Is it necessary?
Mark it on your calendar, because you know it’s coming - for all it’s worth.
Actually, for some in the province if you’re reading this, you’re already too late as it has passed you by and you missed out on a lottery-winning experience. Or did you? Yes, Finance Minister Tom Marshall has once again embarked on his series of cross-province consultation sessions with people who follow the financial state of affairs in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s government is hard at work piecing together the 2012-13 budget to unveil to the people of the province later this spring.
However, before she dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts, she wants to know how the people of the province would like government to spend their tax dollars.
This is not a new exercise for whatever government is sitting in power in the province, and especially not for Minister Marshall, who must enjoy his annual jaunt around the province as sort of a holiday. However, those hoping for that post-christmas financial gift, it’s the same old song and dance.
It’s also getting mundane to know the province expects to have in hand a major pile of cash - projected surplus for 2011-12 was revised in November to $755.8 million, up from the $59.1 million that was projected in April - heading into the pre-budget, but already says it gone to reduce the province’s net debt.
If only past finance ministers had the money Minister Marshall has to play with each year, maybe the needs and requests wouldn’t be so great - or repetitive.
Just think back to the early 2000s, when Loyola Sullivan was making his rounds across the province, and he carefully, but emphatically, spelled out the province’s desperate financial situation to all who would listen.
In those days, nothing ever became of the suggestions - logical, desperately needed, or just plain out of touch as they may have been - Minister Sullivan received because his hands were tied trying to manage the deficit.
Given the improved financial state and economic status of the province over 10 years ago, one would think Minister Marshall would be in a far better position to say: “This year we have some extra money and we’re going to spend it on you - our faithful followers.” There’s no arguing $755.8 million, and don’t most people live in today and worry about the future when it becomes the present.
The fact is, just like Minister Sullivan, even though a little more forthcoming, Minister Marshall has already said the money will be put towards the deficit.
So expect the same as you go to the pre-budget consultations, Minister Marshall may also only be politely listening, and even though he may even be somewhat interested, there are no plans to infuse the upcoming budget with any additional cash other than what government already has in its mind.