Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The good and the bad

Today's papers had good and bad things coming from the Liberal government. Fortunately, it was just "the good and the bad" not "the good, the bad and the ugly".

The Good

Francis McGuire who, though a partisan, I think is pretty well respected, and Gilles Lepage, who as far as I know is a non partisan, will head up the Self-sufficiency task force. They will also turn around a report by April which is pretty impressive. Neither of these men will take a salary or per diem pay which I think is admirable and all New Brunswickers owe them a thanks for doing this work for us free-of-charge.

It looks like they are coming out of the gate thinking outside of the box with planned e-consultations, blogs, etc, etc to get as much input from ordinary New Brunswickers as possible. I am a bit skeptical as we often hear this kind of hype only to be disappointed but I am cautiously optomistic.

McGuire seems to have a very strong focus on getting New Brunswickers wages up to the Canadian average which is the antithesis to earlier economic growth plans which used lower costs as a means to attract businesses to the province. I am very curious to see how they will approach this and what exactly they have in mind to drive up wages. I've always been of the view that our lower wages are offset by the lower cost of living - i.e. shorter commutes and cheaper housing - but perhaps this is not the case.

I am very much anticipating their work and will be actively participating on their website.

UPDATE: News release and website

The Bad

As I mentioned before, I think that the Liberals should have honoured the HST/home heating rebate scheme of the Tories, even though I think it was bad policy and that the Tories misled New Brunswickers when they announced a program that even months later they had not prepared for. Why? Because they said during the election campaign that they would and you should try to live up to your promises. I am a bit torn on this because I always faulted Lord for removing the tolls from the highway because it was bad policy and he should have stood up and said "I promised this but it was a mistake, I didn't have all of the facts but I now see it would be wrong for New Brunswick to remove these tolls and I won't do what is wrong for New Brunswick."

The Liberals however have avoided making a similar statement. They should not have promised the HST rebate, but they did. They should have done as they have and not enacted it (it is unfair to call it "cancelled" as the program was not even planned, let alone implemented by the Tories), but in doing so, they should have apologized for their earlier promise.

Anyway, I got a bit off of my planned topic. Finance Minister Victor Boudreau is promising a sad budget. From the headline in the Times & Transcript... "Provincial tax hikes possible".

Boudreau makes a very good point when he says, "I have not yet met one individual who has volunteered to pay more taxes, but yet everybody wants more services, more infrastructure and more programs." He is absolutely right, the taxpayer cannot have it both ways. And the government should find some kind of combination of decreased expenditures (cuts) and increased revenue (likely though tax hikes) rather than face a deficit and increase the province's already far-too-high debt. However, that is never a pleasant experience for the province.

I am sad to find myself in agreement with the civil service union, but they make a very good point that 3000 jobs have already been cut since 1992. Assuming this number is accurate, and the total civil service is barely twice that number, then that is probably not the best place to look for cuts. Not surprisingly, Jeannot Volpé thinks that is the first place to look for cuts. No wonder the Liberals swept the Fredericton area.


Rose Colored Glasses said...

Firstly, the Lord Government HST tax cut on Home Heating Costs was budgeted and passed in the House. People could apply for the rebate starting in November for bills since July 2006. It was approved, planned, budgeted and REAL.

Secondly, Graham does indeed owe NB'ers an apology for breaking a promise to not only follow through on Lord's HST rebate program but he went even further and also promised to provide the rebate directly at source. (he had lots of time to decide if it was good or bad public policy way before the election) He lied to the people of NB. He should at least honor the rebate from July 2006 until he officially broke his promise and cancelled the program. People saved their bills and were counting on it, and he led us to believe it would happen and let us down big time.

I don't buy this "we didn't know, we were stupid in Opposition, we just made 300 silly promises all over NB and didn't know these things were 'bad policy'." Give me a break. Shawn Graham lied his way to office. He didn't disagree with the HST Tax Cut in the legislature in April, May or June, during the summer in July or Aug or did he disagree with it during the campaign. Why didn't he campaign on it being bad public policy? Why was it a promise on CBC TV and why did he promise it in his platform and go one step further and promise it at source?

But what happened? He actually got elected and had to start finding the money to meet all his promises and found he couldn't do it.

Some things he promised will not be done (like the HST promise) because he simply made too many promises. He will do somethings he did not campaign on like raise taxes and cut the civil service.

Why don't I buy the 'now that we are in gov't it is bad policy' argument? Because following that logic would be like not following through on cutting the Gas Tax. That will not encourage anyone to conserve fuel either. But he did it anyway. Why? Because he campaigned on it - he promised it. Not consistent. Not credible.

Thirdly, when asked during the election 'how will you pay for all these promises? (including the HST tax cut)' Graham said his plan was costed out by experts - trust us.

The Liberals had all the numbers in the Lord budgets and everybody knew what was being planned for spending - point lepreau, tuition tax rebate, highway work, etc. Graham did not promise tax increases or civil service cuts during the election. He lied. He lied.

He told us: It was costed out.

What he didn't tell us: that he was going to raise taxes and cut the civil service to pay for his promises.

People fell big time for this guy.

We should be outraged. But instead, people have come to expect it from politicians. Sad really. Same ole', same ole'. Too bad for democracy. Too bad for us poor people once again.

PS I too am impressed Francis McGuire is not getting paid for his work on this task force. Surprised really.

But do you know who will get paid? Doug Tyler, former McKenna MLA who works for Saint John Communications Company doing all the marketing for the task force. McGuire took one for the Liberal team so another Liberal friend could get a kickback instead.

Johann Sigurdsson said...

I agree with Rose Colored on this 100%. Actually if New Brunswickers don't punish the Libs and Shawn for this....well we will continue to have bad government so far I am not impressed with anything i have seen so far.

Anonymous said...

The liberals basically followed the Ontario liberal party's lead on this one. All the promises, a lousy media that doesn't ask any questions, and then get elected (even though most New Brunswickers didn't vote for them) and say "we didn't know how bad it was". Then bring out the pundits to start waxing eloquent about how "its too bad, but really, its the smart thing to do".

And just to mention, since moving to ontario my 'cost of living' is far lower. I can access natural gas for most of my heating, which most of New Brunswickers still can't do. I live closer to work than I could in NB, while I paid more for my house than a comparable one in NB, it has increased in value at 10% a year. Homes in Oromocto are selling at prices comparible to much of ontario. My municipal taxes are the same, but I get far more services. My food is somewhat cheaper, as is gas and hydro.

Once the power hike hits, and with more people on oil and hydro, that will depreciate any cost of living down to nil.

For self sufficiency, what a joke! Geez, even China at least does these things by committee...TWO guys?? It does appear people have short memories, oh what a glorious waste of money that "Commission on Legislative Democracy" became! But some people will bite every time.

nbpolitico said...

Ouch, I go a little hard on the government and the hounds are released.

Rose, your glasses seem to have a tint with more of a blue hue than rose could be described. I agree and fault the Liberals for supporting the HST rebate, which it appears they did only because it was popular.

However, the concept of the Tory scheme being approved, planned, budgeted and REAL is non sense. The Finance Department and even the Tories have admitted that they still hadn't figured out how to process the bills.

Anonymous said...

even the Tories have admitted that they still hadn't figured out how to process the bills.

NB Tories not knowing how to manage the government or it's finances? Who would have ever thought ;)