"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Voting with their wallets (II)

An interesting bit of commentary from Craig Westcott, via Polemic and Paradox:

Examine the record if you’re in doubt that the provincial Tories have shifted several leagues to the left. Since taking office under Danny Williams in 2003, the current administration has grown the cost of government by 82 per cent in eight years. Most of the growth occurred in the last six years. In February 2010, Statistics Canada reported that the provincial government had 54,761 people on the payroll. That includes nurses, teachers, wardens and police officers, along with the direct line civil servants at Confederation Building. The number has increased substantially since then.

In a province with a fit and willing workforce of just over 150,000, a civil service of that size is clearly not sustainable. But add to that figure the demographic implosion already under way and the looming drop in oil production and the approaching crash promises to be potentially cataclysmic. In just nine years, 26 per cent of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador will be 65 years of age or older. That’s more than one quarter of our citizens who will be retired and needing increased levels of health care and social supports.

This graying of our citizenry is taking place after oil production has peaked and is already winding down. Essentially, the province has about 20 years of reserves left and they are declining. There will be a bump in production when Hebron comes on stream in six years time, but it will be short-lived. The trend of diminishing oil revenues for government coffers is clear for anyone who cares to look.

Unfortunately, very few among us, including leaders in the business community and the House of Assembly, have cared, or should that be dared, to look.

Economist Wade Locke has predicted a decade of provincial government deficits ranging between half a billion and a billion-and-a-half dollars annually starting next fiscal year.

What has our so-called ‘conservative’ government done to prepare for and mitigate the repercussions of this looming fiscal blow? Led first by Danny Williams and now Kathy Dunderdale, they have been shovelling oil dollars into the ever growing maw of government, all for the purpose of staying popular and getting re-elected. Until the ascendance last year of Jo Mark Zurel to the presidency of the St. John’s Board of Trade, the leaders of our local business community lustily cheered them on.

On that last point, this chart shows the remarkable Support for Democracy exhibited by capital-area business donors to the three political parties since the dawn of recorded history (in 1996). Remember, these figures are ONLY for corporate and small-business donors from the northeast Avalon (Bay Bulls to Conception Bay South, and points north of that line). They do not include personal or union donors from the metro St. John's area, or donors of any kind from anywhere outside the northeast Avalon.

Paler colours indicate fundraising in election years, which is not directly comparable to non-election years. And yes, all three parties are represented on the chart. Barely.

In 2010, the governing Progressive Conservatives raised $690,000 in reportable contributions, versus the Liberals $31,000 and the NDP's $59,000. That is the highest amount the Tories have ever raised in an off-election year.

Of the PC total that year, fully $383,000 — over 55% — came from business donors in the greater St. John's area.

Between 2004 and 2010 inclusive, the first full year that the Williams supposed "Conservatives" were in power, the northeast Avalon business community has favoured the "Conservatives" almost nine to one over the other major parties combined. Of every St. John's area business dollar pumped into political financing in those seven years, 89.7 cents have gone to the Tories, 10.1 to the Liberals, and just 2/10 of a cent to the NDP.

In the entire fifteen-year history of Elections NL financial disclosures published on the intertubes, St. John's area business donors have given a grand total of just under $16,000 to the NDP or NDP candidates — one quarter of one percent of all their contributions to all parties and party candidates during that period.

The business community in St. John's clearly has something against the NDP. And their eagerness to be on the Government Side was never as enthusiastic, even in the Tobin years, as it has been since 2003.

And yet, thanks in no small part to their own unwavering support for the democratic process, that same business community have been instrumental in helping to elect, re-elect, and preserve in office a government and party so left-wing it would make every NDP government in the history of Canada blush blue in comparison.

Good going, guys.

[Data source: Elections NL financial disclosures. Figures for a handful of minor parties and independent candidates excluded. Data does not incorporate the still-unpublished financial returns for the two by-elections held in 2010.]

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