Consulting while Rome burns

An article today about the NB consultations on the labour market:

The Government of New Brunswick will bring together various stakeholders to build a province-wide strategy to help address the labour market imbalances. “Together we will develop and implement an action plan containing solutions to issues in key areas of mutual concern with respect to the labour market,” said Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Ed Doherty. The process, which will include a combination of Internet-based and face-to-face meetings, will be facilitated by Don Lenihan, provincial advisor on public engagement, in collaboration with other departmental officials from the Labour Market Analysis Branch.

Participants will be able to access an online forum early next week to discuss and help find solutions to several key issues, such as skills and skills shortages, reducing labour market information gaps, planning for the human resource needs of the future, identifying and targeting barriers to work, and the importance of raising awareness of our changing labour force, culture and values.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I just talked to someone that has a husband in Alberta and his company is coming back to recruit in New Brunswick. Last year they recruited over 300 from NB and PEI and have set similar targets for this year.

Changing labour force, culture and values? What is that? Sounds like a bunch of mandarins advised by a bunch of social scientists.

Excuse my cynicism, but the Lord government ‘consulted’ to death on red tape, forestry, health care, education, research, yadda yadda yadda. And that worked out for us.

Eventually, someone is going to have to get busy. Here’s my ‘input’:

We need high paying jobs. Go out and find some. Look to Nova Scotia’s attracting of RIM and financial services back offices (all jobs $60K to start and up). Then put an immigration plan in place to go get the people to work in this jobs (and align education).

Are we short of tradespersons? Ramp up NBCC training – but target foreign workers – I know a bunch of folks who immigrated here via the NBCC – came for training – stayed for the weather (ouch).

But for the folks that are whining because they cant’ find workers at 8 bucks/hour anymore – that’s a deeper, more structural problem. You can study this until your ears fall off but ultimately, McGuire is right – they are going to have to pay more. Even if you attract immigrants – they will leave and find higher paying jobs elsewhere in Canada – this happened in PEI and the farmers were demanding that the Feds enact legislation to force foreign workers to stay put.

The days of New Brunswick’s competitive advantage being very low wages are over. When manufacturers were paying $8/hour and had 60 cent dollars (US), low wages were a major advantage. Now, these guys are going to have to pay a lot more, and by the way provide benefits and they are at 95 cent dollars. Competitive advantage is going to have to be more about doing things better and more efficiently.

Don’t get me wrong, it should still be cheaper to do business here – because the cost of living is lower – but 5%, 10% maybe – but not 50%.

So, study, consult, online forums, sensitize people to our changing values – what does that mean?

At the end of the day, we need to get the economy primed and moving in the right direction and – as in the case in Alberta, Ontario, BC, etc. – people will come. We may have to do some people attraction stuff. We may need to be better at immigration. But we need to be better at economic development first.

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0 Responses to Consulting while Rome burns

  1. Trevor says:

    If elected Premier my first change would be to create a new mantra:

    “New Brunswick, just do it!”

    Nike rip off I know, but it is to the point. Less talking more walking.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm… I have seen the Tozers (Atcon) at work in the western provinces and it’s true. They offer steady work and hope for their families still in Miramichi.

    One person can support a household with this strategy versus having both the husband and wife working dead-end jobs here at $8/hour and not making ends meet.

    Can’t blame them.

  3. Kit says:

    I have to agree with you that this is gobly-gook. I would love to help them find solutions to their key issues – if I could figure out what they mean… My favourite is “reducing labour market information gaps” , followed closely by “identifying and targeting barriers to work”, and do what?
    If I wrote stuff like that in my annual business plan, my boss would ask me why I had such a hard time saying exactly what I meant and he would probably fire me for incompetence.

  4. David Campbell says:

    Governments have turned consulting and public ‘input’ into an art form. Spend a couple of hundred grand on a study, vet it through a variety of political channels, water it down and release it to the public. Then announce you are going to make New Brunswick the best province in Canada for education, health care, research and development, forestry management, etc. Then do very little, get pushed from office and the next gang will recycle the whole process.


  5. NB taxpayer says:

    Most communications strategies fail because they are not simple enough for the general public to get behind.

    The last two administration here in New Brunswick are guilty of this as they both have used terminology which was too complicated to motivate the average citizen.

    Let’s be honest, most people don’t understand the difference between a “deficit” and a “debt”, let alone “reducing labour market information gaps” or “identifying and targeting barriers to work”, as kit explained. The bottom line here is that hiring too many high paid consultants tends to make your message far too complicated and, in turn, alienates a whole bunch of people.

    The most successful government will be one that can sell its policies to both its people on the ground and to outside business/countries. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened for quite sometime in this province.

  6. trevor says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same…

  7. Anonymous says:

    True, David. Then some good looking projects come in and they are placed in front of a few thousand bureaucrats who like to stick their finger in for a taste, the investor spends a few hundred thousand listening to the nonsense they spout before realising that what they are telling him is absolute crap. They shove him from department to department all the while knowing that nothing will be done. Why should they actually work for their pay? The investor gets fed up and departs, the bureaucrats scratch their fat, spotty arses and assume their favourite supine position. Their salaries are assured and the rest of us shop in Frenchys excited at the latest government good news announcement from which nothing ever comes.

  8. mikel says:

    I’d be very interested to know which investors are sinking hundreds of thousands in and getting that sort of treatment.

    There is an unfortunate danger in that the aggregate message from blogs is virtually the opposite of the Irving media, making both messages miss the reality.

    The problem with that view is it pushes the ‘blame’ on the government, when as mentioned numerous times, New Brunswick for a long time had many of the biggest cost advantages for businesses, and nobody showed up. An almost non existent tax rate for start up small corporations, and no takers, many even fled.

    So the idea that ‘they just aren’t trying hard enough’ is only part of the story. There’s no doubt that their is problems, but I’ll again make the suggestion that one of, if not the chief problem is that guys like you fellas are all content to sit outside the system and throw stones at it.

    Governments are only as effective as the groups that clamour for representation, and so far they are doing that, and quite well. That Saskatchewan potash company is quite happy, and so will the over a hundred workers who work there.

    On the weekend my folks were in Campbellton and said the tourist traffic was bumper to bumper, even though southern NB was almost empty. I was looking and pictures of events their, and they have recreational facilities there that put any city in southern ontario to shame, and while I wasn’t there I was told that it looks better than it has for years.

    That’s not to join the chorus and say everything is peachy and Irving is right, however, at the same time, if you actually WANT change, you have to be willing to LOBBY for change, or at the very least you can’t be suprised that government isn’t sitting around and saying “well, maybe we should design our policy around the complaints of these anonymous and not so anonymous bloggers”.

    And I REALLY have to laugh when I hear the comments about government. Have you guys no investments whatsoever? Have you ever READ a synopsis from a mutual fund? If you think government announcements are full of BS then go back and read the announcements to shareholders that Nortel was making just before it crashed.

    It’s gotten so bad in the corporate world that an entire industry has grown up doing the research on companies that investors need because the company literature is USELESS. Worldcom was making pie in the sky, isn’t life lovely claims right up to bankruptcy.

    So let’s keep a little perspective. Yes, this is how government operates, but if you guys haven’t set foot in the corporate world, I’ll clue you in that its not that different. And at least government can be changed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Mikel, I’m sure you would be interested in which investors spend a couple of hundred thousand to attempt investment and gets that treatment. I would bet that every investor spends at least that much.
    A feature of your posts from time to time is the absolute naivety with which you view the world of investment. Of course in your world it costs nothing to travel to New Brunswick or stay in a hotel while you get jerked around by idiots in Freddy Beach. Neither do you cost your time or those of advisers, researchers and employees. I also assume that your communication bills are free and that you get complementary stationery, computers etc from some charitable organization.
    The list goes on and I am sure you can see where this is going so I wont bore you by prolonging it, suffice to say that a few hundred thousand dollars doesnt go very far these days.
    My point is that investment in this province is not treated seriously enough or with any respect by the people whose job it is to do so – people who are paid by our taxes to do so. Bureaucracy in NB seems to be about trying to look busy while actually doing nothing and nobody is held accountable. Look around the province and see how much actual outside investment there is and then ask the question.
    I’ll clue YOU in. This is how government works in New Brunswick. The corporate sector is VASTLY different in attitude and the bureaucrats stay in place when the government changes which encourages and perpetuates the same air of stifled inaction after elections. Its time to wake up.