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Drops and buckets

sur le fil de presse
sur le fil de presse

Recently the governing Liberals issued a news release announcing a reorganization of provincial government departments.

The news release started like this: “Today the provincial government is taking steps to streamline the work of departments and agencies to deliver better management, more efficient planning and sound governance. As part of this restructuring a number of departments and agencies will be combined and five deputy minister roles will be eliminated which represents a 19 per cent reduction.”

It didn’t say “the provincial government is taking baby steps,” but it very well could have.

Not one of the province’s cabinet ministers lost a job, their ministerial pay or their healthy six-figure appropriations; the particular combination of the departments meant that, when the music stopped in this latest game of musical chairs, there were still enough ministerial seats for everyone.

At the deputy-minister level, things weren’t as rosy. But it does indicate that the current administration might finally be doing something to address what is, per capita, one of the highest-cost provincial civil services in the country.

It’s not something anyone wants to do, it’s something we have to do. We’re once again borrowing huge amounts of money and growing our public debt because the government is spending far more than it takes in in revenues. And growing debt means increased costs to pay interest and even to find markets to lend us the money we need. We can’t keep piling up debt and expecting that our children will agree to stay around and pay a larger share of their income because we didn’t feel like living within our means.

But let’s have a little perspective here. The five highest-paid deputy ministers in the province — not the five “roles” that “were eliminated,” but the five highest paid — have a combined annual income of  $870,187.

Servicing the public debt will cost taxpayers $544 million this year — meaning that, if the five highest-paid deputy ministers were laid off, the combined savings (and if they were paid not one cent for severance) would cover almost exactly 14 hours’ worth of debt-servicing payments.

When it comes to addressing the province’s anticipated $1.8 billion current account deficit, the same savings would cover just four hours’ worth of government deficit spending.

It’s a drop in the bucket. No, it’s a molecule in a bucket, really, so tiny as to be invisible to the naked eye.

To be fair, though, the move may be, as many have suggested, a good start, even if it has been slow in coming and is small in stature. It may well signal that Premier Dwight Ball’s administration might be moving towards a more significant cut on the expense side of the provincial ledger.

And in that sense, it might be a harbinger.

But when it comes to reining in expenditures, it’s barely even a start.

 

The news release started like this: “Today the provincial government is taking steps to streamline the work of departments and agencies to deliver better management, more efficient planning and sound governance. As part of this restructuring a number of departments and agencies will be combined and five deputy minister roles will be eliminated which represents a 19 per cent reduction.”

It didn’t say “the provincial government is taking baby steps,” but it very well could have.

Not one of the province’s cabinet ministers lost a job, their ministerial pay or their healthy six-figure appropriations; the particular combination of the departments meant that, when the music stopped in this latest game of musical chairs, there were still enough ministerial seats for everyone.

At the deputy-minister level, things weren’t as rosy. But it does indicate that the current administration might finally be doing something to address what is, per capita, one of the highest-cost provincial civil services in the country.

It’s not something anyone wants to do, it’s something we have to do. We’re once again borrowing huge amounts of money and growing our public debt because the government is spending far more than it takes in in revenues. And growing debt means increased costs to pay interest and even to find markets to lend us the money we need. We can’t keep piling up debt and expecting that our children will agree to stay around and pay a larger share of their income because we didn’t feel like living within our means.

But let’s have a little perspective here. The five highest-paid deputy ministers in the province — not the five “roles” that “were eliminated,” but the five highest paid — have a combined annual income of  $870,187.

Servicing the public debt will cost taxpayers $544 million this year — meaning that, if the five highest-paid deputy ministers were laid off, the combined savings (and if they were paid not one cent for severance) would cover almost exactly 14 hours’ worth of debt-servicing payments.

When it comes to addressing the province’s anticipated $1.8 billion current account deficit, the same savings would cover just four hours’ worth of government deficit spending.

It’s a drop in the bucket. No, it’s a molecule in a bucket, really, so tiny as to be invisible to the naked eye.

To be fair, though, the move may be, as many have suggested, a good start, even if it has been slow in coming and is small in stature. It may well signal that Premier Dwight Ball’s administration might be moving towards a more significant cut on the expense side of the provincial ledger.

And in that sense, it might be a harbinger.

But when it comes to reining in expenditures, it’s barely even a start.

 

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