23 January 2013

One Newsroom. Two Stories. @nlpoli

For the English crowed in Newfoundland and Labrador, @cbcnl gave its audience one story from the Auditor General’s report.

They focused on horrendous salary increases in one government agency.

From the Radio Canada desk in the same newsroom comes a completely different story that fits exactly with the Big Story that has been dominating headlines since the Premier warned of layoffs and spending cuts late last year.  The Radio Canada headline translates roughly to “Alarming increase in public spending in NL”.

The relevant section of the AG report on the Consolidated Financial Statements is on page three of the first chapter of the book:

Since 2003, the Province’s expenses have grown from $4.7 billion to $7.8 billion in 2012, an increase of $3.1 billion, or 66 %. Per capita expenses in Newfoundland and Labrador are the highest in Canada. Furthermore, per capita expenses are approximately 50% higher than the average of all other provinces.

Flip to the next page and you get this comment:

As Government attempts to deal with deficits over the medium term, it will have to consider a number of alternative options - increasing revenue, decreasing expenses, borrowing or a combination of all. A major consideration in determining the response to potential deficits will be whether they are viewed as being temporary or more sustained. The answer will, to a large
extent, depend on expectations of commodity prices and production levels.

Demographic change is one of the most significant indicators, or predictors, of the future demands on public services. Demographic issues have impacted the revenues and expenses of the Province in previous years and will continue to do so in the future. These  demographic issues include shifts in the population between various regions within the Province, migration to other jurisdictions and an aging population. Such issues will impact delivery of public services and the types of services required as well as their associated costs. The impact of demographic change will also have a significant impact on labour markets.

All very timely.

But isn’t it interesting at the two completely different stories that came out of the same news conference and, in effect, the same newsroom.

Incidentally, since the current Auditor General was deputy finance minister for the budget under review, he stepped aside and let the deputy AG direct the audit.