“We are flush with cash. Our financial position
is the strongest it has ever been. The economy
is as strong as it’s ever been.”
Necessity is the mother of all invention!
It is interesting to see Premier Dunderdale on television uttering words that take me on a nostalgic trip back to when Liberal Clyde Well's was Premier.
After a decade of spending, expansion and lots of waste, reality is finally hitting home. We have to live within our future financial means. The government will run deficits for the next three years. Those deficits are the result of runaway spending based on a pinata financial planning.
The premier says the period of expansion is over. Government can't grow any further. She has ordered an audit of all government programs. In the midst of this she wants to reduce the province's per-capita debt to the national average over the next ten years. Commendable, overdue and strategic for future generations.
Two of our three off-shore pinata's are going to produce nothing for at least the next two months. No oil revenues from Terra Nova and White Rose means the provincial government has to make do with a lot less. While Finance Minister Tom Marshall says our finances are in great shape, that they have never been better, there are some tectonic shifts occurring that will challenge the administration.
The Atlantic Accord monies are about to dry-up, the feds E.I. reform is going to drive hordes of people onto the dole or force them to move out of the province. Either way it will cost the province in extra social support or lost taxes. The potential of the provinces last pulp and paper mill could signal the end of industrial development outside the Avalon. The fishery is in an unprecedented crisis and health care costs are soaring. The demographic challenges of providing services for hundreds of rural communities for an aging population are accelerating. Throw in the strength of public sector unions that are only trying to keep up with their brothers and sisters in the rest of Canada and you have a volatile mixture.
Lets face it, this is not an easy time to govern. It would not be an easy time for giants like Clyde Well and Brian Tobin, to govern, let a lone a person who never aspired for the job.
The problem this administration is facing is that of credibility. They only have their own record to consider, the tired refrain of ranting about past governments is as old as Methuselah. Their arrogance, partisan approach and lack of strategic/consistent messaging is hurting them.
The population is growing weary, they are looking for change. The polls show they want forthright direct leadership. People are tired of the gamenship. They want straight-line leadership. They want to know where we are, and were we want to be. They deserve a leader with the skills and judgement to get the province from A—to our objective—B.
Dunderdale may be a late converter to the religion of fiscal responsibility, but like Saul, it is never too late to convert. There is absolutely nothing wrong with tightening our belts, addressing our financial weaknesses and lowering expectations. It is a daunting mission when government is the biggest employer in the province.
As the late, great, Steve Neary used to say "how you gonna keep 'em down on the farm After they've seen Paree?"
Clyde Wells inherited a mess that was not of his making. He made painful economic decisions that prepared the province for the challenges of the period. Premier Dunderdale has been part of this administration from the get go in 2003. She will be remembered for adjusting the course or squandering an opportunity. She needs to lead by example.
As Tom Marshall said in his budget speech in 2008, "Our future will be shaped by the choices we make right here, right now."