Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us!

Fool me once...

I am sure that there are pepople out there who will quite promptly claim CBC bias, etc, etc but the report tonight on the CBC by Robert Jones (UPDATE: This no links to a video the CBC has made available) points to pretty clear facts.

As Jones put it, New Brunswick is getting "the worst deal on public car insurance in Canada", while a Halifax-based lawyer and insurance expert, Barry Mason, said that the "government was duped".

It shows that according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada's own records, though the insurance companies ran a loss in New Brunswick in 2001, by the end of 2002 they were already making profits. Moreover, it showed that New Brunswickers were being hit by the double whammy of increasing premiums and decreasing payouts in 2003 and in 2004 as well.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada told a Nova Scotia utilities board hearing in 2003 that they could make a reasonable profit if payouts were at 80% of what their profits were. In 2002 in New Brunswick, this ratio was at 79%. They were already making more than their own acceptable profit margin yet they continued raising rates and continued calling for insurance reform.

On the eve of the 2003 election, Bernard Lord saved his hide by backtracking on his previous positions on insurance and making up a "no frills" option that no one understood and today virtually no one uses. In fact 0.07% of New Brunswickers use the no frills option today.

New Brunswickers paid insurance companies $469 million more than what the insurance industry said they needed in order to be sustainable from 2001 through 2005. That includes one year where they lost money. The insurance companies say they need a return of 10% to be profitable, they got a return of 60% over this period.

Not only did Lord's insurance reforms fail, they failed miserably. In 2005, insurance rates came down but they were still well over 2002 levels and New Brunswickers were taking in less payouts than they had since the 1980s.

Fool me twice...

Now, I was already working on a post based on Lord's education announcement today. Lord promised 500 new teaching positions over a new mandate. Can we believe him? Looking at the insurance record one might be caused to fear what Lord will deliver us when he promises something that seems rosy on the surface.

However, even his education record shows he has no credibility on this issue. In the 2003 election, he promised to hire 375 teachers. That is not what happened. According to the Education department's own records the number of "regular teaching" positions (i.e. teachers in the classroom) has decreased each and every year since Lord was in power. In 1999-2000 there were 6302.4 full-time equivilant teachers (i.e. a teacher working one quarter of full time is counted as 0.25 of a teacher). In 2004-05 this had dropped to 5967.7 and for the fiscal year 2006-2007, Lord only budgeted for 5809.8. Thus, over the years Lord has been in power and if we believe his plans for this school year, his record will be to have decreased the number of class room teachers by 492.6. So, if we believe his promise to hire 500 more, he will only have barely made up for the cuts he has already made!

In fairness, there is a second classification - that of "resource teachers" - which makes of for teachers that are not in the classroom. I assume that this includes M&Rs, guidance councillors, principals and district office officials. That number has increased from 522.7 to 633.7 from 1999-2000 to 2004-2005. So Lord has taken only 381.6 teachers out of the school system but, in the classroom, where it matters, he has slashed the number of teachers by the equivilant of 492.6 people (the number of actual people involved would be much higher as it is impossible for a teacher to work overtime as the students will have left the building, thus no teacher is valued at more than 1.0 of a full time).

Fool us once Mr. Lord, shame on you (and I SAY SHAME LOUDLY!!!). Fool us twice, shame on us. New Brunswickers, let us not bring shame on ourselves. We can't let Bernard Lord fool us again.


Altavistagoogle said...

This insurance fiasco should be front page news tomorow right? Or will Irving paper ignore it.

Nice of the CBC to let us watch the show via the Internet. Wasn't up when I blogged from memory. I seem to have have gotten the facts right though.

nbpolitico said...

thanks for the comment - I've added your blog to my list of links

Anonymous said...

Watch this again

Lord Should understand this.

Anonymous said...

B.Lord lies and lies and lies and then lies some more. He should have been recalled long time ago. We should have a recall legislation to get rid of liars like him.

herringchoker said...

OK, I'm game. Let's play.

Sept 1999
Students - 127,003
Teachers - 6302.4 (Your data)

Sept 2004
Students - 117,145
Teachers - 5967.7

Source: http://www.gnb.ca/0000/publications/comm/ar2004-2005.pdf

Change in student population: -8.4%
Change in teacher population: -5.6%

Sounds like an increase in the number of teachers to me. If the number of teachers had declined at the same rate as students, there should be 176.5 fewer teacher FTEs. This is how the rest of the world keeps track of these things.

Here's the other way:

In 1999, the student/teacher ratio was 16.4:1. In 2004 it was 15.5:1. In fact, even the 1999 number was a vast improvement over the ratio of 16.9:1 in 96 & 97 when (now who was it?) was premier.

The truth is, if BL wanted to serious reduce the number of teachers he could do it simply through a hiring freeze (Gee, where have I heard that idea before?). Currently about 400 teachers retire every year (hint: that's 2000 over the period from 1999-2004), and that number is increasing.

Every teacher that this gov't hires over establishment levels is an increase. Quibble about the totals, if you like, but don't try and baffle us with your selective statistics.

herringchoker said...

Note: the above ratios are the student/educator ratios. If your sums don't work out, take it up with the Dept of Education.

nbpolitico said...


I never suggested anything about student/teacher ratios. I merely stated the fact that Bernard Lord said he would increase the number of teachers by 375 but instead they have decreased.

If Lord promised to improve student-teacher ratios, then (if you numbers are correct) he would have succeeded. However, he said he would hire 375 additional teachers. He did not. Period.

herringchoker said...

Actually, what he said was that he would hire 375 more teachers than were planned for (remember all those retiring teachers). I found half of them (well almost half).

In 2001, Wm. Mercer estimated that NB would be short 674 teachers by 2004/2005 (it was an actuarial study). However, from the data, it looks as though the Dept managed to increase the number of teachers sufficient to overcome this expected drop. Total numbers fell, but not nearly as fast as the student population (which Mercer clearly projected).

So, was it 375, or 674? I don't know but, one thing is sure, he wasn't promising an absolute increase in the number of teachers. Never said, never promised. But all the other data seems to indicate that things are moving in the right direction.


northernnb said...

Awesome blog . Im going to follow this everyday up to the election .Insurance in nb is a joke , should have system like bc very frustrated still !!!! Lord is so funny with only one dream of becoming pm How can anyone take him seriously though im not convinced Graham is the answer either Graham just reminds me of lord minus the nose still undecided ahh politics in nb I hope it at least gets entertaining

Anonymous said...

That's really funny, only in New Brunswick would a decreasing student population be considered 'moving in the right direction'.

If somebody really wants to waste time looking at old papers go ahead, the above is an opinion vs. an opinion-did Bernard Lord, on the previous election trail, say "I will hire X number of new teachers" or did he say "I will increase the student-teacher ratio by not hiring as low a number as the drop in students". You can go check the sources if you want, personally, I wouldn't bother since that part is a red herring anyway.

The problem is that student teacher ratio's can be calculated in different ways. They are only one part of the issue also.

To calculate S-T ratios you need more info than just the number of teachers and students. In calculating the number, the government and sources use the number of students, the average instruction time per student and the average teaching time per teacher. The reason for that is that the above ratio shows full time equivalents, which is never the case in the school system


As the above shows, Canada has a higher S-T ratio than the united states. Interesting, since now tuition levels are quite similar to state schools in the states and proportionately, more americans get post secondary training than canadians.

We should also mention a statistic recently mentioned at Davidwcampbell.com blog, which is that cuts led to New Brunswick Universities having the highest tuition increase, and now among the highest tuition in the country. Hardly a great way to build a 'knowledge based economy'.

Back to secondary school, we can look at a close neighbour I've studied, which is Vermont. They have a large rural population and dealt with the high illiteracy rate with massive spending in education. So for NB, we can even use the 16.4 to one teacher ratio above, or the 16 mentioned for atlantic canada in the study above and compare it to Vermont's 10.

You can also go to Vermont's website and check out the result of this spending, which is a highly diversified (compared to NB) economy, with a lot of stress towards high technology manufacturing and services.

The result of that is a population that is increasing, albeit slower than the national rate, but some reading shows that most seem quite happy with that.

Other aspects need to be studied as well. If, as it appears, we are just hiring more school board officials, that doesn't do squat for quality. We also need to know total spending per student (which is much higher in Quebec) and from the looks of the ritalin issue, it would be nice to know how much 'extra' is put into class time.

However, on a practical level, Lord may be right not to seriously look at education. Why spend money to make cheap university education for students when there are no jobs here for them anyway when their done? Make tuition higher and then students are more likely to leave right after high school and suck at the subsidized post secondary education of another province.

When most of the jobs called for involve low skill, almost no education workforce, why worry about illiteracy at all? Construction companies don't want educated people-they tend to drive wages up.

Specialized labour pays quite well, so it is easy enough to find those people from jobs and universities in other provinces, so again, educational spending simply isn't required.

That of course is assuming that your educational system is dictated by employers. In the seventies it wasn't, and in most of europe it isn't. That certainly isn't the case here now. Blue collar companies are now sponsoring work co-ops for high school students.

For education you can also look at welfare, since those on welfare typically have less education. Education for adults is more important than ever, and you'd suspect that once on welfare a government would recognize "ok, we've really got to do something with this person". Far from it. Not only do welfare recipients not receive enough money to live on, but training programs are nil. The government's own website has ONE training program, which takes, if memory serves me correctly, something like a hundred people a year (here I'm being generous because I"m not sure, but you can go to family services website and see for yourself).

The 'conservative' ideology can be summed up best by Ralph Klein, the only province as miserly as New Brunswick, who essentially said the idea behind welfare policy is to get the bums out.

Of course it does get them out, but anybody who knows anything about welfare, knows that only a tiny minority are permanently on welfare and unable to perform in the economy (those poor souls can't even qualify for welfare). Every single person lost is a lost opportunity for industry and society, that's why most civilized countries tailor education towards education, not toward job training (that's usually separately done through technical schools, trade schools and apprenticeships).

Ultimately, the final decision on education is what type of society you want to build. We already know what kind Bernard wants. The big question is whether we can believe Shawn Graham, whose 'worst to first' would have them spending almost a quarter of a billion dollars more on education (cost per student in NB is $6300, while in Ontario it is over $10,000).

If you believe that, I'd suggest you aren't a shining example of New Brunswick's school system.

Anonymous said...

"...one thing is sure, he wasn't promising an absolute increase in the number of teachers. Never said, never promised." Sounds like this came from a bureaucrat from the Department of Education. So how is public service these days, herringchoker. However, Bernard Lord is involved in public choking.

Solutions are simple: to reduce unemployment rate make it so unpleasant that fewer people seek jobs and others leave the province. Bingo! Problem solved. Lower employment rate.

If you want to have lower student/teacher ratio. Let enough young couples leave the province so that there are fewer school age children. Bingo problem solved again.

What they say; there are lies and then there are more lies and then there is statistics. Or should I say Bernie's statistics of lower employment rate and lower student/teacher ratio.

Alternative may not be exciting but anyone will do than another dreaded 4 years of Bernard Lord.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. May be this will be helpful to herringchoker - do not choke on real facts.
Daily Gleaner | News - As published on page A7 on September 6, 2006
Tory hiring plan gets a passing grade from teachers' group


The New Brunswick Teachers' Federation is giving the Tories a passing grade for their promise to hire 500 teachers and reduce class sizes by four students over their next mandate.

"That is a step in the right direction," said Indu Varma, president of the NBTF, Tuesday.

She said the latest figures from Statistics Canada show that New Brunswick needs another 250 teachers to reach the national average for student-teacher ratio.

The education system needs double that to catch up to Prince Edward Island, she sai