The provincial cabinet has been burning the midnight oil the past couple of nights.
Late night sessions that ended God-knows-when, night after night.
Apparently, they are trying to figure out what to do in order to get out of the massive financial and political hole they have dug for themselves over the past decade.
As bizarre as that might seem to some people, the politicians who created the mess have no idea yet what they are going to do. All that Premier Kathy Dunderdale and finance minister Jerome Kennedy have been able to offer lately are lots of vague comments about when the budget might be or how many lay-offs there might be. Dunderdale put a number of 500 lay-offs out there a few days ago but frankly, that’s about as reliable as her forecasts from last year.
And when Jerome told David Cochrane that they were still working out the Sustainability Plan, he was not bullshitting. He meant it, even though he claimed they had already started implementing the plan last year.
If you are familiar with government budgets and how these things normally get sorted, then odds are you are reading this now that someone has been able to revive your unconscious form.
The information to make it comes from the C.D. Howe Institute’s 2012 fiscal accountability rankings of the federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada. It shows the actual year-to-year change in provincial government annual spending in light blue and the forecast increase in dark blue. The figures are both shown as a percent of the previous year’s spending as reflected in the province’s public accounts (accrual).
Just to be really clear focus on the period from 2005 to 2011. The first two are Liberal periods. The third one – 2004 – is the one year of Tory restraint.
The average planned annual spending increase since 2005 was 8.44%, from 2008 to 2011, the planned increases were respectively 11.1, 12.2, 14.1 and 11.8 percent. The actual average increase was 7.44%
Paul Oram bailed out in late 2009 saying that government spending was unsustainable. Kathy Dunderdale herself has admitted since 2011 that provincial government spending was unsustainable.
So far they haven’t done anything to fix the problem they created through deliberate, unsustainable spending.
Incidentally, the C.D. Howe report ranks the province as the lowest in the country on reporting practices of public accounts documents. in earlier reports, the think tank “slammed” the provincial government – to use the report’s word – for presenting the budget and public accounts documents on a different basis. Since 2007, the provincial government has reported the Estimates on a modified cash basis and the public accounts on an accrual basis.
For 2012, the think tank used only the public accounts. But if you want to get a look at the magnitude of the government’s planned unsustainable spending, take a look at the table in the CD Howe 2011 report. The forecast percentage change from year to year (dark blue) is from the Estimates, which is compiled on a cash basis. That means – more or less - that it shows how much actual cash the government planned to spend during the year. The light blue is the actual spending change.
The best that the Conservatives can offer in defence of their mismanagement is nonsense. Kathy Dunderdale told reporters on Monday that she and her colleagues had to “rebuild the economy”, “build schools”, and “build hospitals” as if none of this existed before. She claimed and she and her colleagues signed the first development deals that delivered significant benefits to the province.
Jerome Kennedy said the same sorts of things to David Cochrane and even Danny Williams chimed in last Friday with the same falsehoods.
That should tell you something. There is the truth. Then there is what these politicians say. Their contempt for the people whose interests they claim to protect could not be any more plain. You don’t bullshit people for whom you have any respect and all Kathy and the rest have offered is bullshit.
No wonder the Conservatives are now at less than 30% in the polls after a slide that began in early 2010. It’s an average drop of four percentage points every quarter since then. Early 2010 was when Williams was Premier. he told the province that he and his colleagues – Dunderdale, Kennedy, Shea, King, Marshall, and the rest - would keep the spending on full tilt despite signs of financial problems:
For next year, Williams said cabinet has chosen not pursue an agenda of austerity.
"In order to deliver a balanced budget, we could have gotten into hardships," he said.
"In order to get there, it meant that we really had to be looking at cutting in various departments, and also not continuing to provide additional services to various parts of the province, particularly rural Newfoundland and Labrador."
Conservatives like Dunderdale like to claim that they’ve laid golden eggs since 2003. As it turns out, they just crapped out yellow-covered turds. All those late night meetings are proof that the road apples are a bit hard to choke down now that they actually have to bite into them.
Maybe they should just remember what Hisself said the other day:
"So sometimes you have to pay and then you have to pay it back at other times too, and that's what's going on now."
Roughly translated, Danny’s message to his colleagues and the people of the province is simple: “sucks to be you.”
Payback really is a mother.