President’s Message – Spring 2016

President’s Message – Spring 2016


“There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” -Benjamin Disraeli 

It may seem out of place to find an article on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in an NFU publication, but it is often a subject of discussion and seldom a subject of critical evaluation.  According to the Business Dictionary, GDP is “the value of a country’s overall output of goods and services (typically during one fiscal year) at market prices excluding net income from abroad”.

Business leaders and politicians automatically respond positively to the release of GDP statistics if growth is present and negatively if it is low or absent. Government economic programs are designed to encourage growth of the GDP.  Reflexive responses to the release of GDP figures are meaningless because the GDP is not an accurate measurement of economic health, let alone social and individual well-being.

GDP statistics may reflect an increase in goods and services that all of us value, such as better, more energy efficient housing, improved food availability and quality, and increased access to education.  However, GDP growth may also signal economic activity of questionable value, such as participation in war, or increasing crime, pollution, and health issues.

Highly processed foods are an example of a xeloda product which increases the GDP. These foods are linked to a number of health issues which must be addressed by physicians, nurses, and lab technicians, and with medical equipment. While these health issues raise the GDP, they result from decreased health at the level of the individual. Whole foods, prepared at home, do not have an equivalent impact on the GDP but represent better health and financial savings at a personal and family level. Purchases of single-use consumer items that quickly end up in landfills may also boost the GDP if produced in Canada but do little for personal well-being, especially if financed through consumer debt.

Statistics do not always contribute an accurate understanding of the place of farms and farmers in our economy and may in fact create a false picture.  A family farm may produce for the marketplace but also be partially subsistent; that is, produce food, fuel and building materials to meet the needs of family members.  Unfortunately, this production is invisible and never contributes to GDP statistics.

As farmers and community members, we should not evaluate programs and policy initiatives on the basis of statistics which do not reflect our reality. All farms should be valued for what they contribute to our communities and economies, not just those whose

productivity is captured by statistics. It is the responsibility of the NFU to consider this when evaluating government initiatives that impinge upon farmers.


In solidarity,


Ted Wiggan

NFU-NB President & NFU National Board Member


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