Deep, dark hole

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It’s official. We are the Greece of Canada. By 2020, every adult and child in this province could owe more than $40,000 as a share of the provincial debt. And that’s only if the Liberals’ pessimistic fiscal update released on Tuesday of last week is pessimistic enough.

(Actually, the per capita debt of Greece last year was $38,000. Canadians owe about $34,000 a head, while the worst debt per person in the world is Japan, at just under $100,000.)

Neither Finance Minister Cathy Bennett nor Premier Dwight Ball seemed to be holding back punches during the update.

“If left unchecked, the extremely difficult fiscal reality facing our province will only worsen,” Bennett said. She then outlined a number of belt-trimming measures to keep government spending in check.

“We value and recognize the public service - their experience, knowledge and dedication is crucial to fulfilling the mandate we have set out,” she said in a statement.

“We need to utilize our public service so we can operate more efficiently while delivering programs and services that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expect and deserve.”

Ball, meanwhile, refused to clarify whether that means he might break his promise of no layoffs. But their buttering up of public employees suggests some won’t be very happy with what’s to come.

Many felt the news was predictable. The deficit will double to almost $2 billion this year. That blows away any previous record. Without radical changes in the way things are done, Bennett said, the total debt could rise to more than $20 billion by 2020.

None of this is the Liberals’ fault. They campaigned blind, since the outgoing Tory government wouldn’t release the numbers before the election.

In fact, not all the blame can be laid with the Conservatives either.

It’s fair to factor in the cost of the Muskrat Falls project, of course - even though it falls under a different category than regular expenditures. Yes, the Williams administration overspent when the going was good. And since the drop in oil prices, subsequent premiers have been far too optimistic in their projections.

But this is a worldwide downturn. Alberta and Ontario are both in a major fix as well. It’s important to remember that while we’re staring into the abyss, screaming at our own politicians for the mess we’re in.

The only question now is, will the premier swallow his pride and put other austerity measures back on the table - including some sort of new tax revenue?

Because it’s long past the time for coy, non-committal answers.

Organizations: Conservatives

Geographic location: Greece, Japan, Alberta Ontario

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Recent comments

  • J. Linegar
    January 17, 2016 - 18:53

    Meanwhile, the MAA has jacked up the value of properties, some enormously, giving no thought of the difficulties some home owners face because of this economic downturn. My property assessment went up 83%. That's legalized robbery, as far as I'm concerned. As for seniors on fixed income the MAA says it takes no heed of a person's ability to pay. What a bunch of Scrooges. They are arms-length from Government, so they can do what they like even if it kills someone who can't afford food, heat and this new tax hike all combined.

  • lea
    December 30, 2015 - 06:20

    Well of course we can blame the down turn in the world price of oil. But ALL the blame fall clearly at the feet of the conservative govt. for a total mismanagement of this province finance's. For they didn't or were just TOO pigheaded to listen to the experts and the people. From shutting out the PUB and bringing in Bill 29 to hide behind to protect Nalcor and martin. To the mill in Grand Falls to unsuccessful attempts to sue Que. over Churchill Falls the list goes on and on. Maybe we should find a way to claw back all the PC pensions or better fire all the remaining PCs Nalcor hack's

    • Gord
      December 30, 2015 - 17:35

      I find it amazing how being elected excludes people from liability when making poor decisions that can bankrupt a province but are still allowed to take all the perks and rewards up to & when they leave.