The thing I don’t understand—one of many actually, but let’s start with this one—is whatever happened to the debt?
Whenever governments decide to put us on short rations—as the NDP did after it came to power in 2009, as the federal Liberals did in the 1990s—they do their best to frighten us into submission with the double-whammy bogeymen of unsustainable annual deficits and future-defying, long-term debt walls.
But then, as soon as they tame the former, they quickly forget the latter lives on.
How else to explain Darrell Dexter’s pre-budget good-news announcement last week? The province is declaring a balanced-budget dividend and will soon begin lowering the HST it raised to slay the deficit dragon Not to forget eliminating the large corporation tax, cutting the small business tax and throwing in a few tax-credit bones for good measure.
Tucked in a forgotten drawer of the next day’s budget speech was the reality that, despite declining annual deficits, the province’s net direct debt will actually increase from $13.3 to $13.7 billion by the end of the coming fiscal year.
That represents a $14,547 hobble for everyone of us, infants and the elderly included. And paying just the interest—$881 million a year, or about 10 per cent of what government departments spend on actual services—“crowds out government activities from sectors that it should be more active in, from education to social welfare to economic development,” as the government’s blue-ribbon economic panel of economic advisors succinctly put it back in 2009.
The NDP isn’t alone in ignoring the debt.
Tory leader Jamie Baillie, who hasn’t met a tax he wouldn’t cut, was puppy eager to slash the HST deeper and faster. Oh, yes, and balance the budget yesterday too. Debt? What debt?
Liberal leader Stephen McNeil wants the government to cut the gasoline tax.
Business leaders—who pretend they know how to read a balance sheet—clamoured for even more tax cuts… for themselves.
No one, it seems, wants to talk about the debt. Or, alternatively, restoring some of the public services cut in the name of restraint.
And so the debt grows. Until the next time a government needs to scare us with an even bigger bogeyman.