The hard questions

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”.
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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