07 March 2012

Dundernomics 101: The Cleary Factor #nlpoli

The gang at CBC shouldn’t feel sheepish.

They might have been the ones who pushed it most aggressively but  they weren’t the only news outlet that started talking up budget cuts and restraint based on what Premier Kathy Dunderdale told them.

Here’s part of what the Premier said to CBC’s Debbie Cooper:

“We're looking at a three-per-cent reduction right across government,…”

The Telly picked up a similar idea:

“It’s time to rein in our spending on infrastructure particularly,”

The Premier even repeated the same basic comments in the House on Tuesday afternoon before she scrummed with news media:

We have asked all our departments to look for at least 3 per cent in reductions, and yes, there are exemptions

All CBC did was take the Premier at her word, just like they recently took the word of a federal member of parliament about his view of his own pension.

They also – quite logically – concluded that the Premier was looking at cuts of more than $200 million. That would be three percent of the $7.5 billion or so in last year’s provincial budget.

Turns out when it comes to what they say, Ryan Cleary and Kathy Dunderdale are the same person.

On Tuesday, Kathy Dunderdale said the amount to be cut would be less than $100 million and that most of the big areas of government spending – health care and education, justice, and social assistance – were all “ring-fenced” and so they’d be immune from any cuts.

Now on a budget of $7.5 or $8.0 billion,  you can get $100 million in “savings” just by how you round your numbers.  That’s because you are looking at something like a cut of one to one and a half percent. 

Not three percent.

But half that or maybe less again

And just to make sure you can’t miss the point, note that Dunderdale herself flippantly dismissed the amount to be saved.  On Tuesday, she told reporters that maybe officials might go to six conferences instead of 10.

You just can’t reconcile what Kathy Dunderdale told Debbie Cooper and what Dunderdale said 24 hours later unless you come to one conclusion: Dunderdale simply didn’t know what she was talking about on Monday.

- srbp -