What is quite alarming is both premiers, a defiant Brad Wall and a smug Rachel Notley are taking great delight in trading ‘brave’ social media insults with each other about why each of their budget methodologies is better.
Wall is of the “looks good on the financial books, it will equate to a healthy society.” Notley is of the financial carpe diem, “seize the day and spend, ... spend for the future.”
To an outsider, it would seem the fiscally and socially sound truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two contrasting styles. The Alberta budget features a lot of government spending: a $10.3 billion deficit with this budget alone, with fiscal pundits predicting Alberta’s debt will be over $71 billion, with a capital “B” by the time 2019-2020 comes. Hindsight being 2020 ... (insert joke here).
Wall’s budget is also troubling for different reasons. The Saskatchewan Party braintrust is thinking like a business — less government involvement per sé. Offload the costs onto the municipalities. The municipalities can make the decisions on programs they want to save such as their local libraries. Some would argue that’s giving more power to the hands of the local people.
That’s how a business works, moving numbers around, transferring them from one spread sheet to the other.Whatever it takes to make that bottom line look good for the financial institutions.
Saskatchewan Transportation Company’s closure? Wasn’t making enough money, bleeding red ink and didn’t look good on the books. Nothing personal, just business 200-plus former employees soon to be out of work. Should the government have to lose a bunch of money?
Probably not, but there were so many cuts to so many programs that those with more modest lifestyles need, it adds up.
The library funding cut? No money at all for the Regina and Saskatoon libraries while those out in the rural areas cut by more than half. Again, that’s just a government looking at strictly the numbers and not the social impact on those people who can’t afford to spend money on expensive entertainment.
Libraries aren’t just places to get books.
A comment was made that people should look information up on the computer.
In rural areas, libraries are often places where community meetings are held. Adult learning classes or specialized social clubs for teens
and preteens are held such as the vast array of programs in Swift Current.
Offload the onus on the municipalities to figure out whether they want to have a library while cutting their government funding?
Instead of setting the libraries adrift on an iceflow, perhaps the government could do something like work with the local municipality administrators on how to apply for grants and fundraise through a provincial webinar, or perhaps set up some special programming with the municipalities to help them stabilize their funding. No, it’s all about business. Make more money and let the low income and rural people figure it out.
The budget also included an increase to the provincial sales tax to six per cent and waving the exemption on children’s clothing (makes money).
The critics have charged Wall is a populist premier as long as things are going well, but now, he has to make all these cuts in order to find
that budget balance. There were a lot of non-advantageous adjustments to agriculture-based programs too which probably didn’t help the rural area. Perhaps Wall is banking on the fact the rural area is where he enjoys his greatest support. Perhaps they will forgive him and the government for the harshness of the budget while trying to appeal to the urban people saying the rural people are doing their fair share. Urbanites for example complain about the number of rural municipalities in comparison to the population.
The unfortunate reality in all these rural numbers with STC, the R.M.s, agriculture, and libraries: ‘numbers’ equate to real people.
While it is great for spreadsheet lovers who don’t want to have to deal with transportation costs and want everything confined to a city so they don’t have to worry about people in out-of-the-way places such as Consul or La Ronge, the fact is, because of employment or lifestyle, not everyone wants to live in Regina full-time. The premier doesn’t.
Perhaps a few tougher decisions should have been made earlier on when times were a bit better. Rather than a more gradual cost-cutting approach by taking the band-aid off in slow increments, Wall gave it one gigantic rip.
Maybe the strategy is simple. Make it a tough budget now while the economy and the opposition NDP are still struggling, hope the price for a barrel of oil rises and come next election, give the voters a lot of goodies and perks — such as a new library.
Wall has been a “premier of the people.” Inadvertently, the populist premier has thrown down the gauntlet: Saskatchewan people look after each other.
Let’s see how well the citizens do it now. If they want to maintain status quo: they have no choice.