Deep, dark hole

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

It’s of­fi­cial. We are the Greece of Canada. By 2020, ev­ery adult and child in this prov­ince could owe more than $40,000 as a share of the provin­cial debt. And that’s only if the Lib­er­als’ pes­simistic fis­cal up­date re­leased last Tues­day is pes­simistic enough.

(Ac­tu­ally, the per capita debt of Greece last year was $38,000. Cana­di­ans owe about $34,000 a head, while the worst debt per per­son in the world is Ja­pan, at just un­der $100,000.)

Nei­ther Fi­nance Min­is­ter Cathy Ben­nett nor Premier Dwight Ball seemed to be hold­ing back punches Tues­day.

“If left unchecked, the ex­tremely dif­fi­cult fis­cal re­al­ity fac­ing our prov­ince will only worsen,” Ben­nett said. She then out­lined a num­ber of belt-trim­ming mea­sures to keep gov­ern­ment spend­ing in check.

“We value and rec­og­nize the pub­lic ser­vice - their ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and ded­i­ca­tion is cru­cial to ful­fill­ing the man­date we have set out,” she said in a state­ment.

“We need to uti­lize our pub­lic ser­vice so we can op­er­ate more ef­fi­ciently while de­liv­er­ing pro­grams and ser­vices that New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans ex­pect and de­serve.”

Ball, mean­while, re­fused to clar­ify whether that means he might break his prom­ise of no lay­offs. But their but­ter­ing up of pub­lic employees sug­gests some won’t be very happy with what’s to come.

Many felt the news on Tues­day was pre­dictable. The deficit will dou­ble to al­most $2 bil­lion this year. That blows away any pre­vi­ous record. With­out rad­i­cal changes in the way things are done, Ben­nett said, the to­tal debt could rise to more than $20 bil­lion by 2020.

None of this is the Lib­er­als’ fault. They cam­paigned blind, since the out­go­ing Tory gov­ern­ment wouldn’t release the num­bers be­fore the elec­tion.

In fact, not all the blame can be laid with the Con­ser­va­tives ei­ther.

It’s fair to fac­tor in the cost of the Muskrat Falls project, of course - even though it falls un­der a dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory than reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­tures. Yes, the Wil­liams ad­min­is­tra­tion over­spent when the go­ing was good. And since the drop in oil prices, sub­se­quent pre­miers have been far too op­ti­mistic in their pro­jec­tions.

But this is a world­wide down­turn. Alberta and On­tario are both in a ma­jor fix as well. It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that while we’re star­ing into the abyss, scream­ing at our own politi­cians for the mess we’re in.

The only ques­tion now is, will the premier swal­low his pride and put other aus­ter­ity mea­sures back on the ta­ble - in­clud­ing some sort of new tax rev­enue?

Be­cause it’s long past the time for coy, non­com­mit­tal an­swers.

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