20 September 2011

Undisclosed risk: NDP version #nlpoli #nlvotes

Sometimes you have to read something over and over just to make sure you didn’t misunderstand.

Like say this line from CBC’s online story of the NDP election platform launch:

In total, New Democrats are promising $142 million in new spending — $74 million from what it  called "efficiencies" and $68 million from a petroleum royalty surtax of three per cent.

The Telegram version is not quite so emphatic that the entire NDP platform is so inexpensive. They make it clear the pledges cover the first year only.

And when you look at the New Democrat platform, that’s the one thing that leaps out at you:  they’ve only costed one year.

Then you notice that while they talk about five pledges, there are a crap load of other things in there that are apparently something other than pledges.

What they are – maybe statement of good intentions -  is another matter.

And what they cost is a mystery.

Some of them could wind being quite costly.

Like say the pledge to increase the presence of government services in communities.  That sounds suspiciously like the Liberals’ plan in the late 1990s to shift stuff into places other than St. John’s.  The Tories carried on the same idea. It’s been very costly in a number of ways, not the least of which has been the increased size of the public service beyond what is actually needed in a province this size.

Or how about:

Plan a universal, publicly-funded and administered homecare and long-term care program.

Sure it says “plan” but plans have a way of becoming more than that once people catch on to the idea. The plan is only limited to year one.  What happens in years two, three and four?

Then there’s the commitment to yet more hand-outs, bail-outs and policy cop-outs:

    • Introduce a provincial adjustment fund to assist employees and communities affected by industry downsizing or closures.
    • Partner with industry to expand shipbuilding in the province.
    • Assist in forest industry diversification for domestic and export markets.
    • Increase primary and value-added production of agrifoods for local and  export markets through aid to small-scale production, processing and marketing.

None of that will be cheap.

None of that is costed in the NDP promise book.

And then there’s the gem:

Ensure that development of Labrador’s resources, including Gull Island and Muskrat Falls, is economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and beneficial for the people of the province, especially the people of Labrador.

Muskrat is viable because the punters like you and me will pay full freight for it.  The NDP platform statement is a cleverly worded dodge.

Some of the NDP ideas are good ones. 

The pledge to undo the things Lorraine backed before that restricted public accountability and limited access?  Good thing.

Initiatives for people with disabilities, for newcomers?  Good and good.

The costs likely wouldn’t be high and the benefits are almost incalculable.

Other bits just show a lack of imagination:

Conduct a review to assess the need for electoral reform.

Anyone who has been even half asleep in this province the last couple of decades will know that one doesn’t need study.

It needs action.

You can likely put that vague statement about electoral reform down to the fact that the NDP’s financial backers aren’t keen on reforming things like the provincial political finance laws.  hard to imagine a political party with the word democratic in its name that is wishy-washy about electoral reform.

But there it is.

Just like the cost of electing an NDP government isn’t.

- srbp -