Setting more transparent objectives

From a TJ story today:

So far, the department [BNB] has helped create 1,920 jobs, which is more than 1,000 jobs short of its goal, but the fiscal year doesn’t end until the end of March. Department spokesman Ryan Donaghy said Friday unstable market conditions, mostly affecting the forestry sector, have forced Business New Brunswick to focus on maintaining jobs in the province.On that score, the department’s investments have helped keep 5,838 jobs in the province, a figure that already exceeds the goal of 2,500.

First of all, let me deal with the ‘creation’ part. I went through the list of BNB announcements since April 2006 (BNB’s fiscal year). I can only find – literally – two or three – new companies setting up in New Brunswick. There are a few expansions at call centres – but I am suspect of the government taking credit for expansions. I don’t discount them but it is not the same as attracting in a new firm. In addition, one of the new firms is a mining firm. They got $15 million to help open a mine. That’s not really ‘seek’ and ‘find’. That’s a firm that wants to mine a natural resource and wants government money to help. That Hostopia.com project in the Miramichi seems to be the only real ‘attraction’ in all of 2007.

But what really causes me concern in the ‘maintaining’ of 5,838 jobs. Why didn’t the TJ ask for a list of all those jobs? If they have it down to 8 – they must be keeping a record. Unless they have changed, they never tell us this information. I have read all their annual reports and they say this ‘maintaining’ thousands of jobs and I would like to know the details.

My skeptical view is that they give a company a few thousand to attend a trade show and that somehow ‘retains’ 50 jobs. Or $5 million to buy a new machine. Or $150,000 for training. If that is true, that’s a joke. Using that silliness, Bernard could have said that cutting the small business tax rate ‘maintained’ the 100,000+ people that work in small business in this province. And, wow, it maintains them again and again.

But if we must use this metric, ‘maintaining’ jobs must be tied only to imminent closure. Otherwise, you are just cheating people. If a plant will close without intervention, that is ‘maintaining’. And then, quite frankly, you have to ask yourself should the government be bailing out firms that are going down? I don’t rule this out but in general if BNB is all about keeping plants from closing, then we will have to redefine the term ‘development’.

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