"we must regain control of our expenditures
over a reasonable time frame. "
State of the Province Address
Jan 04, 2004
One would almost think that this week's Speech From The Throne was written on the back of envelope, considering the inability of the Premier to articulate what she meant by her government's plan to slash budgets, err, I mean implement a program review to find savings.
The CBC reported that the Premier was looking for a 3% reduction across the board, which meant every department would have to find savings of 3%. This was in the Premier's own words. She also told The Telegram that it was time to reign in spending on infrastructure, particularly"
By Tuesday the message was a little different, the government was looking for less than $100 million in savings, which was closer to 2% of the governments expenditures.
On Wednesday, the Premier said that expenditures for health, education & income security would be ring-fenced and that there would not be any job cuts. I assumed that meant that the other departments were going to have to find more than 3% to achieve government's reduction targets. Health and education, account for 58 per cent of overall spending.
Today the message has changed, yet again. Jobs will be cut - not permanent jobs, just contract jobs....particularly in the new Advanced Skills and Education Department, where officials have found "a lot of duplication of services." One can feel the chill settling over employees in that department. Let the bumping begin.
One could be excused for thinking that the government is making up it's restraint policy on the fly. What is the plan? Is there one?
I agree with the Premier, when she says, “Our primary function is not as an employment agency...Our primary function is to provide service to the people of the province.” It makes me wonder why the administration has bolstered the public service by 2,100 positions since coming to power. Where the jobs needed? Could a policy of attrition have been used to keep expenditures down? How unsustainable were decisions related to hiring and salary increases? Where was the plan since 2003?
Why not stick to the unpopular, but fiscally astute concerns expressed in 2004 when the province thought it was going to run a $900 million deficit. Remember, the debt was so burdensome that government needed but to cut spending and freeze wages. Than oil prices spiked, the Atlantic Accord Offsets kicked in and the party began.
Since that time the provincial budget has doubled from $4-billion to $8-billion. Public sector employees are getting paid 28% more and the public service is 20% larger.
Our net debt is $8.1 billion, which represents a net per capita debt of $14,948.
What happened to "an accountable and strategically minded government. A government that will make the responsible choices that will result in this province finally becoming masters of our own destiny." Surely, they knew that the Atlantic Accord offsets would end, that the reliance on oil revenues made for unpredictable economic forecasting.
I am confused, what about you? Feeling confident? That new car purchase is now on hold.