Monday, November 26, 2007

Economic Outlook - Premier Wall

On the very day the SaskParty was sworn into office the new Premier, Brad Wall made the statement that "What the previous government has left behind, financially, is fairly stark." On the other hand, former Premier, Lorne Calvert stated he left a $2-billion surplus for Wall's government and if that's not enough, then the Saskatchewan Party can't manage its money.

This is a very interesting situation regarding Saskatchewan’s financial status. To begin with it is a better financial status than former Premier Grant Devine, of whom Brad Wall used to work for, left the NDP in 1991. The SaskParty has served in opposition for about a decade. If you look at how the opposition is defined it is to serve as the protector of the public purse. In other words, it was the SaskParty who was responsible over the last ten years to make sure your taxdollars were being spent prudently and that reserves were in place for leaner times. The SaskParty had many avenues to address the NDP government’s management of the province’s finances.

To begin with, the NDP government intoduced their budget every year wherein they set out in detail the nature of their expenditures. The SaskParty would then question the NDP government during the budget debate in the legislature and then would virtually cross-examine the finance minister and his officials during what is called the estimates when the legislature would break into what is commonly referred to as Committee of the Whole. After the budget is approved the books are eventually audited and a Standing Committee of the Legislature, the public accounts committee, reviews the auditors findings contained in his report and the public accounts committee then reports to the legislative assembly. Simply, there is an exhaustive sytem in place for the opposition to dig into the financial affairs of the governmnent of the day. There is a similar process in place to look deep into what the crown corporations are doing through the Standing Committee on Crown and Central Agencies.

One could fairly ponder who was really responsible for the finances of our province since the NDP took power in 1991. One thing is for sure, the SaskParty had a responsibility and if Calvert only left a $2-billion surplus on the table it was, in part, the fault of the SaskParty' performance in opposition.

Now set aside all that I have stated to this point and you are left with a very interesting question. On what basis did the SaskParty make all their expensive election promises if they really didn’t know the true nature of the province’s financial status? I suppose it must have been make the promises and hope for the best. I sure hope they don’t govern that way.

Regardless, Grant Devine came to power when the province was in a terrible financial situation. Agriculture was down, the resource sector was down and interest rates were threw the roof. Brad Wall has come into power with a province that is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom. Premier Brad Wall’s first comments on the province’s finances, crying wolf and indicating the province may not be in very good financial shape, is a weak comment at best in an attempt to play down the voters expectations of this new SaskParty government’s ability to deliver on their election promises.

Either way you look at it the SaskParty either failed in opposition, and if you fail there you may fail in government, made too many expensive election promises they may now not be able to keep, even with $2-billion on the table and a rosy provincial economy, or are setting up to make cuts to services they don’t like in order to pay for their election promises. It was a poor start for the SaskParty on the matter of our province’s financial status. Former Premier, Grant Devine performed well given the province’s economic situation when he became Premier. We should expect more from Premier, Brad Wall given the strong economic state of Saskatchewan’s economy.