The importance of measurement

I used to be a big fan of concrete ways to measure progress. However, in recent years, I have lost my appetite for it because of initiatives such as the former government’s ‘report card’ which was nothing more than someone combing through statistics to find a handful that looked somewhat good while ignoring reams of bad news. Or the Prosperity Plan update which was similarly murky.

However, it looks like British Columbia gets it right with their annual progress report. Don’t misunderstand me, this report is full of the kind of marketing schtick that we saw in New Brunswick report cards but the main difference is that they compare British Columbia on a wide variety of indicators – and publish all the results – good and bad. And the do it year over year.

Now, in fairness to New Brunswick, it’s a lot easier for B.C. to do something like this because they lead on the majority of indicators while New Brunswick is at the bottom for many. Not many governments like to remind people – every year – of their poor performance. However, it would be a good way to benchmark change and make governments accountable.

All that said, the B.C. Report gives us the data on New Brunswick as well. Here are a few highlights:

NB ranks 8th for green house gases, 3rd for air quality, 9th for protected areas and 9th for enviornmental quality.

Ooops.

New Brunswick is tied for first in the area of infant mortality (tied with BC and PEI).

New Brunswick ranks among the worst provinces for out-migration.

New Brunswick had a 5% decrease in the number of secondary school graduates while BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario registered strong gains in this area.

NB third lowest for real GDP per capita.

5th for life expectancy, 8th for cardiovascular mortality, 4th for overall health outcomes (this is looking better).

8th out of 10 provinces for the % of people on income assistance.

3rd out of ten provinces for the overall social conditions index – this is interesting….

8th out of 10 provinces for real disponsible income.

8th out of 10 provinces for its employment rate, and productivity

Lowest per capita tax burden in Canada. This is a statistic the old government used to push (the Liberals) when they were in power. The problem here is that the more you make, the more you pay (Quebec is an anomoly here). What I am saying is that an increase in tax burden is good if it is tied to an even bigger increase in income.

9th in Canada for university graduates in the population – only NL lower.

9th for R&D spending per capita.

8th for science graduates in the workforce.


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0 Responses to The importance of measurement

  1. NB taxpayer says:

    Now, in fairness to New Brunswick, it’s a lot easier for B.C. to do something like this because they lead on the majority of indicators while New Brunswick is at the bottom for many. Not many governments like to remind people – every year – of their poor performance. However, it would be a good way to benchmark change and make governments accountable.

    In the movie “Pumping Iron”, Arnold told the story about how he used to cut his shirts so as to expose a weak body part (his abs) instead of hiding it before a Mr. Olympia competition. He claimed it reminded him daily of his weakness and that if he didn’t do anything about it he would fail in the competition. He said it drove him to work harder.

    I know it’s just body building, but ever since I saw that story I realized that hiding or sweeping your weaknesses under the rug leads to further failure and minimal improvement. I think the same can be said for hiding poor performance indicators. Good post!

  2. mikel says:

    THe thing about ‘report cards’ is that you simply have to look at the vested interests of the people doing it. Unfortunately, government is now in the camp of ‘unobjective’ analysis.

    How is it exactly that the province is 8th and 9th for greenhouse gases and environment yet 3rd for air pollution?

    But a close look at the study’s recommendations is warranted,namely, because as with most stuff from BC nowadays, it is corporate recommendations. So you see that the biggest standout in economics today is that companies aren’t paying workers well, yet are making massive profits. Yet this is not even mentioned. In the study they say that low income workers should get welfare. Personally, depending on the industry thats not a bad idea, but of course all this money must come from somewhere, and the recommendations never seem to include those getting a free ride-large corporations and the richest canadians.

  3. Anonymous says:

    if you don’t measure something…you know nothing.