The New Brunswick government’s Economic Dashboard is nice – it covers a lot of interesting data points. I hope it sticks. The Lord government also published an economic scorecard that was supposed to be a report card on the economy but when the numbers looked bad they started to cherry pick only good stats and then stopped publishing it altogether. In fact, there have been several attempts in the past 20 years to publish economic data in bite sized chunks targeting a more general audience but they tend to peter out mainly because it takes time and effort to update the data. In fact I still recall one Cabinet Minister saying they “didn’t like to compare New Brunswick to other provinces”. Like the Cheshire Cat says in Alice in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you are going pretty much any road will get you there (paraphrased).
I much prefer Herb Emery’s economic dashboard, Boostnb.com. His team of students is actually updating the data with comparison and insight – similar in style to OneNS.ca. You have to give Nova Scotia kudos. They keep updating all the indicators even as a significant number are ‘not progressing’. One hopes government, business and community leaders are trying to figure out why and develop solutions.
What is the purpose of economic dashboards? Ideally to ensure that a wide population understands the state of the province – economy, demography, public finances, etc. and therefore governments will have public support to tackle any challenges. Hiding politically uncomfortable data and hoping no one stumbles on it is not a particularly robust approach to policy development.