Lis­ten­ing to the Bobs of the world

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky can be reached at rwanger@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

I’m just go­ing to call this col­umn “Out of the mouths of Bobs.”

Be­cause, the nu­cleus of it came from a Tweet made by a guy I fol­low on Twit­ter named Bob, who later ap­par­ently took his Tweet down be­cause of the heat it was gen­er­at­ing. (Be­cause of that, I’m not go­ing to say much more about his iden­tity.)

It was a blunt state­ment about the ways of the world and the province: I’m para­phras­ing, but it was ba­si­cally that peo­ple al­ways want to talk about the things that need to be done to cor­rect prob­lems — un­less those so­lu­tions ac­tu­ally di­rectly af­fect those blath­er­ing on about change.

In other words, we all have to tighten our belts, as long as the belt in ques­tion is not ac­tu­ally around our own waists.

Bob says the Tweet wasn’t de­lib­er­ately po­lit­i­cal — that it was about the tone and tenor of so­cial me­dia storms.

But the fact is, it’s at the core of one of the big­gest prob­lems of pol­i­tics in this province (pretty much across the coun­try, re­ally, but es­pe­cially here).

And that’s the fact that, when it comes to be­ing func­tion­ing mem­bers of a com­mu­nity, we’re of­ten too greedy for our own good, and politi­cians reg­u­larly cap­i­tal­ize on that.

Ex­am­ple A? Ches Cros­bie. The can­di­date for the PC lead­er­ship came out say­ing one of his first moves would be to re­move the pro­vin­cial sales on in­sur­ance.

Now, I don’t love the in­sur­ance tax. Far from it.

I re­cently got my stag­ger­ingly ex­pen­sive home in­sur­ance bill, soon to be fol­lowed by my stag­ger­ingly ex­pen­sive car in­sur­ance bill. I will spend a whack on money on both, be­cause all the com­pet­ing in­sur­ers are re­mark­ably close in the prices they quote, and I ba­si­cally have no choice about car­ry­ing in­sur­ance.

Both bills are stag­ger­ingly higher as a re­sult of the 15 per cent sales tax put on them by Dwight Ball’s gov­ern­ment in the 2016-2017 bud­get.

But while I don’t like the tax, I rec­og­nize its ne­ces­sity: the tax brings in $110 mil­lion a year or so, and if the gov­ern­ment doesn’t raise the money there, it ei­ther has to find the cash some­where else or bor­row more money. (Who knows? Maybe

Cros­bie will find the money by leg­is­lat­ing a spe­cial tax on the share of in­sur­ance bills that goes to pay­ing per­sonal in­jury lawyers like … Ches Cros­bie.)

Yet Cros­bie’s prom­ise will prob­a­bly be pop­u­lar with al­most every­one who looks at the taxes line on their stag­ger­ingly ex­pen­sive in­sur­ance bill.

It is, of course, the ab­so­lute ex­act struc­ture that both the Tories and the Lib­er­als used in the last elec­tion: of­fer gifts and prom­ises, and down­play what was al­ready the clearly de­vel­op­ing and bla­tantly ob­vi­ous fis­cal cri­sis in the province.

That cri­sis is still in place — yet the Ball gov­ern­ment, keenly aware that an elec­tion is again ap­proach­ing, has been nib­bling away at the very tax mea­sures that were sup­posed to shore up our fis­cal ca­pac­ity, do­ing things like lift­ing the ex­tra taxes on gaso­line.

Their ar­gu­ment is that, on the fis­cal side, things are get­ting bet­ter.

No. The hole we’re stand­ing in is not get­ting deeper at the same rate it was. It is still get­ting deeper, ev­ery day. We are still well over our heads in debt.

Think about just one small piece of the fis­cal puzzle: in Novem­ber, the province’s an­nual deficit was dis­closed as $852.4 mil­lion. The last time the province bor­row­ing money, it got an in­ter­est rate of 3.7 per cent.

That means, next year, in ad­di­tion to all the bills the province al­ready has, we’ll have to come up with $31.5 mil­lion just to pay ad­di­tional in­ter­est.

Surely we’ll have to tighten our belts — but, just like Bob said, the only ac­cept­able belt­tight­en­ing is on other peo­ples’ pants.

Out of the mouths of Bobs, in­deed.

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