Friday, March 23, 2007

Provincial NDP Budget

The provincial budget delivered by Andrew Thomson yesterday is the last act of a government that we may not see for another decade. The government chose to spend more than it made in the fiscal year in question. When spending exceeds income debt is born. On the long term this is never a good option regardless of the reasons. The Grant Devine conservatives learned that hard lesson.

Granted, the provincial government has been experiencing record growth from our oil and gas sector and the economy is relatively hot. The question to consider is whether it is prudent to hand all that new revenue back to the people through long-term social programs like the drug plan for seniors that contains no income indexing. I fail to see how that program is sustainable over the long term. Frankly, it makes no sense for the government to pay prescription drug costs for those seniors who can well afford to pay for their own drug costs. I have no problem supporting seniors and non seniors with tax dollars for drugs if their income level clearly indicates they cannot afford the prescription drugs they need to maintain their health.

From a fiscal perspective the NDP government has on balance done quite well. In short, it is hard to make an argument that they should be defeated for how they have managed the province’s fiscal matters. On the other hand, it will be difficult for the government to take credit for Saskatchewan’s strong economy.

It may be tempting for taxpayers to wallow in the riches of new social programs. I prefer to believe most voters would prefer to pay down the debt, balance the budget, encourage business and growth in our province and care for those who are not able to care for themselves. Less government and reduced government spending is both responsible and necessary if we expect our tax dollars to be spent effectively by our governments.

The budget was tilted toward an election with an emphasis on urban voters. I believe the NDP have made a political tactical error that will cost them government. That having been said, they will have left Brad Wall and the SaskParty in a difficult situation when they form government. I guess one might consider it pay back time for the mess the conservatives left the NDP when they reclaimed power in 1991.

Hang on; a provincial election is coming soon. It really doesn’t matter what I think. Saskatchewan voters will soon get to judge all this at the polls. Thank goodness for democracy!