Right in the centre - Where did all the money go?


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

The federal government has introduced a balanced budget, it’s about time. The province of Manitoba is introducing a deficit budget. Again! Shame on them.

As much as media covers budgets and as important as budgets are to the taxpayer’s pocketbook, there is still a huge amount of ignorance about budgets, deficits, taxes and debt.

Manitoba’s debt is about $33 billion. It pales in comparison to the national debt, the debts of Ontario and Alberta. But those figures are just the government’s debts. There’s also municipal debt on top of that.

Here’s some definitions:

Budget: a plan that outlines expected income and expense.

Deficit: the amount  of a budget where expenses exceed income

Surplus: the amount of a budget where income exceeds expenses (a very rare happening)

Debt: the total of all the deficits that have built up since a government was formed. In Manitoba’s case, that is since 1870 and in Canada’s case it’s since 1867.

Taxes: the amount of PST, GST, income taxes, business taxes and other fees paid to governments.

In Manitoba, we spend $900 million to service the debt. That’s enough to build nine regional hospitals every year.

I have often been asked who does the province owe the money to? They never tell you that. The province funds its debt by selling government bonds and they are held by banks, investment firms and sometimes by foreign governments.

In the coming weeks and months, the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba is going to outline places the province could save money. That party is convinced there is lots of waste and misplaced dollars in the government budget.

Governments spend a lot of money on piece-meal grants to organizations. It’s debatable if governments should be giving grants to any organizations at all. Shouldn’t organizations get their money and strength from individual members? Governments also spend a lot of money on piece-meal grants to school boards and municipalities that require extensive and expensive applications. Grant budgets should be set at an affordable level and then the grants given out on an annual, per capita basis. That way school boards, municipalities or even health authorities can accurately budget for both operating and capital funding. 

In a column earlier this year, I also pointed out that governments spend a pile of money on so-called education programs to try and convince people to eat less, exercise more, stop smoking, drink moderately and to stay off drugs. In an age of relative enlightenment, an age when everyone has access to almost every bit of knowledge known to man, are we still so stupid that we don’t know that all these excesses are bad for us? Come on people, everybody knows that the above mentioned items are a problem. You don’t have to spend government money to tell us we are too fat or lazy or that we shouldn’t smoke or drink.

If governments would concentrate on basic services such as health care, education, roads and infrastructure, police and national security, we would be better off. It’s when governments try to be everything to everybody that the wheels fall off the bus.

The problem faced by every government, at every level, is that people all assume that “cuts” will affect them directly and the public sector unions do everything they can to promote that fear. Nobody wants to actually study the budget and government programs and make real decisions about what we can and should afford. People only think about politics about seven seconds a week on average so it’s no wonder our decisions are being made for us. At that level of involvement, most people aren’t thinking about politics or budgets at all so it’s left to the “experts” to decide for us. How’s that working out for us?