Our province is facing what PC leader Paul Davis has called, without exaggeration, a fiscal crisis. Appalling mismanagement during the Williams-Dunderdale era, combined with the collapse in oil prices, has resulted in record deficits that seem almost insurmountable. Tax hikes, service cuts, and ever rising public debt appear inevitable.
A year ago, Liberal leader Dwight Ball seemed resigned to this dreary reality. During an October 2014 CBC interview, he explained:
No one wants to talk about budget cuts, but we have to be realistic here. We cannot pass debt on to the next generation… We can’t put expectations in place that we can’t deliver on — no government can do that. If you want to be responsible, if you want to [put] good governance practices in place, you have to be realistic here.
The fiscal situation has only grown more dire but now Ball is now singing a different tune. Solving our fiscal crisis won’t require being “realistic” afterall. All it will take is a bit of magic.
Ball will cast a diversification spell to generate real GDP growth at 4 percent per year even though private sector forecasters predict our economy will actually shrink. The details are a bit vague, but the plan may include seed funding for transmutation start-ups in cooperation with Memorial University’s Department of Alchemy. Another possibility is subsidized loans for golden egg goose farmers. Details will be worked out after the election by a nonpartisan advisory council on magical thinking, in consultation with esteemed grand wizards of industry.
For their next trick, the Liberals promise to eliminate $203 million per year in government “waste” without any layoffs. Furthermore, any waste identified in education or healthcare — which makes up more than half the budget — would be used for new program spending rather than deficit reduction. Perhaps we’ve been wasting money housing the needy, protecting public safety, or conserving the environment; we won’t know for sure until the Liberals have employed their magic waste-locating dowsing rod after the election. Don’t worry, it’s probably nothing a pinch of pixie dust won’t fix.
Predictably, the Liberal plan has been criticized by closed-minded muggles insisting that budget forecasts should be “plausible”.
“There’s no way they can make this plan work, there’s no way it can happen,” PC leader Paul Davis grumbled.
“The platform must be called the red book because it reads like a letter to Santa Claus,” quipped NDP leader Earle McCurdy.
Political journalist James McLeod chimed in, tweeting: “I’m really looking forward to covering the ‘The budget is worse than we thought,’ news conference. I’m guessing around Jan. 20.”
MUN political scientist Russell Williams complained in an interview with Metro News, “Having reviewed their lengthy statements on [diversification], all I can say is I have no idea what tangible proposals they are making.”
On the other hand, opinion polls suggest the people of Newfoundland and Labrador aren’t much interested in “realistic”, “plausible”, or “tangible” proposals. Which makes sense, I guess. It is comforting to believe that the deficit dragon can be slain with sorcery.
At least fairy tales have happy endings.