09 July 2012

Selective Perception and Strange Bedfellows #nlpoli

strange bedfellowsLabour federation president Lana Payne tweeted last week about the latest labour force figures in the province.

And that’s true.  According to Statistics Canada, the province recorded the highest ever participation rate in June: 62%.

Two Conservative supporters retweeted Payne’s comments, apparently because they fit the Conservative mantra that everything is wonderful under the Tories.  Conservative policies produce results, which is why the Tories enjoy such huge support in the province.

Anyway, Tories and Dippers cheering the same thing isn’t really as odd a situation as it might seem.

It has to do with the way local politicians like to take little snippets of information out of context. The result is that they ignore the bigger issues in favour of superficial comments.

Participation rate is “the number of employed and unemployed as a percentage of the population.”  In this case, the participation rate may be the highest ever in the province, but it remains the lowest in the country.Alberta’s participation rate is 73%.

Take a look at another statistic:  employment rate (“…the number of employed persons as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over.”) It was 54% in June, again, the lowest in the country. Alberta’s employment rate is almost 70%.

When you look at the Newfoundland and Labrador figures in comparison to the other provinces, you might start to ask some questions the politicians might find uncomfortable. 

By politicians, incidentally, we are including labour federation boss Payne.  You might expect that she and her union colleagues would have a hard time cuddling up to a Conservative government, but the truth is that Payne’s political interests seem to be better served by supporting the current pseudo-NDP government led by Kathy Dunderdale than by backing the provincial NDP who are intent on replacing the Tories.   The Tories, after all, have recently given Payne a gift by setting back the labour relations laws in this province by decades. Until recently, the provincial Conservatives also rejected any meaningful change in the fishery much to the delight of the more reactionary elements of the fisheries “union” Payne came from.  Of course, the Tories biggest gift to organized labour was delivering the huge gift of thousands of new unionised public servants. 

Anyway, if you wanted to look at substantive issues, you might ask those tough questions. Like why it is that a “have” province continues to drag so far behind all the other provinces. Or why so many people in the province are migrant labourers. Or why the province’s politicians continue to support policies that focus on luring “homing pigeons” back to the province rather than just welcoming people who can do the work and make the economy hum.

Those are just a few for starters. 

With selective perception, though, you just never have to bother with those sorts of buzz-kills.