In defence of this blog

Every once in a while I will get a call or an email usually from a bureaucrat, journalist or partisan criticizing me for a) being far too negative and b) distorting the facts by using selective data and putting forward just one view of the issues.

For those of you who have read this stuff before, it will be old news but for those of you that haven’t this goes to the fundamental reason I started this blog some 2,032 posts ago in October 2004.

First, on negativity. Related to the subject of economic development in New Brunswick, there are a large number of folks who will give you the superficial view that is quite rosy. These include the Times & Transcript and many other media sources. If you like your data on economic developed served up with a huge helping of Pollyanna, you can read government press releases (until the party in power gets into opposition then the exact same set of data will be cataclysmic). I tell good news stories some times when the point to successful economic development efforts. I will gladly post positive ED stories here as I find them – please feel free to send them along.

Second, on distorting the facts. The typical comment to me goes like this. New Brunswick has the lowest unemployment rate since the 1970s, it has balanced budgets and good government debt ratios, its debt rating is among the best in Canada and the number of people below the poverty line is below average. Why am I complaining? The stuff I talk about is peripheral. New Brunswick is way better off than it was 10 or 20 years ago. If it is a politician or partisan they will then sprinkle in a few talking stats about record employment growth, record investment in health care and record levels of investments in roads. In short, I will be told to start telling the truth.

Now, put aside the fact that when in opposition my stuff makes sense. In fact, I remember distinctly having a conversation with a senior backroom Liberal while in Opposition and was told that everything I say was right on the money. Now, off the mark.

But I guess the real point is this. We can haggle over a particular statistic or time frame for comparison or frame of reference. We can compare month to month, year to year, per capita, provincial or not, net or gross. At the end of the day most governments in New Brunswick can get by 4 or 6 or even 8 years by twisting and stickhandling through. Then they go off and become high paid lawyers and talk about their great successes in New Brunswick. Fine. That’s their right.

But utlimately you have to ask yourself what kind of New Brunswick do you want to live in and are we working towards that goal or slipping behind? That, beyond all the noise, should be our utlimate measurement of success.

And the New Brunswick I want to live in would be a place the is attracting migrants not a place of 15 straight years of net out-migration. I want to live in a province where all regions are achieving some level of success (I realize that individual communities will go through ups and downs). I would like to live in a province where my kids will have options – to stay or to go if they want to. I believe that New Brunswick should able to reach at least the national average on a variety of economic and social metrics. We don’t have to go worst to first or some such slogan but incrementally improving.

Finally, to the bureaucrats, politicians and economic developers out there in the trenches I will say this. It is easy for guys like me to be armchair quarterbacks. To criticize without any of the risk. To complain without having to be the one to implement tough changes. But I suggest that you shouldn’t dismiss opposing voices out of hand as partisan or uninformed. There are lots of folks with good ideas (and just as many with bad ones) and in the longer run a government is better off when it listens to and benefits from these voices.

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0 Responses to In defence of this blog

  1. mikel says:

    Big of you to put that out there, but in reality, NOBODY has to apologize for utilizing their freedom of speech and saying, well, just about anything they want.

    In reality, even those factors you state as ‘good’ are out of line. Keep in mind you DON”T have a ‘balanced budget’, 300 million was added to debt, so its a hard sell.

    As for ‘poverty’, that is a stretch. While income stats have gone up, so have every other cost of living. The average New Brunswick family, like the average north american family, has less disposable income.

    As for poverty it depends what is meant by ‘average’. Poverty is growing at an alarming rate, just check out Charles blog. There wasn’t anything like a ‘tent city’ in Fredericton when I was going to school there fifteen years ago. In fact, I lived downtown and really can’t remember seeing a person looking for a handout the whole time there. That’s hardly ‘progress’. You can look at downtown Saint John and notice that 1/3 of the people who live there live in poverty according to a recent stats canada report.

    So the news is FAR worse than government officials and media would have people believe. It’s very much a house of cards, imagine what happens when nickel prices drop and equalization payments go lower. Anybody really think Irvings will pick up the slack?

    So actually, this blog is often WAY too optimistic given government performance. The armchair quarterback comment is apt though, and as a number of commentors have noted, at some point you’ve got to enter the political arena in one form or another. However, running a blog is not ‘nothing’, Irving just ‘lobbies’, another word for ‘talking’-its just that they get people to listen.

  2. richard says:

    You certainly don’t have anything to apologize for; for the most part you are comparing things here with growth rates in other regions. What the heck is wrong with that? If the outcomes are ‘negative’ that’s hardly your fault.

    A number of the real problems are being hidden, not because of any grand conspiracy, but because the urban areas (where most people, bureacrats and journos live) are growing. They are growing mainly because the rural areas are bleeding people to urban areas. This is not sustainable. Once this sinks in, the alarm bells will finally ring, but then we will be in crisis mode. Trouble is, by that point, the federal govt will be in an eroded fiscal situation and ujnable to help out.

    NB could use more benchmark setting now, not less.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Man!I mean here you are describing how much more advanced we are then 20 years ago and then describing what you want by describing 30 years ago.
    Read mikel,with one of his good views,which most are.
    And reeducation would be a thought for you.

  4. nbt says:

    Now, put aside the fact that when in opposition my stuff makes sense. In fact, I remember distinctly having a conversation with a senior backroom Liberal while in Opposition and was told that everything I say was right on the money. Now, off the mark.

    I think that NB has always been a political environment full of sharp partisans. Although, in the last few decades (when we have suffered our own mini-recession), politicians have been satisfied with taking the easy route which results in the solidification of the status quo…which in our province means more outmigration, very little R&D development, a SERIOUS lack of immigration, FDI and INDUSTRY development.

  5. Louis-Philippe Gauthier says:

    The opinions and information that you transmit on your blog all contribute to the discussions regardless of if we agree with you or not David.

    Take it as a compliment. People who are vocal and take the time to contact you are just showing you how much you truly add to the discourse.

    In my eyes you have always been true to yourself and honest about the opinions you express. Your desire to see the province prosper is authentic and that’s the only thing that counts in the final analysis.

    I enjoy reading you on your blog, it has been so since the first months that you started posting here and regardless of what opinions you voice I don’t see myself removing you from my RSS feeds anytime soon.

    We have serious challenges in the province that need to be surmounted; we need a plurality of informed voices not less.