I would like to say that I am happy to be back home but it is difficult to come back to full-blown winter and be happy about it. Joanne and I had the privilege of being able to take a couple of weeks off and travel to the southern United States and enjoy a warmer climate and relax for a few days. This is something that a lot of Canadians do and certainly in Saskatchewan it seems to be something that we work hard to achieve. But at the end of the day, home is where the heart is.
A huge area of discussion in the United States in the last few weeks has been the gridlock between re-elected President Obama and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives over the issue of how the US is going to handle their staggering accumulated public debt. I am sure you have all heard the expression “the fiscal cliff” that is often referred to as Americans approach the end of 2012. If an agreement cannot be hammered out, then a whole set of taxation and government-funded initiatives will kick in or kick out in 2013 which possibly could drive the American economy back into recession.
A lot of this problem is occurring because of the dysfunction in the American political system. Partisanship has been carried to new heights and the recent American presidential election only exacerbated the hard feelings between Democrats and Republicans – the right and the left and the rich and the poor. The American system has become its own worst enemy.
What has also happened is that Americans seem to be holding their elected politicians in a lower regard all the time. This feeling is growing because Americans believe that they have been lied to for far too long by their elected representatives and that special interest groups have taken over their country. The financial problems that so many Americans are feeling these days could have been averted if the elected politicians had only told the truth.
With the availability of the internet and Canadian TV where we were staying, it was not difficult to follow the goings on in Saskatchewan and Canada and yes, my wife constantly reminded me that this was supposed to be a holiday and I’m not suppose to think about these things on a daily basis. That is difficult to do when you hear that our Provincial Auditor tells our government that the $56.2 million surplus that they are forecasting is really a deficit of $528.3 million. And according to our Auditor, our government uses two different sets of financial statements “depending upon the message it wants to send the public regarding the state of its finances”. Our Auditor also said that “creative accounting rules allowed the government to report a surplus of $352.3 million on March 31 when it should have reported a deficit of $46 million”. Our Auditor further stated “that Saskatchewan should join the rest of Canada and should report its finances to its people with one set of books”.
You have heard me say in this commentary over the last few years that the hard lessons Saskatchewan learned in the 1980s and 1990s with deficit financing should not be allowed to continue and that the only set of books this province should own is a summary-financial statement. The previous NDP government ignored this and the current Sask Party government ignored this principle. The NDP did have some tough financial years as an excuse but then again, socialists have always believed in using the Crown Corporations as back-door taxation as a way to pay our bills.
The Sask Party in opposition said this was totally wrong and that they would correct it. The Sask Party government have had some of the best financial years in our history to correct this wrong. They have continued to use the Crowns as back-door taxation, stripping dividends to make up the shortfalls caused by unwise budget decisions and over spending. Obviously, the Sask Party spends too much time listening to the CEO’s of potash companies and their bullish projections rather than the realities of the marketplace. Obviously, the Sask Party is more interested in their political agenda rather than the province’s fiscal reality when making their budgetary decisions. The NDP can perhaps be forgiven their fiscal agenda because it has always been part of their socialist dogma. The same cannot be said for the Saskatchewan Party.
There are still those in this province and certainly members of the media who want to hang Saskatchewan’s fiscal problems on a former PC government which has not been in office for over 21 years. The PC Party recognized a long time ago that the balance between income and expenditures can only be truly understood through a summary financial statement and that any future PC government would have that as a cornerstone of its administration. All through our lives as individuals, we learn tough lessons and the trick is not to repeat the same mistake over and over again. The same should apply to our political parties.
Brad Wall is always searching around for a legacy project and we have seen him bounce from carbon capture to arenas and other grandiose projects. He keeps talking about eliminating the provincial debt and at the same time, continues to pile debt on the Crowns. The greatest legacy anyone could give this province is to move us into the current century and give the people of this province one set of financial books so that the voters and taxpayers of this province can ascertain who the liars are so that we don’t approach our own “fiscal cliff” in the near future.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.