My 134th budget: promises, plans and words to be forgotten
Tisdale - Saturday,March 31, 2012
Each spring we the citizens of our dominion endure two traumatic events, a provincial budget and a federal one. It is part and parcel of a democracy, it is what we elect our representatives to stand in for us and oversee the expenditure of the taxes and revenue of the country. Our constitution specifies some portions of governance to the province and some to the federal government. Since 1867 the demarkation lines between the two has not been as clear as it might have been intended so that each year we the tax payers of this country are pretty much spectators in the process of collecting and spending the money to run our governments.
In feudal times the sovereign had to look after defending his property, which included the peasants who worked the land and supplied him with food and the services he and his household required. The things needed, like battlements, roads, bridges and armour needed money to acquire and if didn’t have the cash he had to figure out a way to pay for things. There is a limit to how much you can steal from your neighbour before your neighbour steals from you so putting a hand into the pocket of the peasants seemed like the only thing to do. For several hundred years this sort of worked out but when the king, Richard Coeur de Lion was kidnapped there simply wasn’t enough money in the treasury to cover the expense. Richard’s brother John just upped the anti on the amount he would extract from the people of the kingdom. He ran into resistance and was, at the point of a sword forced to sign the “great charter” the Magna Carta which limited his power and set in motion what is today our parliamentary system of government.
To listen to conservatives in Canada and the United States one would think that a country needs no money or government to function. They somehow visualise roads and bridges building themselves, armies and navies coming into being at the wave of a magic wand but that is not the case. The role of a society is to look after itself and since the time of King John we the people have demanded more than roads, bridges and swords for our soldiers. We have deemed it essential that all our citizens be educated and we also deem it appropriate that we see that all citizens have equal access to medical care. Those two items make up the largest expenditures in our provincial budgets.
Oddly enough the conservatives believe that we live in a “free market economy” where business should be able to engage in whatever activity it needs to do in order to increase profits. They really and truly believe that. However, the facts are quite different. In 2008 the banking system in the United States and the auto industry went broke and low and behold those two industries, the icons of a free market economy were maintained and subsidize out of the public purse. They were “to big to fail.”
Check this out, yesterday one of the most wealthy companies in maritime Canada, Irving Shipbuilding, with a contract to build $25 billion worth of warships for Canada received a loan of just over $300 million from the government of Nova Scotia of which they will only have to repay $44 million back. Of course their is a “free market economy” but you the tax payer will never see any signs of it in this modern economy.
So much of what passes for politics is just pure myth and exaggerated legends. At the heart of the problem is the complete lack of any form of success in the most important social science. Economics is quite simply balderdash. You can do just as good of a job predicting the financial future by flipping a coin to counting the hairs on the back of your hand as economists can claim any certainty on just about anything. The ugly truth is that most politicians know this to be true, even the prime minister himself is an economist, so they rely on beliefs.
This is easy to do. We all do it, half truths become “facts” in our mines only because of errors or information mistakes.
When doing a human geography class in the 1970s I discovered that there had been a farm family on almost every quarter section of land in southern Saskatchewan and somehow I got it in my head that there was at one time two million people in this province. No, I was wrong. This past year we hit the top so far at just over a million.
The point is, and it is an important point, we all base our opinions on what we think we know. Since we rely on every day citizens like ourselves to accept the responsibility of making laws and voting on budgets. Errors are not just something that might happen, they are a certainty.
Okay, assuming I am right or even partly right, mistakes will occur. Expected government earnings may be off as happened here in Saskatchewan a few years ago when the finance minister, a well meaning guy saw to his amazement $400 million short in expected revenue. The reality is, a lot of the time things just don’t work out. So, what do we do?
First and foremost just because you believe something, doesn’t make it reality. If you think the world is flat don’t try sailing or flying around the world. Swearing that your belief system is the only belief system is not a good working method. That is a guarantee to produce certain failure. To cushion the possibility of errors, mistakes or the unexpected, listen to the opinions of others. Do not act like you are from Fox News or Sun News and paint everyone with a different view than yours as some radical, or flake that is without merit.
In a political discussion yesterday I was amazed at how American a fellow from Carrot River sounded when instead of listening to my point of view, he immediately chose to categorize me as a manifestation of whatever marginal entity he had contempt for. He was a strong conservative supporter, so my comments about my lack of support of the latest provincial budget immediately tarred me as a radical socialist. Just in case he happens to read this, I doubt if he ever let his name stand and ran for a seat in the provincial legislature. I did, in 1971 and I did it as a Progressive Conservative when I was working in the office of then leader of Progressive Conservative party, Ed Nasserden.
Name calling and labelling is so un-Canadian, so small minded that it really is a distinct form of mental impairment. To avoid mental impairment of this sort listen to other points of view, base your opinion on some real facts and don’t think anything is anything more than a good guess or opinion. With that as a basis you will be in a better position to make a reasonable decision. That’s really all we can ask our amateur politicians to do. Listen to us, listen to each other and hide when anyone pulls out something that is based on a belief system or ideology of some kind.
The best budgets by government have always been made by the best listeners and those who are best able to construct working compromises.