New Brunswick is blessed with only a few internationally-renowned experts in any field, so one would think that politicians might actually listen to the one we have in public administration: Donald Savoie. (No, Spin Reduxit does not get remuneration for each Savoie reference, but at least someone is reading his work.)

When Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward told Radio-Canada last week that he was reading Donald Savoie's latest book on the economy, he clearly wasn't reading Power or he didn't read Spin Reduxit's earlier review of Savoie's latest book.

And Alward isn't alone. New Brunswick's three main political leaders seem to be ignoring the advice given by Canada's leading public administration expert in his latest book and his election analysis for CBC News.

Liberals: The Liberals keep promising to create 20,000 new jobs at each campaign stop, but as Savoie points out, the number seems arbitrarily chosen. Liberal Leader Shawn Graham has not addressed the employment impact that will result when his government's provincial stimulus package ends and when federal economic stimulus funds dry up.

He also has not said how his government will cope with any shortfall in federal transfer payments if Ottawa attempts to balance its own books by holding back on cash to the provinces. (In fairness, the other leaders have not spoken on this issue either, but they also are not promising to balance New Brunswick's budget through the creation of 20,000 jobs.)

Graham's promise-a-day and a computer-in-every-classroom routine would add potentially more to the province's deficit despite Savoie's dire warning on the first day of the election campaign.

Graham will release the Liberal platform next Tuesday and it will be incumbent on him to clearly outlined how he plans to pay for all these new initiatives.

Progressive Conservatives. Alward's Tories have also announced millions in new funding, if they were to be elected, whether it was frozen NB Power rates, small business tax cuts, schools supplies, prescription drug programs, new sports funding, etc.

Alward unveiled his plan to overhaul Business New Brunswick by splitting it into a Crown corporation and by keeping part of it within the bureaucracy.

Savoie's argued in the past that the department should be more private-sector-driven but the Tory plan seems like the policy equivalent of being half pregnant. How much is it going to cost to set up a separate Crown corporation and then who becomes accountable? Clearly, Alward or his policy advisors need to re-read Power.

Alward has also promised to set up a government office that would cut wasteful spending. Why can't bureaucrats that are used to doing these exercises, including under the former Tory government, carry out this exercise.

The Tories also committed on the second day of the campaign to "targeting a two per cent reduction in wasteful and unnecessary government spending." Why not cut 100 per cent of wasteful and unnecessary government spending if it is actually wasteful and unnecessary.

This adds to the earlier commitments of adding two new independent officers of the legislature: a full-time Child and Youth Advocate and making the human rights commissioner new duties.

Savoie argues these types of arm's-length institutions further cloud the chain of accountability. By delegating more responsibility to unelected offices, it is difficult to find out who should be making decisions, who is accountable for the decisions that are made and where the power rests.

The Tories have not fully costed out all of these promises when they have been made and as of yet, Alward has not said when the full platform will be released along with all financial details.

New Democratic Party: Who knew heading into the campaign that the voice for fiscal austerity, which Savoie called for, would be emanating out of the NDP's campaign headquarters.

While the Liberals Tories have called for renewed spending on the arts, the NDP have argued, it's a good policy at the wrong time. While the Liberals have called for a laptop in every classroom, the NDP have challenged that it may be a good idea if the province could afford it, which it can't.

The NDP have attacked the two traditional parties in its television ads for its reckless promises, saying that the Liberals and Tories were pushing the province off the debt cliff.

So on the spending side, NDP Leader Roger Duguay has listened to Savoie.

Although Savoie may have some harsh words for Duguay's plan to create a government efficiency officer to cut government waste and find internal savings. Much like the Tories, this is a political gimmick. There are dozens of bureaucrats in the Centennial Building who are already on the government payroll and are qualified to do this, so why hire someone else.

When Donald Savoie agreed to lead a task force into reshaping the province's right to information act a few years ago, he asked that he not be paid. Instead he insisted the money that he would have been given be put into civil service training.

Perhaps taxpayers would have been just as well served if some of that money was redirected to buying a few copies of Power and putting them on the desks of the province's top political leaders.
-- Daniel McHardie

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