Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First impressions

More to come on today's provincial budget. But from the coverage I've seen so far, there are two takeaways that look to be particularly significant even if they're not the most obvious problems with the Sask Party's management of the province.

First, as noted by James Wood, the Wall government is taking the "unprecedented" step of stripping all Crowns other than SaskPower of all anticipated profits. Which, combined with the current selloff of Crown assets, figures to do some serious damage to their ability to operate on anything but a bare-bones level.

Second, as mentioned in the NDP's immediate response, the Wall government is treating loan guarantees differently so they won't count against the province's public debt, and also making other changes to acounting practices which will make it more difficult for anybody to scrutinize exactly what they've done.

For this year, the loan guarantee change in particular seems to be aimed at allowing the Sask Party to claim that a program for homebuyers won't add to the provincial debt. But would anybody be at all surprised if the move is just a prelude to Wall putting the province on the hook as guarantor for all kinds of white elephant projects without accounting for the resulting debt?

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