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Letter: The challenges we face, by the numbers


Our Liberal government has declared: “we have a spending problem, also that we have a structural problem.” Why not: “We are living beyond our means”; “we don’t have the money”; “we can’t afford it”?

Too negative perhaps, or just not part of their mindset?
The Liberal “Way Forward” called for a $778-million deficit this year, so they implemented zero-based budgeting (again), and then budgeted up to that amount. They plan to add $3.24 billion to the debt during the life of their plan. Irresponsible, to say the least.
We need our politicians and bureaucrats to take a real world view of deficits. We need a mental separation of core programs funded by cash on hand and the “living beyond our means” items that get “funded” by debt, such as idle election promises. Perhaps we need legislated guiding principles to keep us prioritized. Finance Minister Cathy Bennett noted in Budget 2017 Our Plan: “It is very important that we stay on the course of expenditure reduction and change the culture of spending that is inherent in government and government agencies. We are responsibly redesigning government to address our economic, social and fiscal challenges.”
I love that, but I think Bennett may be a lone voice, easily drowned out by the dominant Corner Brook and area caucus, and others who have the old-time politics of votes as a priority. It was the same thing under the PCs.
Gerry Byrne beats up on Memorial University, making irrelevant comparisons of costs to much larger Canadian universities; he inflates subsidies given to freeze tuition for the purpose of politicking with students. He is the good guy.
The Liberals plan to move Crown Lands to Corner Brook because, according to Byrne, “they need to be where their deputy minister is.” Premier Dwight Ball says, “it is part of the Liberal plan to diversify the economy of the west coast.”
The cash to move those people has to be borrowed, and the interest paid by our grandchildren’s grandchildren. This is the politics of votes on naked display, with no regard for the debt accrued.
So far this year we have completed one judicial inquiry, (an eye-opener, notwithstanding) and have two more “funded.” That is code for “it is in the budget, not that we have the cash.” These are not core programs and so the cash to carry out these inquiries must be borrowed, and interest paid by future generations. There has to be a better way. We have big ideas but no cash to back them up; this is living beyond our means. We have a dreamer’s way of justifying spending.
Every year we use deficit money (millions to date) to prop up Marble Mountain. There has been a thousand attempts to make it viable. It is time for the City of Corner Brook to take it over and make it work or return it to nature. Byrne’s days of politicking with it should brought to a quick end.
The province has identified an area of gross mismanagement: the Canadian average for provincial civil service is 67 employees per 1,000 population; this province has 94/1,000. This is empire building, run amok.
We are acknowledged as having the most convoluted piece of geography of any Canadian province and therefore are justified in having a higher average number of civil servants, but not 14,000 above the average!
In Newfoundland and Labrador we have a very small labour force. Less than 34 per cent of the population is creating wealth. In the next five years that number will plummet. Our cost of living and cost of government is excessive because of our location, disjointed land mass, widely dispersed population, general lack of critical mass, and bad decision-making. We have an abundance of bloated ideas, and nobody is reining things in.
We need an unqualified recognition, especially by our politicians, that we are living beyond our means. Some people may nitpick my numbers, but the bottom line is indisputable: we have an aging population, declining birth rate, exploding debt, and must downsize. Permanent material damage is being done to our provincial fundamentals.

Jim Radford
St. John’s

 

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