Monday, October 19, 2020

On balancing acts

I've previously made note of the problems with media coverage of Saskatchewan's provincial election, including its consistently echoing and amplifying false Saskatchewan Party talking points about budgeting. But let's take a closer look at what the parties have promised on their face - and how irresponsible the Saskatchewan Party's position actually is. 

To start with, anybody who bothers to read the NDP's platform (PDF) rather than assuming that Saskatchewan Party propaganda must be taken at face value will find this (emphasis added):

We’re concerned about the provincial deficit, but we’re we’re also worried about the deficits in our schools, our hospitals and the bank accounts of ordinary Saskatchewan families. Going forward, we will work with an expert panel to plan our path back to balanced budgets, including setting targets for net debt-to-GDP ratio and a focus on the investments that will deliver the most growth and the greatest long-term savings.

So even for the most blinkered deficit scold, it's false to say the NDP hasn't accounted for a path back toward balanced budgets. What it has done is to say that it will chart that path based on a responsible analysis, informed by experts, as to when and how to get there.

Needless to say, this is in stark contrast to the Saskatchewan Party's choice to set a date without a plan, paired with conflicting promises:

The Saskatchewan Party has a plan to balance the budget by 2024, and that plan is on track. Balance will be achieved through a strong economic recovery and a growing economy, without tax increases or reductions in programs and services.

In other words, the Saskatchewan Party's supposed fiscal discipline literally consists of nothing but a magic asterisk. 

If the bare hope of a spontaneous recovery (unsupported by any intelligent governance) doesn't pan out such that it's impossible to balance the budget on an arbitrary timeline without cutting services or raising taxes, Moe refuses to say which of his promises he'll break. 

And unlike the NDP, the Saskatchewan Party doesn't have any interest in putting in the work to seek out expert advice as to how provincial budgets are best managed. Which raises every reason for concern that they'll once again follow their historical pattern of cutting twice, then measuring once. 

The question of how to prioritize and reach a balanced budget thus represents just one more area where Moe is trying to use bluster to shut down any possibility of reasonable policymaking. And voters who don't see through the ruse are all too likely to end up on the wrong end of grinding austerity when the confidence game falls apart.

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