09 February 2005

Jack's Math - revised and revised again

Ok, I may have misheard this clip today, so I will check it out and post a correction if need be. [Yep, I did. So I bought The Telegram today and got a better set of quotes.]

Jack Harris, the province's New Democratic Party leader issued a news release today calling on the government to bring some good news in the upcoming budget. He noted, among other things, that the offshore deal just announced will mean the provinces books will be balanced on a cash basis this year and that over the next eight years provincial government oil revenues will be a total of about $4.6 billion. [He said $4.9 billion, and I gather he was referring to the offsets if we go the full eight years in the first offset phase.]

Excuse me, Jack? I must have misheard you. [Yeah I did, but actually what he actually said doesn't change the rest of this post.]

Even before a deal was signed the provincial government estimated its direct oil revenues would be a total of $4.94 billion. That's the total from October. When Wade Locke added up his numbers based on US$32 per bbl (barrel), he came up with an eight-year figure of $5.2 billion.

Now that was without any new cash from Ottawa.

So, Jack, if we add the $2.0 billion in the new cash, the provincial government is going to have about $7.0 billion over the next eight years. That works out to be around $875 million per year on average. [If we accept Jack's idea that we get the full offset (Dream on, there buddy), then the total oil revenues plus offsets is actually........$1.25 billion per year, on average, over eight years. Of course, regular readers of this blog know the figure is likely closer to $875 million.]

And that is without considering Hebron/Ben Nevis and without the added revenue from Voisey's Bay and without the added revenue from restructured federal provincial financial for health and social programs.

Jack was right to point out that the government's finances are not in crisis, thereby acting like a proper Opposition Leader. (Why exactly was Roger Grimes out defending Fraser "Mario Andretti" March today anyway?) But Jack, b'y, at least get the math right on how much money the provincial government will have to spend.

If you put it in proper context, any idiot can see the Premier can be fiscally responsible and implement some much needed preventative health care projects like the school lunch program.

If it looks like the place is cash poor, and you are working from an equally wrong assumption, then you only fall into the trap carefully laid by that fountain of fiscal fooferah, the Minister of Decimals Loyola Sullivan: he can just dismiss you as another irresponsible leftie ready to spend us into the ground. Then he'll put everyone back to sleep with a recitation of the current budget projections, line by thousands of lines to the nearest fraction of a percentage.

(Revised 09 Feb 05)

Addendum (10 Feb 05)

Jack Harris made a guest appearance on Out of the Fog on Wednesday evening and it was repeated on Thursday. Watch for it again over the weekend. It's worthwhile to see Jack's solid performance despite the shortcomings discussed below. With a bit of work, the NDP could actually start to climb in the polls if Jack can keep it up.

A couple of things stand out. First of all Jack very clearly and concisely laid out his points in a way anyone could understand. He divided the debt into different chunks and explained his point in a way that you couldn't help but see where he was going - in a sensible level headed direction.

Second, the only one who wouldn't buy the logic was Krista Rudofsky who seems increasingly smitten with our Premier. Her tone betrayed a sketpicism seemingly the result of having swallowed Finance department news releases whole.

It's getting to the point where the CRTC should review the local cable access license for Rogers to see if they have crossed over a line on bias. If they try and pass themselves off as a current affairs or news show, then maybe there are some laws about truth in advertising that apply.

Does anyone remember Krista's fawning interview with the Premier back in January when she asked, breathlessly, "What can we do to help you, Premier?" or words to that effect. That was just one of several examples where she has failed utterly either to grasp the subject in front of her or ask the Premier or Loyola Sullivan or any Tory cabinet minister anything other than a question designed to let them slide through their prepared talking points with ease.

Danny has been on the show so often you'd swear he still owned the station. Out of the Fog is starting to sound a bit like the old Conversations with the Premier farce done eons ago with Joe Smallwood. The Premier would pull into the parking lot having been driven in by chauffeur from Roaches Line. While the car idled, a reporter would run out, stick a microphone through the open window and let the tape run as Joe pontificated about whatever was on his mind.

I once asked a reporter who had done the old Smallwood schtick and a later version done by Tobin on what he thought was the difference between the two. "With Tobin, I got to ask questions," came the reply, full of all the dry-wit experience of a seasoned and professional news veteran. There's a lesson there Krista could use because there is a difference between asking a question and feeding one.

Thankfully, Poor old Jack brushed off the light-weight questioning and got back to his point time and again. A seemingly frustrated Krista dropped it.

Any kind of bias in a public program interviewing political figures is unacceptable.