10 January 2010

A statement of fact isn’t a criticism

Finance minister Tom Marshall told the Telegram’s Dave Bartlett a few interesting things in an interview that appeared in the Saturday print edition but hasn’t turned up on line yet.

Like this bit about the annual “consultation” farce:

He also said it's not true consultations are a waste of time or that he's made up his mind already on where he will spend taxpayers' money.

Marshall said every year someone raises that criticism.

"We're open minded. We're prepared to listen. But we're listening to a lot of people and the problem is ... everybody can't get what they want," he said.

Marshall said if he gets 100 proposals, 95 of them make sense, but there's simply not enough money to go around.

Okay well, the consultations aren’t a waste of time for Marshall since he uses them as a way of sending a message to people of the province.  He isn’t really looking for substantive input on how to spend public money.

That’s because – as your humble e-scribbler noted last year – the major decisions are already made. The same point turned up the year before, with an entirely different example of how the major spending decisions are already made long before the finance minister hits the road.

Not a waste of time for Marshall, but for anyone else looking to shift budget priorities via the consultations?  Yeah, pretty much an exercise in the utmost futility.  The people who show up for these things would have better chances of changing Marshall’s budget if they gathered around a kitchen table, held hands and stared at the magic blue spot from the National Enquirer all the while thinking nice thoughts.

And sure, Marshall listens.

But, as he noted, five percent are patently OTL.

And the other 95% of the ideas he listens to are sensible.

But Marshall can’t do anything about them because he just doesn’t have the money for them, as he told Dave Bartlett and the Telly.  A guy who has more money in temporary investments than his predecessors  had to spend in total some years doesn’t have the money for these great ideas for one simple reason:

By the time he gets to the “consultations” he’s already decided where the money is going.

And that’s why the whole exercise is a farce.

You see, a statement of fact is not a criticism.  It’s like unsustainable spending.  Marshall knows it’s a matter of fact.  He just won’t admit it until he has no choice.