Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Today's NDP sitcom jumped the shark long ago

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The throne speech Tuesday revealed, not surprisingly, the shelf life of an election commitment by Today's NDP is about equivalent to the shelf life of a Kardashian wedding.

It was about a year ago that Premier Greg Selinger, while out hustling for our votes, told us that not only was balancing the provincial budget by 2014 "right on schedule," but our economic situation was "better than the 2010/11 target in our Five-Year Economic Plan."

I for one am a little surprised that, in the fall of 2011, I was being told that "Manitoba has weathered the global economic storm and continues to buck national trends." The NDP derisively mocked then PC leader Hugh McFadyen for "fear mongering" when he questioned the true state of Manitoba's finances.

Today's NDP have taken a pretty black and white promise, one they even went so far as to enshrine in legislation, to "balance the provincial budget by 2014" to now claiming they actually meant they would "shrink the gap."

The only thing shrinking faster than my take-home pay thanks to the latest round of NDP-imposed tax hikes is their credibility.

Hopefully, Manitobans are beginning to wake up to the cold fiscal reality facing our province.

Less than four weeks ago the Bank of Canada was again warning Canadians interest rate hikes are on the horizon.

While most of us look at an interest rate hike in terms of our mortgages or car loans, the Government of Manitoba looks at it very differently. In fact, a one per cent interest rate increase adds approximately $20 million to our carrying costs over an annual basis.

A mere four years ago, Today's NDP was diverting $756 million annually from health, highways and higher education towards debt servicing costs. In the most recent budget that amount had jumped $102 million or 14 per cent to an estimated $858 million.

It is precisely because of an inability to control spending and the accompanying debt servicing costs that Today's NDP expanded the PST by about $110 million and gas taxes by $50 million this past spring.

It's a bit disheartening to realize almost two-thirds of that tax hike is simply unavailable to address cancer wait times, repave St. James Street or hire police officers, but instead is lost to ever-burgeoning interest costs.

Yet they blame "global uncertainty" and the need for "wiggle room."

These same excuses were used in 2008, when they removed the requirement to balance a budget annually, replacing it with a requirement to balance it over a four-year rolling average.

They were used again in 2009, when this government suspended the requirement to make minimum debt repayments for two years.

And again in 2010 when they completed eliminated the need to balance the budget or make debt repayments until 2014.

And now, yet again in 2012, the excuses are being reused to explain why the government won't balance the books as promised.

The unfortunate thing for Manitoba's taxpayers is that when it comes to Manitoba's finances, this sitcom jumped the shark a long time ago but for some reason we keep tuning in.

Shannon Martin is a Winnipeg political commentator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2012 A15

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