06 March 2012

He said. She said. “Expenditure review” edition #nlpoli

Starve reporters for real news and you can apparently make them believe anything.

That seems to be the case with the idea that Kathy Dunderdale’s Tories plan to actually cut public spending in the province in the coming fiscal year.

Unprecedented surpluses sitting in the bank. 

Forecasts for continued high revenues.

And now we are supposed to believe that the same people who could not control their own spending addiction, the same gang that created the current financial mess in the provincial government are now going to cut spending.


Here’s what Monday’s throne speech said:

Each department will undertake a structured review of departmental functions to identify opportunities to do things better. These reviews will be complemented by cross-departmental studies and ongoing reviews of the province’s Regional Health Authorities. The objective is to ensure all the Government’s personnel and resources are focused first and foremost on delivering high-priority services and achieving high-priority goals. This process will identify not only the current best practices for service delivery but also innovative approaches to deliver services more effectively.



“More effectively”.

And if you don’t see those as being vague words, try this:

The objective is to ensure all the Government’s personnel and resources are focused first and foremost on delivering high-priority services and achieving high-priority goals.

One of the hallmarks of effective communication is saying what you want to say in clear language:  “we will walk five feet and then sit down.”

So read those Dunderwords and then compare it to these words from another Premier’s speech and see which one you would believe:

One of my first decisions was to reduce the size of cabinet by more than twenty five per cent. What’s more, in time we will attempt to reduce the number of seats in the House of Assembly to better reflect a province the size of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Many perks have been either reduced or eliminated, starting with the Premier’s office where the two government owned vehicles previously assigned to the Premier have been eliminated. We have significantly curtailed discretionary expenditures and non-essential out of province travel for elected members and senior officials.

We also cut 44 political positions that existed under the previous administration and converted many other positions from political appointments to public service appointments.

These staffing decisions have saved taxpayers more than one and a half million dollars. We believe that a strengthened public service will ensure that individuals are being hired on their merits as opposed to who they know in government.

In addition to the decisions we have already taken, all departments have been asked to bring forward expenditure reduction proposals which can be implemented in the short term to make an early start towards our new fiscal goals. I can assure you that everything is under review, from cell phones to government vehicles.

As well, we have deferred all non-essential capital expenditure items.

Short term spending reductions, however, will not be sufficient to address the size of the deficit problem. On a go-forward basis, we will implement our election blueprint commitment to review every government program and eliminate any that are considered ineffective and inefficient. This commitment will be delivered through a comprehensive program review exercise.

We will use criteria to evaluate programs, similar to those now being employed by the federal government as they attempt to free up funds for their priority programs. These criteria will include the public interest, efficiency, affordability, value for money, and the role of government. The review will also look at overhead and capital costs in government.

This comprehensive review will use the expertise of the civil service, and we will also use external resources to consider the systems and structural issues from a purely independent perspective. We must ensure that the changes we make to government are the best and most efficient changes possible. The results of this review will be forwarded to cabinet for action.

No shortage of “do” words” there, words with plain meanings:

  • cut
  • reduce
  • eliminate

That was Danny Williams in January 2004.

The cuts, such as they were, lasted until the first polls showed his crew were very unpopular.

Just like Brian Tobin in 1996, curiously enough.

Program review lasted until the polls started dropping.

By the end of 2006, Williams’ conservative finance minister was gone, replaced by a fellow who never met a buck he wouldn’t spend especially if it belonged to the public.

Then the spending spree started for real.

And that program review?

It quietly vanished never to be heard from again.

Rather than cuts to the public sector, the province witnessed unprecedented growth and unprecedented rates of growth in public spending, across the board everywhere. 

And rather than cut jobs, the current Tories are the government that brought you the world in which 25% of the labour force draws a public paycheque.

So if Danny Williams couldn’t cut anything even after saying it in plain language, what makes anyone think that Kathy Dunderdale and the rest of her crew are even saying “cuts” let alone thinking about doing them?

Give your head a shake if you do.

- srbp -