Archive for April, 2012

Change will take a little longer

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

“It looks like change will take a little longer,” said Alberta Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith on election night. Earlier in the election campaign, some had predicted a Wildrose victory but it was not to be, not yet. Wildrose only elected about one-third of the number of seats of the 41 year reigning PC Party of Alberta.
The PC Party of Alberta campaigned on change, Wildrose on more change and the people opted to go for less change rather than bigger changes.
The rest of Canada will have to follow Alberta’s lead in years to come. Alberta balances their budgets. They should actually be building up huge reserves but at least they balance their budgets. It’s something most provinces, including ours, can only dream about. Manitoba not only doesn’t balance the budget, it has to get 40 per cent of its budget from the federal government. Manitoba has so far to go to catch up to Alberta on that front that it may never come.
Change in Manitoba may come, some day. Hopefully it will come before the province goes belly up. 
There are some lessons we could take from Alberta. The largest part of Manitoba’s budget is taken up with health care. Again, it’s about 40 per cent of the budget. In other words, if the federal government funding was pulled out of Manitoba, we would have no publicly funded health care or other programs would be cut back accordingly.
In Alberta, health care is much different than in Manitoba. Both operate under the auspices, supposedly, of the Canada Health Act. But, in Alberta, you can buy an MRI or a CATSCAN. Not in Manitoba. Why?
It seems it is based on the NDP premise that health care can only be funded by the public coffers. They feel that if they let any private funding into the mix, all the “good” doctors will work in the private sector. They have said those exact words.
The problem is, depending on what you include  in the formula, 40 per cent of health care is privately funded already. Funny how that 40 per cent figure keeps popping up. What do we mean by private health care? Much of the drug costs are privately paid for, so is massage therapy, chiropractic care, alternative medicine, eye care, dental care and many other areas. 
Albertans feel a lot more strongly about things like property rights, individual freedoms and being independent thinkers. That independent thinking took a bit of a hit in Alberta if I understand the campaign reports. Seems like unless you are a Wildrose supporter, you aren’t allowed to have so-called cosncience rights. The two cases cited were that a person practicing medicine couldn’t refuse to perform an abortion and a marriage commissioner couldn’t refuse to perform a wedding ceremony. That seems pretty restrictive. If a doctor says no to any procedure, shouldn’t they have the right to say no? And, should a marriage commissioner feel a marriage isn’t the right thing for a couple, shouldn’t they have the right to refuse? I would have thought so but I guess not. That whole process needs to be talked out a bit more. I thought a person had the right in this country to refuse work based on beliefs but maybe  we don’t.
The underlying problem in government today is that too few people want to fund their own way in life. We have become overly dependent on government. Recently, there was a conservative politician speaking to a group in a very conservative town. When the time came for questions, there were only three. All three related to how the town could somehow get more govrnment funding. That’s pretty sad when you think about it.
Yes, change will take a little longer than we thought.

The hard questions

Friday, April 13th, 2012

It seems that questioning actions is a lost art. The news this past few months yields a number of examples.
Let’s just set the stage for a moment.
The federal government is running deficits that would make former governments blush. The provincial government in Manitoba has no idea where their deficit is going to climb to and their upcoming budget will be interesting to say the least.
Municipal governments are all struggling to balance their budgets for varying reasons. It may be an increased demand for services, it may be long delays in repairing infrastructure, it may be trying to respond to an ever increasing landslide of downloading from senior governments.
Within the above framed scenario, tough questions need to be asked.
The federal government has made a small dent by attempting to reduce the federal civil service. They say they will eliminate 19,000 jobs. Sounds good to a conservative thinker but it has also been reported that this government increased the civil service by 35,000 jobs. If that’s true then we really have a problem because Canadian lives have not been improved by that addition of jobs.
No one wants to return to the 1950s or 60s but the tough questions have to be asked. Why do we have so many civil servants?
At the provincial level, the government hasn’t got a hope of balancing the budget but they have promised a million bucks to the Spirit Sands Casino. Give me break. Another casino; another casino out in the country. You mean, like the one at South Beach that has to virtually give away its rooms so it can try to fill its restaurants and gambling rooms. When will someone ask why aboriginal groups are so infatuated with casinos? When will someone ask why the government owns casinos or runs casinos. When will someone ask why the province has now launched its own on-line gambling gig?
When we need roads, housing and infrastructure, why are we employing people in casinos? It’s nuts. Hasn’t the government figured out that jobs, real jobs can involve real work, such as building roads?
On the municipal side there’s a big move afoot to increase sales tax by one per cent so it can go to infrastructure. There’s also a move afoot to slap on a gas tax, at least in Winnipeg to pay for similar stuff. Run, don’t walk, run away from that deal. Never let the government, at any level, get their hands on more of your money. Tax increases are usually a cop out.
Government budgets should grow from a real growth in the economy, not from increases in taxes rates.
The municipal example I often cite is this. First, the growth in a budget should be from the growth in new assessment. Then budget growth can come from the growth in re-assesmnet or the regular assessment changes that come by way of re-assessment. The rationale is that if properties go up in value, then the amount of taxes can go up. That has some pitfalls as those on a fixed income may not be able to afford more taxes. Just because a property goes up in value doesn’t mean that a person has more money. The last place a budget should grow from is an increase in the tax rate.
There’s a good perspective builder in determining tax increases. Take a look at the last 10 budgets be they federal, provincial or municipal. The figures aren’t that hard to obtain. Every one has gone up by rather large percentages. Then the question needs to be asked, where has the extra money been spent?
That’s where the tough questions come in. Too often, politicians simply sit back and say, “Oh well everything goes up, there’s not much we can do about it”.
Wrong!
There’s always a different way of doing things. Some ideas will work, some won’t, but all ideas need to be looked at. That’s a politician’s job, to look at new ideas.
Several questions have been posed. More need to be posed. For example, most towns pave but some use concrete. Which is cheaper over the long haul? I don’t know but we need to ask.
Why does the government build schools and hospitals? Could private businesses do it better? Could they be on long term leases? What’s the difference? One difference is that if a company designs, builds, owns and pays the upkeep on a building they would likely do it better, faster and cheaper than a government could ever do it. And if they don’t, they might go broke. That’s something a government never has to face. Going broke is the big fear factor for businesses that keeps them a lot more frugal than government ever will be.
Hard questions indeed need to be asked.


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