Why is anyone shocked about the provincial government’s looming budget deficit?
And if the concern is about an increasing deficit/debt, why isn’t anyone concerned about the ballooning federal debt? At least the province’s financial woe is because of declining revenues, whereas the growing federal debt is because of increased spending.
Be it good times or bad, we are a commodity-based province, and the commodity market is a volatile one. The brightest and best investors in this unpredictable market can only watch the global economy and take their best guess as to the outcome.
It is not a market for the faint of heart. From the government’s perspective, the snowball started with the decline in potash prices, then oil and it just kept rolling. You would have to have been living on Gilligan’s Island over the last couple of years if you didn’t see this coming.
Our government had no control over the market conditions and could only hope and pray that the market picked up for the sake of its projected budget numbers. But when commodity prices are down, revenues are down. The warning bells were pealing during last year’s budget and now, metaphorically speaking, we know for whom the dirge bells toll.
No doubt the opposition will take us back 35 years to 1982 and the beginning of Grant Devine’s Progressive Conservative government, and how its government saved us from ourselves when the NDP were elected in 1991, only to have Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party squander all their hard work after his government was elected in 2007. (Oh, hum. There are only so many times that story can be told.)
Then the Sask. Party will point to hospital closures and social cutbacks imposed by the NDP, the waste attributed to Spudco and whatever other sins come to mind, along with the declining population and decaying infrastructure of that era. None of this history will benefit today’s residents of this province. All the rhetoric is just about cheesy and unproductive politics by all parties.
In fairness to the NDP, it did take over government at the worst possible time. The province was flat broke, people were fleeing for Alberta and beyond and our prospects seemed bleak. The NDP had to make the hard decisions for the long-term benefit of the province, but in recovery failed to muster enthusiasm with the population or entice new businesses to the province. Then along came a spanking new party led by a dynamic leader in the form of Brad Wall.
Wall had the good fortune of leading a new government at the beginning of the boom. The market was hot and money, industry and people were overwhelming this province. The Sask. Party, to its immense popularity, rebuilt crumbling major and secondary roadways, threw money at health care/workers (albeit without improving anything), increased the educational spots for student doctors/nurses and other careers, and sweetened the pot by offering a tax-credit system to keep our brightest and best at home.
Wall also did what previous governments wouldn’t do; he started revenue sharing with the municipalities, which kick-started growth in the cities. I’d say the best thing the Sask. Party did was offer optimism to a changing demographic that was ripe for change. The worst thing this party did was to encourage and facilitate debt by the municipalities.
Well, we have come full circle and the province has again fallen on hard times. Much like the NDP did in 1991, hard decisions must be made and we will see if Wall has the mettle to govern in austere times. The NDP are alleging mismanagement and dishonesty by Wall, but haven’t specifically pointed to what was mismanaged or how he is dishonest, although the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) program might grow legs. But the NDP are not offering solutions to the problem.
What is of greater concern is what the city will do now with an anticipated cut in revenue sharing from the province. My best guess will be a lot of sabre rattling and then a huge hit to the property tax bill. Council will claim it’s not its fault, and blame the province.
However, the city knew this day of reckoning was coming, buried its head in the sand and continued (and continues) to spend. Before, and since this council formed, we have heard about the wish lists adding up into the hundreds of millions of dollars in spending.
Council looks to the federal government and its deficit spending and sees a green light, and neglects to use its peripheral vision to the caution warning by the province. I don’t think it has sunk in yet with this council that they may need to play the role the NDP did in 1991 and that the Sask. Party may necessarily do this year.
Then again, council claims it has relatively little debt for a city this size and a triple-A credit rating, so it might be business as usual. Besides, it can always increase water rates again and divert profit from utilities to the general revenue coffers. It is all just a house of cards.
So, let’s change things up a bit. Instead of the opposition, public sector groups and other organizations critiquing the government’s plan when it is fully disclosed, I invite those opposed to tell the public how they will solve our financial difficulties if given the chance. Will it be tax and/or PST increases), cutbacks or more debt? Then the public can decide who should lead through these perilous financial times.