The fine print un­der elec­tion prom­ises

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­ - Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky.

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.

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