Politicians challenged for straight answers on finances
Author says people need to think beyond narrow interests and look for broader public good
Real answers about New Brunswick's financial situation are what's needed in the 2014 election campaign, not empty political slogans, says author and public policy analyst Richard Saillant.
"Empty political slogans and platitudes from our political leaders will not do," writes the author of Over the Cliff? in an essay for CBC News.
"We collectively have to come to grips with the fact that the status quo is not sustainable. Our economic reality has changed dramatically," writes Saillant.
"We need to adopt a new frame of mind, one where narrow parochial or sectorial interests are replaced by concern for the broader public good as the ballot box question."
Saillant challenges the contention that spending cuts since 2010-11 have not worked since the province still has a $500-million deficit. He points out provincial spending has grown by less than one per cent since 2010-11.
"This is more than five times slower than during the previous decade," writes Saillant.
"Had the provincial government kept spending at 2000-01 to 2010-11 levels, the annual deficit would now be well above $1 billion.
"The fact is that, had New Brunswick brought the HST back to where it was prior to 2006 and instituted other modest revenue increases such as tolls on four-lane highways, the books would now be balanced."
The director general of the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration says while spending moderation has worked, what is still needed is major changes to the way government operates.
"The recent spending slowdown was achieved mostly through strict wage growth moderation and attrition. While critical, wage moderation can only take us so far," writes Saillant.
"We cannot freeze wages for a decade or more without serious consequences for the quality of our public services."
The public policy expert offers a pretty direct challenge to the party that wins the Sept. 22 election.
"Only by raising taxes modestly now and bringing real changes to how the government does business can we avoid crippling tax hikes and devastating spending cuts in the future," he writes
Saillant's essay, Campaign slogans hinder real debate about fiscal crisis, is the first of a series to be published during the campaign about a variety of issues. It, along with subsequent other essays and other election-related stories and information, can be found at NB Votes 2014.