Friday, 1 May 2015

2015 BUDGET: WHO IS AFRAID OF THE FISCAL CLIFF?

Minister Ross Wiseman called the Budget “a measured approach to dealing with the fiscal realities facing…” the province. 

No, it wasn’t. 

It was an awful example of political leadership.

Worse, virtually every group cheered him on. The exception was the NL Employers’ Council.

"We're here for a spending issue not necessarily a revenue-generating issue and if taxpayers don't hold them accountable they'll be back again — whatever government is in power — looking for tax increases again."

That’s Richard Alexander. He is spot on.  He’s just bloody late.  His bosses at the Employers’ Council lost their tongues over Muskrat Falls.  None had the courage to help stop this madness right from the beginning. 

It is hard to win back credibility when it is squandered. But they should keep trying.


Liberal Leader Dwight Ball’s response was that government needed better management and that he will “roll back” the hike in HST. Pressed on how he would replace the revenue, he states, if necessary he will borrow more!

The Government is rubbing its lucky rabbit’s foot; hoping for the price of oil will go back up, not to where the market will send it, but where the Minister of Finance wants it to go.

The Government is heading off a fiscal cliff. The Leader of the Opposition thinks it should put its foot on the gas pedal.

Ball is fast becoming parody for what is wrong with this place. He should worry we might start laughing.

At him.

Churence Rogers is excited about the long-term impact of the HST rebate on municipalities; oblivious to the fiscal crisis that threatens the Province, especially rural NL.  He was just as oblivious to the implications of electoral redistribution on rural NL.

He wears ‘municipal’ well.

The Union leadership Mary Shortall and Gerry Earle are in a tizzy over the Government’s use of public/private partnerships.  There’s not enough spending says Shortall (imagine that!); Earle is concerned that 1420 jobs might disappear by attrition over five years.

Like Dwight Ball they only know self-interest.  They can’t admit that many public services, including the current health care system, is unsustainable.  The very idea that the Province’s fiscal crisis can be dealt with by “attrition” is, in fact, a lie.  But their leadership styles leave no room honesty; for their membership or for the Province.

Then there is Kim Keating of the St. John’s Board of Trade. No leadership here.
Never was.

For certain, the filing of last Monday’s Post which contained a review of the Last Prime Minister, a book by former journalist Doug Letto, was timely. It’s depicts a NL political leadership weak, conflicted and self-interested; a group who cheered as the Country, mired in debt, forfeited Responsible Government.

The current leadership have learned nothing from their history.   

Again, politics is still about personal and local interests; any sense of community or larger national purpose plays second fiddle to partisan objectives; of the Government, of the Opposition, of Unions, of business.

What does it matter this Province has squandered an historic opportunity to flatten the demon of dependency via the Atlantic Accord?

How is it, that debt is inter-generational but self-interest is immediate?

One reporter termed it “a tough budget in a tough time”. He must have been reading the Budget for a different year.

Ross Wiseman forecast Budget expenditures for 2015-16 of $8.1 billion representing an increase of 2.3% over last year, stays roughly in line with the rate of inflation.

How can it be a tough Budget when Government gets to hold the line on expenditures, after nearly a billion dollar deficit last year, and as revenue declines this year?

What’s tough about it….that Davis chose to wait until January 1st to impose the 2 point increase in the HST…well after the election date, when a prudent government would have applied 1% at the beginning of the fiscal year and save consumers and the economy the larger jolt?

Remind me who the Board of Trade represents, again!

But that’s not even the kicker. That is located on page 19 of the Budget Speech:
“Oil production is expected to be 2.42 million barrels higher than last year at 80.32 million barrels.”

The Finance Minister has the audacity to forecast a deficit this year of $1.1 billion. Last year’s deficit was revised upwards twice. The new forecast deficit hinges on an average price for oil/barrel of $62.00, the ability of industry to pump the additional 2.42 million barrels and no major currency fluctuation. No small expectation.

But we are supposed to cheer.

The Government borrows not $1.1 billion but $2.0 billion. Nalcor must be sated, too.

The Government’s net debt exceeds $13 billion.  The Finance Minister says the Government will have to borrow another $4.85 billion over the next four years.
He is not budgeting for cost overruns at Muskrat Falls or for any economic problems that may throw that number off.  In other words, a total debt of $18 billion, four years from now, is his best scenario.

Why should you be worried?

You have the likes of Paul Davis, Dwight Ball, the municipal leadership, the Unions and the Board of Trade at your back.


Thinking of Doug Letto's book: we shouldn’t be too unkind to the last Prime Minister. 

4 comments:

  1. Des...I couldn't agree more. I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Williams, Ms Dunderdale, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Kennedy et. al. I also include the cheerleaders at the St. John's BoT, and the business community in general for supporting massive spending increases and Muskrat Falls.
    At the annual general meeting of the NLEC Bill Barry pointed out that he asked Mr. Earl Ludlow, "could we see a doubling of our hydro rates?". Ludlow's response was "Yes we could". Yet not a word from the media, the opposition, BoT, etc. The ramifications of this debacle on top of what has already occured are not understood by the general public. I fear for the future of this province.
    If there ever was a time for real conservatism to rise it's now but I doubt it.
    Keith R.

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  2. I love the reference in this blog made to self-interest on two different occasions in this blog. That is the attribute, of the politicians, that has gotten the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the dire economic situation we have experience since our existence. Whenever a resource has been chosen to be developed in our province, the first to be serviced economically from it are the politicians who are in charge of the development and those chosen by the politicians to be the primary benefactors of the resource. It appears to me that politicians always have to make themselves rich by creating a legacy out of anything they do and of course with that type of governance our province only gets the dregs out of the resources developed. Newfoundland and Labrador should have had the best economic conditions in the whole of Canada, if not the World, given its rich natural resource base and great strategic location, but those economic conditions never panned out simply because of self-interests. It appears to me that our politicians have held absolute power, there were no auditors to oversee anything.

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  3. Great summary of a very serious problem. Given where we are at this point, did Mr. Davis not realize this when he announced a new courthouse, plus they keep dangling a carrot in front of the people in Corner Brook regarding a new hospital that will never be built. How uninformed are the people of this province not to see what a farce this is. Cheap petty politics. There was not one mention of the government pension plan which is hanging on by a thread, so much so that they are prepared to crucify some retirees to get back money for a mistake that they are responsible for. While a reduction in staff may be more than justified, the more people they have on pension, the greater the liability that exists for the solvency of the plan. Dwight Ball and the liberal party will have there hands full when they have to deal with that issue.

    There are no easy answers in addressing the magnitude of the provincial budget. The one thing we do know, wonder boy Danny is gone and so is money. It was insulting to hear Davis to even reference the set up of a monetary fund similar to what other oil rich countries have done. The level of debt per person in this province is staggering, yet these idiots keep getting elected. For once I would like for someone to come forward to tell the truth and provide a real sense of reality as to just what our fiscal situation is like and how we might move forward.

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  4. Dick Alexander and the NLEC will gain back no credibility by their stance. For that matter it would be difficult to gain back that which they never had. His objection and that of his constituency is that a tax increase will take money out of their pockets and the only spending he challenges is that spent on the public sector. He is quite content to see the continued largess of government spending that flows to the private sector. Advocating for others to swallow the bitter pill that is needed while avoiding for yourself is rank hypocrisy, not anything that should gain you credibility.

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