What Carly Rae Jepsen understands about life, business, and the economy that the government doesn't
Government consistently underestimates the uncertainty around the decisions it makes and often takes a too narrow view of the impact of any decision or policy. This results in too much cheerleading at first and latter disappointment as decisions fail to achieve the expected or imagined result, and the broader negative consequences are revealed.
Carly, understands uncertainty. She knows no matter how much she wishes and wants something to work out a certain way, none of us know the future and so we all take crazy bets sometimes to get what we want.
So how does Carly or any of us survive?
When we're smart we use numbers. Numbers are the things that reveal patterns and help us make good choices. When we're going off course or in the wrong direction we use numbers to get us back on track or make the best of a bad situation.
I've been doing more math than you can imagine to try and make the government's ferry plan make sense, to add something helpful and constructive to the conversation, or at very least to offer help that might make us lose less.
I loved watching Jimmy Fallon and the band perform Call Me Maybe with Carly. I wonder how many times Jimmy had to call Carly to appear on the show? If you called someone and they didn't return your call what should you think? If you called a couple times? More than ten? Numbers matter. Though we might not know exactly the right number of times to call, almost everyone would agree that 10 unreturned calls would be a very clear sign things aren't going OK and there are all sorts of problems happening that should be confronted. Almost no one would suggest, well, keep trying for a few months and see where it goes. That's what we're trying now to work out with the ferry deal. We've tried. At what point would reasonable hearts say well, if you keep calling it seems like there's something wrong with you.
People aren't asking the government to "show their work", to share their numbers, to be mean to the government. People want to see the numbers on issues from Pharmacare, clearcutting, the ferry, the convention centre, the budget and economic development because we need the numbers to help where we can and hold those responsible accountable where they need help.
People care about the numbers because they care about improving Nova Scotia.
The ferry deal presents a very real example and opportunity. Tens of millions of dollars are at stake along with the future of the southern region of Nova Scotia. Government proposes that the deal is simply done and we not concern ourselves with the numbers until after the first season is done, ostensibly because discussing results, especially poor results, might be even more discouraging and make things worse. But every day we stick to the plan means another day not spent thinking about genuine alternatives. We shouldn't stick with a mistake just because we spent a long time making it.
Here are a couple real possibilities:
1/ The numbers are uncertain - the passengers will go up and down over time.
2/ The numbers are less than capacity - less than what they could be.
3/ The numbers are determined by many things, especially the price.
4/ Like Carly says, we're kind of crazy when we make bets on the future and we have to be really careful about it and ready to change our minds as the facts change. But of course first we have to stay informed about the facts.
I've been through the numbers a lot of ways and one scenario that's coming clear to me is that there may be MUCH higher economic impact benefit gained by reducing or even eliminating the ticket fee for visitors to Nova Scotia than it would cost in lost ticket revenues if the actual number of paying customers is much lower than the capacity for the ship.
In simple terms, 800 tourists coming to NS on the ferry each day for free would bring in and leave a lot more money in total than 200 tourists who've paid high ticket prices.
How do we know when one is better than the other? We do the math!
When should we do the math?
My dad used to say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago - the second best time is right now.
We should do the math right now and make adjustments today and every day to maximize the amount of revenue coming in to the province. If this idea sounds familiar it should be. This is how businesses including all the world's airlines and every retailer in the world operates. These businesses manage and adjust prices on a daily, even hourly basis by actively managing the spread between potential income, capacity and price.
So, this isn't crazy, that's my number, call me maybe...
Check out Carly's heavy political lyrics,
I threw a wish in the well
Don't ask me I'll never tell
I looked at you as it fell
And now you're in my way
I trade my soul for a wish
Pennies and dimes for a kiss
I wasn't looking for this...
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.