The employment level in December in New Brunswick dropped fairly substantially. As I have pointed out many times before, there are always going to be swings in the monthly data. The important thing to look at is the trending over time and between 1999 and 2008, New Brunswick had the worst employment growth in the country among the 10 provinces. I suspect that will the annualized data comes out for 2009 that trend will continue.
Yet, if you looked at the government press releases on the monthly labour market survey going back to 1999 you would see a positive report ever single month – I suspect. I have reviewed probably 80% of them over that period and you get the same thing.
Now this is non-partisan as all governments have done it from the dawn of time.
According to the figures in the TJ, there was a 3,600 drop in employment in December yet the government press release includes this line:
Employment growth in December was strongest in the following areas: forestry, fishing, mining; oil and gas; other services; and information, culture and recreation.
Read the release, it is a very good job of spinning a negative into a positive.
Now, I have talked with PR folks at the government and they tell me this is their job – to put a positive light on things. They are not paid to highlight negative things.
I guess that makes some sense but if the point is to lull people into thinking that everything is booming in New Brunswick and then you come before them and say you need to make massive changes to the system – you can expect them to react badly. The NB Power situation should have been explained to people for years. The Lord government knew full well we were headed for a perfect storm of problems with NB Power and that is why they made all those changes back in the 2002-2003 timeframe. Rates skyrocketed since then anyway. Now we are hitting a rate shock, debt wall, infrastructure upgrade requirements and a carbon emission problem all at once. NB Power, on the path it is on, will either cripple the provincial books with new debt or lead to rate increases that will hammer our industrial sector (as well as residents).
I guess my point here is that government needs to balance their political need to convince people that everything is okay (to keep Don Mills’ tracking numbers looking good) with the practical need to convince them that we will need to make considerable changes in direction if we want to turn things around.
As I have said before, I think the Minister should say we can and must do better.