Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bad Branding

Sent this in the to Telegraph Journal today. I don't know what will become of it. UPDATE: It was published 4 Feb. - hats off to the TJ.

Kudos to the Telegraph Journal and the university professors for clearly highlighting the Graham government’s branding exercise (‘Perfecting the mantra’, Jan. 30).

As an economists, I teach students that we make trade-offs. Failing to clearly define the meanings of terms such as “self-sufficiency” permits the government to sidestep the trade-off issue by allowing the public to self-define the term.

The same issue is being repeated in the City of Saint John. By labeling the proposed oil refinery, Project Eider Rock, the public is given the impression that we will get economic prosperity and a new nesting ground for ducks. This is a brilliant corporate branding exercise as it suggests there is no trade-off.

In reality, we are being asked to accept another big stinky oil refinery in return for about 5,000 short-term jobs and approximately 1,000 permanent jobs. Ducks are not part of the equation. In fact, duck habitat may be destroyed if there’s a tanker accident in the Bay of Fundy.

Is “The Big Stink” a trade-off the public is willing to make in order to create employment? Are we willing to sacrifice environmental quality, or our public healthcare system, or higher residential electricity rates, or lower wages, or a trade corridor, or higher tuition rates, in order to become “self-sufficient?”

It isn’t my job to answer these questions. It is my job, however, to make sure people understand the trade-offs they are being asked to make.

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