21 December 2011

Unsound financial management – the Dunderdale acknowledgement #nlpoli

It’s not hard to find the toad of truth in the swamp otherwise known as the ruling Conservatives’ record on public spending since they took office in 2003.

You can find it because since 2009 they like to admit every now and then that their spending habits are “unsustainable."

As nottawa reminds everyone, Premier Kathy Dunderdale has now acknowledged that:
“[o]ur spending at the rate that we've been doing over the last eight years — and it has been very necessary for a number of very good reasons to do that — is not sustainable in the long run.” [CBC online story]
But when Mark claims that “[u]p to now, Tories (and others) have disagreed with that assessment” he is not exactly right.

In 2009, Paul Oram was the first Tory cabinet minister to acknowledge publicly that “unsustainable” thing.

As your humble e-scribbler noted at the time, those words must have received the blessing of the Premier’s Office since cabinet ministers under Danny Williams couldn’t break wind without permission from Hisself’s posse.

Fnance minister Tom Marshall.chimed in with an unsustainability admission.*

And then they just kept up the same old habits.

It’s not surprising therefore that the public sector unions just won’t react to Kathy Dunderdale’s comments that the unions must not expect big wage increases in the upcoming round of negotiations.  Local CBC has been pounding away for a couple of days trying to make a story out of this but so far they’ve come up with zip.

The unions know the sad Tory record of saying one thing and doing another.  They also know that the Tories are still in a pre-leadership phase.  Danny’s gone.  Kathy’s a fill-in. 

If they thought about it for a moment, they’d also know that the local economic boom the Tories like to praise themselves for is actually a function of public sector spending.

That’s right.

It isn’t oil.

It’s a massive increase in the number of public servants since 2003,  fantastic wage increases, and unprecedented increases in  public spending. Roads and buildings are just part of it.

That unsustainable public spending is what has been sustaining the provincial economy. Under the Tories, the provincial economy is considerably more fragile than it’s ever been before

Any effort by the Tories to get their spending under control – to get it to sustainable levels - will put a chill through the place.  That will inevitably lead to a chill in the local economy.  The chill won’t just hit St. John’s where most of the public servants and the construction industry lives.  The chill will be felt everywhere and that will put a chill on the Tories’ political standing.

All that is the answer to Doug Letto’s questions in his essay on the “massive obstacles” Kathy Dunderdale is facing:
Can she and the government say no? Consistently?

And no.

And everyone knows it, including Kathy.

Muskrat Falls, incidentally, is nothing more than the best example of a party addicted to unsustainable public spending.  The project will increase the public debt to new record levels but that is irrelevant to the province’s Tories.  They want all those jobs to keep the economy humming.

You can easily find the toad of fiscal truth in the swamp of Tory financial mismanagement since 2003. The truth is – as Kathy admitted herself – their spending is unsustainable.

The part Kathy didn’t say is that she won’t be able to do anything but keep it up.

- srbp -

* Changed wording to clear up sentence meaning in the context of the post.  Original post had wording left over from earlier draft.