The fine print under election promises
So, CF-18s are still flying combat missions in the war against ISIS, and the federal Liberal government isn’t managing to bring in Syrian refugees at the rate it promised. Federal deficit targets now seem unlikely, and in Alberta, the new provincial NDP government is cautioning that some of its promises will have to be delayed because of the downturn in oil revenues.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial Liberals promised they wouldn’t lay off civil servants during their November election campaign, but are now faced with a $2-billion current account shortfall (oil prices, again). It’s asked government departments and agencies to find savings of up to 30 per cent in their operating budgets over the next three years, and, hey - presto! - civil service layoffs are very much back on the table.
“To say that anything is not on the table would be irresponsible, but to say that we have our minds made up on something would also be not factual as well,” Newfoundland Finance Minister Cathy Bennett said this week.
“Every single thing that we can consider is going to be on the table until we develop the plan that we want to implement.”
Nova Scotia’s provincial government passed legislation freezing public service wages for the province’s 75,000 public sector workers for two years, followed by a three per cent raise.
Here’s Nova Scotia Finance Minister Randy Delorey: “What we are trying to do is to align our investments in the province of Nova Scotia with our ability to pay.”
The Nova Scotia Liberals, during the 2013 election, had talked about stopping handouts to big business. Their platform had not one single word about clipping the collective bargaining abilities of 75,000 voters.
Perhaps election promises should have their own fine print disclaimers - like these scraps I’ve unabashedly cribbed from the bottom of an RBC Insurance press release.
“Certain statements contained in this press release may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. … Forward-looking statements are typically identified by words such as ‘believe,’ ‘expect,’ ‘foresee,’ ‘forecast,’ ‘anticipate,’ ‘intend,’ ‘estimate,’ ‘goal,’ ‘plan’ and ‘project’ and similar expressions of future or conditional verbs such as ‘will,’ ‘may,’ ‘should,’ ‘could’ or ‘would.’”
And don’t forget hedging your promises - oh, sorry, your “forward looking statements” - with a few self-protective safety nets.
“By their very nature, forwardlooking statements require us to make assumptions and are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties, which give rise to the possibility that our predictions, forecasts, projections, expectations or conclusions will not prove to be accurate, that our assumptions may not be correct and that our forward-looking statements … will not be achieved.
“We caution readers not to place undue reliance on these statements as a number of risk factors could cause our actual results to differ materially from the expectations expressed in such forward-looking statements. These factors - many of which are beyond our control and the effects of which can be difficult to predict - include: credit, market, liquidity and funding, insurance, operational, regulatory compliance, strategic, reputation, legal and regulatory environment, competitive and systematic risks and other risks … weak oil and gas prices; the high levels of Canadian household debt; exposure to more volatile sectors; cybersecurity; anti-money laundering; the business and economic conditions in Canada, the United States and certain other countries … the effects of changes in government fiscal, monetary and other policies; tax risk and transparency; and environmental risk.”
Unfortunately, those are the same excuses governments give after they fail to live up to their promises.
Maybe, like big business, they should be required to admit up front that they’re only making the most sunshine-y of pre-election assumptions.