Friday, January 05, 2007

Keep it comin' Jeannot

As I expected, Jeannot Volpé is proving to be a dream for this blog. I'll have lots of fun posts to write about the nonsense he'll be sure to continue to spout over his term as interim Conservative leader.

The Telegraph-Journal is reporting today that the Liberals may wait until after the end of the fiscal year - March 31 - to table their first budget if new equalization figures are not yet available as of that date.

Volpé complains that this is in violation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act which requires a budget tabled by March 31. Notwithstanding this requirement, the Auditor General is quoted as saying "there are no consequences in the legislation if that date is not met" and goes on to explain that the only real concequence is if a budget is not passed by July 31 at which time, under the Financial Administration Act, the government loses its authority to spend money.

In my mind, it would be sound fiscal policy to pass your budget before the end of the fiscal year because, until it passes, you keep operating on last year's budget. Thus, whether a budget is introduced on March 31 or April 1 (the last day of the fiscal year of the first day of the new one) it doesn't really matter because neither will be in effect until well into the fiscal year.

Let's take a look at when the Tories introduced their budgets:

  • March 28, 2000

  • March 27, 2001

  • March 26, 2002

  • December 10, 2002 (for fiscal year 2003-2004)

  • March 30, 2004

  • March 30, 2005

  • March 28, 2006
What this shows us is that the Tories, in all instances but one, did not introduce their budgets until the last Tuesday of March (the budget is, by tradition, always introduced on a Tuesday). There is required by the Standing Orders six sitting days of debate and the House sits four days per week. Therefore, in all of theses instances, it was impossible for the late introduced Tory budget to pass by the end of the fiscal year. It also seems that there was no real reason for them to wait to a late date because, as we saw in the lead up to the 2003 election, when their political purposes suited them, the Tories could introduce a budget three and a half months earlier than their norm.

So, as I said, it is mere semantics whether or not your budget is introduced just before or just after the fiscal year ends because it has the same effect - the budget isn't passed until well into the year for which it is budgeting.

So what Volpé is screaming about is something that all three of his budgets were guilty of, as were most of the budgets of his predecessors in the Lord Government.

However, there are a lot of other problems with his claim.

1. The provision requiring a budget to be tabled by March 31 is a new feature included in the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act which was passed last year. Rather unusually, the government proclaimed this Act as a law in force after they lost the election, but before transition had occured, on September 21, 2006.

2. Volpé's arguement was not that it is bad policy to introduce a budget late but that "I don't think it would look good for the government to not follow laws. They can't ask everyone else to abide by the law and then not do it themselves." However, this is a matter of the government meeting a superficial deadline in law by a matter of days or weeks. Volpé's government refused to obey the law and appoint a Child and Youth Advocate for over two years.

3. Lord ran a number of deficits in his budgets and invariably blamed it on federal government monies not being at the level he expected. Volpé should be applauding the government for working to avoid running "surpluses" that actually turn out to be deficits when the feds come through with the cheques.


Even better than this nonsensical criticism is this gem which I will allow to stand on its own from the mouth of Mr. Volpé:

I want all the attention on the session itself. And put all the attention on it and all our work on it so there is no time lost on who will be the best leader, should he be from inside the party, outside the party, bilingual, unilingual, whatever. That will create internal division and I don't need it. So nobody will talk about the leadership race before the session was over.
Yes, that's right, Volpé is forbidding people from even beginning to campaign until after the legislative session! We will be looking forward to almost a full year of Volpé at this rate... heh heh heh


nbpolitico said...

Also interesting to note that Volpé stresses that the next leader could be from inside or outside the party, could be bilingual or unilingual but the one thing that is important is that "he" be a man.

Very progressive of the leader of the PC Party ;)

Spinks said...

"A man", seriously? Given Volpe's comments before, I'm guessing (or at least hoping) something was lost in translation because that sounds really strange.

Still I'm not convinced Volpé was a good choice, well unless you're a Liberal and then he's an excellent choice. :)

Anonymous said...

I am no apologist for Volpe but I think he meant be person of his/her words and stand up to the heat. If he would have said be 'a male' only then media would have been all over him.

nbpolitico said...

I know, it was a joke and an example of how his poor command of the English language will not serve him well.

If an Anglophone had slipped up and said, in reference to a future leader, "he" must have x, y and z qualities, the media would have clammered the Anglophone. Volpé gets a free pass because English is his second language, just as some leniency, I hope, would be given to a Anglophone making efforts in French.

The point is however, that, though Volpé obviously didn't mean the leader had to be male, it is what he said and though the press may give him a bit of a break, New Brunswickers watching him in QP probably won't and this is bad news for the Tories and great news for the Grits.

me said...

I don't think I follow. The law requires that it be TABLED by March 31, not that it be passed by then. Therefore the tories always met this law. Plus, if the law was just proclaimed this fall then obviously they had no opportunity to break it.

So Volpe seems justified in stating that IF the liberals break that law then there are indeed, breaking the law. Over at Charles website he's talking about breaking the law as well, it might be a bad law, but if that's the case then it should be challenged.

The liberals could very easily have met in the fall and changed that law, in fact they can change it when the next session meets. Maybe they will, however, Volpe seems to be well within his rights to state that if this is the law, and the liberals are breaking it, they are breaking the law.

That does set a bad example, and Volpe had nothing to do with Child services so that can't be pinned on him.

As for deficits, that's the convenient thing when equalization factors in so heavily-there's always a convenient excuse when a deficit slips in. Of course that's what makes the deficit law so stupid, that federal monies can't be predicted. If the feds had made massive cuts then would the result be all the provincial departments close down?

It would make more sense to make the legislation look at only the provincial portion of the budget.

nbpolitico said...

I am not saying that Volpé's statement that the Liberals would be breaking the law is incorrect.

I just think it is hypocrtical for him to be calling the Liberals out for musing about skipping the deadline in the law, a new deadline snuck in by the Tories after they lost the election, by a matter of days or weeks at most when Volpé was a member of a government that broke the law for over two years in not appointing a Child and Youth Advocate.

As I said, "Volpé's arguement was not that it is bad policy to introduce a budget late but that 'I don't think it would look good for the government to not follow laws. They can't ask everyone else to abide by the law and then not do it themselves.'" Yet his government didn't follow its own laws for well over a year.

I am saying that a) the law is stupid but also that b) it is a bit rich for Volpé to cry bloody hell when the Liberals are talking about doing for a few weeks what the Tories did for a few years.

I do not advocate the Liberals breaking the law, I think they should amend it or, failing that, follow it. What has been rumoured however, that the government wait until it know its revenues before proposing a budget, is good policy and it is what they should do.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the Act says "There is established the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate," They didn't name an actual candidate, however the 'office' was created as a department of family services.

To find government doing things illegal isn't too hard, just ask any native band about that. However, 'screaming' at the government is Volpe's job now, I'll start really worrying when he stops. The word 'hypocritical' is just a synonym for 'politician'.

nbpolitico said...

The act also says that the government "shall appoint" an advocate.

The sad part is though that the government agreed to vote for the Child and Youth Advocate Act on June 30, 2004 as part of a deal with the opposition to get out of the legislature for the summer.

Essentially, they were willing to put laws on the books they had no intention of following in order to start summer vacation ASAP - that's a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but note it says 'shall appoint', which they were in the process of doing by holding interviews and advertising. There is always 'legalese' that gets government out of 'breaking the law'. But which is worse, wanting to get out of the legislature before summer vacation, or not even holding a session so that MLA's get an almost half a year vacation. In politics, its tough work finding the good guys. So Volpe may well be a hypocrite, but as opposition leader its his job to scream and rant about everything the government does, its unfortunate that he rants so little.

Anonymous II said...

Just face it, by delaying "the introduction" of the budget past March 31 the Liberals are breaking the law. They already think they are above the Law don't they. Arrogant. Too bad the tories didn't put stiffer penelties in place for not following it. They should have been quicker on the draw. When the Libs say they will delay we don't know if it will be 7 days or 7 weeks do we?? And if the government waited for the Federal Gov't who knows when that will be. When you do a budget you put your best numbers in that you know of at that point. It is called a budget, a best guestamate. This happens every year.

Volpe was right when I read it was really the Liberals attempt to fool the people of Moncton East during a byelection by not telling them the truth. Sounds like the lies they told during the Provincial Election - HST rebate ring a bell - just ask Terry Seguin on CBC TV.

Also, talk about a contradiction on the Child and Youth Advocate. NBPolitico defends the Libs - it was them who proposed the stand alone office of Child and Youth Advocate, the gov't agreed to it in negotiation. Because the Libs proposed this new position they got many NBers hopes up who applied. People applied for this new job in good faith. But when the Libs got in power they cancelled the competition that had 3 qualified people on the eligibility list and gave the job to the ombudsman. Very qualified I might add. But no more stand alone office that the Opposition Liberals were beating their chests about, just to get political points I guess.

As things change, they stay the same. NBPolitico you are losing credibility from this reader!

nbpolitico said...

anon at 11:26.. there is no point in debating around in circles here, but I will make one final point. The law passed on June 30, 2004. It took effect on April 1, 2005 with the language "shall appoint" - which a lawyer friend tells me means the government must do it. They had 10 months to recruit a candidate, but they did not even begin recruitment until a year after the law had taken effect.

With respect to the supposed "vacation", it seems to me that the cabinet has been putting in a lot of work and the 5 month period from swearing-in to holding a session of the legislature is standard practice for all governments going back several generations - including Bernard Lord, took office June 21, 1999; legislature held first substantive session November 30, 1999 - 162 days. The Liberals took office October 3, 2006 and will meet the legislature on February 6, 2007 - 126 days - more than a month sooner than Lord did. I don't see the problem?

anon ii - I don't even know where to begin. I am sorry that I am losing credibility with you, but I call things the way I see them and that includes some criticism of the Liberals. (See here, here, here, here)

The Liberals never said anything about a standalone Child Advocate, they just wanted to set up the position with the powers that come with it. When Bernard Richard volunteered to take on the role in addition to that of Ombudsman so as to get the Tories to appoint SOMEONE, the Liberals endorsed the plan. (See papers from March 23, 2005)

Volpe is not right about the budget delay having anything to do with a by-election in Moncton East. That by-election will, I suspect, long be over before the last Tuesday in March which is the Volpe model date for introducing budgets. That claim is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"Shall appoint" does mean 'have to do it', but unless you've got a reference from the legislation that says 'within ten months' I don't see that. The government-ease always covers that - "yes, we're right on it", and "yes, we're getting ready right now".

Fall sessions are a little different than summer sessions, virtually no governments meet in the summer. But just go look at the government announcements, hardly anything.

They've been quite busy fudging numbers and breaking promises, but politicians can do that without breaking a sweat. Virtually no department has come out with anything substantive since the election. How long does it take Lamrock to relocate a school? As a lawyer he had that press release written up inside an hour.

So that's not 'real busy'. And of course we don't live in a plutocracy, so when people say 'work' they mean the legislature. If people want government to sit in an ivory tower and dictate decisions without any reference to the legislature they should move to China.

The commentor above is quite right when he talks about the perception of politics. How many people went through the bother of applying and putting other offers on hold because of legislation the liberals pushed. Then to hand it over to the ombudsman is a real slap in the face.

Anybody that takes a casual look at Charles Leblanc's site knows the ombudsman has far far more things to be doing than this file. Not to mention the blatant conflict of interest that an ombudsman is in by being a 'youth advocate'. An ombudsman is supposed to be completely objective, they aren't supposed to be advocates of anything but justice.

nbpolitico said...

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, you are seeing in this government thinks that no matter how hard I look I cannot myself see.