even if Scott is right about competition, his conclusions are wrong because they have nothing to do with competition. If more competition is desirable, simply ask how you get more competition in the market. Well, you sure as hell dont do it by giving massive land leases to five companies, each with a monopoly within their region. THAT is the problem.

    Personally, I favour a co-operative model and can find as many examples of that working as the competitive one, but so what?

    I’ve been reading John Dewey talking about what he calls ‘feudal industrialism’, its quite interesting to read back in the civil war that ‘wage slavery’ was another form of slavery that was being fought against. From some famous Massachusetts workers comes the famous motto “the people who work in the mills should own them”.

    However, thats just talk over beers, the reality is that policy is so far from that that people might as well be debating forestry on mars.

  9. mikel says:

    Just wanted to add an important point and thought a new comment was in order. Even that argument about government is ideological talk.

    Whether somebody believes my point that Irving and corporate interests dictate policy, or whether they believe that government is just inept, shortsighted, or stuck in the past, the reality is that practically speaking the ONLY way to deal with that is through government.

    One thing people don’t want YOU to know is that people have enormous power in Canada. In the states there are lawyers and constititutions and property rights, not so in canada.

    So the ONLY way to address this is through politics. If you went to Irving and said “we’d really like you to give up your lease in favour of a different model” or something like that, they’d laugh in your face. Boycotts have of course been tried, but have very limited success when Irving owns most of the media.

    So when we look at policy, once again David and Scott are virtually identical. Scott wants more competition, David wants the framework to bring in more competition: two different issues, but the same policy.

    For me, I want the OPPORTUNITY to be able to create that policy, or in fact any policy at all. Which is why my interest is in politics. Without that, there is no policy, and people end up arguing ideology over beer, instead of developing policy.

    And keep in mind, one blogger on welfare got politically involved and got the government to recognize the human rights of an entire class of people. That’s not done, partly because Charles gave up on politics, but that shows what CAN be accomplished politically, and by somebody on the fringes of society.

    There, thats MY soapbox:)

  10. duepreparations says:

    All this beer talk is making me thirsty. Good debate boys – keep it up!

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s about time that some people in this province stand up for what they believe in. Bravo David and Scott.