Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
People kept calling the province’s latest financial report "a sea of red ink" yesterday.
Hardly. A little puddle, maybe. A drainage ditch in Charleswood in April.
I know the projected year-end deficit is much higher than Selinger predicted in the spring budget...
BUT #1: It’s not a $592 million deficit. It’s a $512 million deficit. I know, I know... pretty much the same dif, when you’re talking about enough money to buy 197 police helicopters. But $592 million is the summary number, which includes all the Crowns like Hydro and the liquor stores. Even though the province is following modern auditing rules by including the Crowns, I think it’s more meaningful to people to look at the core government services number of $512 million. That’s all the stuff you think of if you think about the provincial bureaucracy at all – health care, education, conservation. If it’s bunk to use Crown profits to fake-balance your budget, then it’s also bunk to include the Crowns when criticising the deficit. So, the puddle of red, in my mind, is only $512 million.
BUT #2: Ontario’s deficit is nearly $25 billion at last count. For sure, it’s a way bigger province, with way bigger economic woes. But that sucker is so big it would cover the city of Winnipeg’s expenses for 20 years. Now, let’s look west, at my belovedly whacky home province. Alberta just got some good news that it’s deficit would be a mere $4.3 billion. This in a province where, for a few years there, cabinet ministers were using shredded oil and gas revenues to fertilize their crops back home in Vegreville. So, again, I say $512 million is a good fault, compared to all the really terrible ones across the country.
I can’t believe I’m ending the year defending the provincial government.
About Mary Agnes Welch
Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.
Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.
Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.
She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.
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