Deceiving Oneself to the Cost of Others

Blog, Municipal Government, Frontier Centre

The provincial government’s 2013-14 budget has not fared well, no wonder.

Publius Publius

The budget hikes sales tax and other fees while projecting another major deficit (and increased borrowing), after taking into account not only projected new annual revenues of $300 million from the latest hikes ($600 million including the 2012-13 budget) but also another drawdown on what is left of a rapidly depleting “rainy day fund”.

The budget, implemented, will make a heavily indebted and high-taxed Manitoba even less competitive with other jurisdictions than it already is, resulting in less investment in the Province and more ‘movements out’ of the young, the skilled, the professionals  and the wealthy. Too add to the damage, the budget could lead to a credit downgrade, which would drive up provincial borrowing rates (making it even more diffcult to recover when sense is restored on Broadway).

While Minister Struthers delivered the budget, the primary architect and final approver of the budget’s composition is the Premier, Greg Selinger. While Dr. Selinger (doctorate, London School of Economics – apparently his ‘major’ was not finance, but social work) has been ‘top dog’ in the NDP government for only two years, following  a  decade as the Minister of Finance in former-Premier Doer’s NDP government.

The decisions to continue to ‘spend, tax and borrow’ eschewing sensible restraint in the face of prospects of even tougher times ahead (when the federal government reins in its own expenditures), are bad enough, but to ‘gut’ the balanced budget legislation and ignore past promises not to raise taxes without Manitobans voting on tax increase proposals are inexcusable. Rather than the openness and transparency he initially proclaimed for his government, we have increased opaqueness.

As Premier of a majority government, a government that either controls, strongly influences or attempts to control or influence virtually every aspect of public life in Manitoba, he wields incredible ‘power’, power that is virtually unchecked.

Unfortunately, those that sit at the Cabinet table with him lack the financial credentials (economic knowledge and experience) to provide a counter-balance to the Premier’s inclinations, and, compounding the problem of a lack of cautionary counsel, too many sectors of society rely on the largesse of government and `fear` speaking out (for the risk of losing favour).

Only Premier Selinger knows what is driving his actions, everyone else`s explanation of his actions are speculative. Nevertheless, speculative thought suggests that having been `number two` to a former and slightly more cautious Premier Doer from 1999 to his own ascension to power, and now well entrenched ìn power` (in a Province where government is involved in every sector of the economy), he is determined to `do what he can while he can` to address issues `close to his heart`.

Before 1999, Premier Selinger was a Professor at the University of Manitoba (social work), and, accordingly, took a keen interest in social work matters. His actions suggest he is determined to act to further issues important to him, regardless of the state of the provincial, national  and international economy, changes that have occurred from his days as  Minister of Finance, and the risks his government`s actions entail for the broader environment over the short, mid and long term.

By ignoring both the `big picture` and the risks that must be patently apparent to someone of his intellect, and virtually unchecked given his and his party`s position, Premier Selinger, in his own mind trying  to `do good`, may well end up bringing more `harm` than `the good` he apparently ardently seeks.