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

Friday, October 12, 2012

What you can buy for $150-million

So, Dunderdale Government suddenly finds itself notionally richer by a $150-million IOU, payable in 2016. Huzzah.

Let's put that in a little perspective.

Since 2003, the provincial government, under a party that for some reason has the word "Conservative" in its name, has overseen a massive and unprecedented increase in the size of the provincial public sector, in a province which already had the largest one in Canada on a per-capita basis.

Direct provincial government employment to the end of March 2012 was up by 1800 positions from the twelve months ending March 2003 — the last full fiscal year before the change of government. The provincial health-care system, and the post-secondary education system, were both larger by almost 3000 positions.


Only the school boards and provincial crown corporation employment has remained largely flat during the past decade. However, as with the other classes of provincial public-sector employment, their payrolls have naturally increased through regular wage settlements, and, in the case of the crown corps, a rather irregular one: the overall crown corporation payroll has increased by over 60% since 2007, even as total employment has been stable.

The upshot is that, between the sheer number of new public-sector positions created overall, and the increasing wages enjoyed by each public-sector employee, the provincial government's direct and indirect payroll for the fiscal year ending March 2012 is more than $900-million more than it was nine years earlier. The graph shows the total provincial public-sector payroll for each fiscal year ending in March of the stated calendar year. The white line is the notional baseline from FY 2002-03. The dark blue upper bars show how much larger the payroll is, compared to FY 2002-03.

Expressed another way, that $150-million IOU, if payed, in full, tomorrow morning, would allow the "Conservative" government pay for the increase in the size of the provincial payroll that it has overseen, for the next 8.5 weeks.

That's a little over four pay periods.

Or, that $150 megadollars would pay the entire public-sector payroll for the next three weeks.

That's just the payroll. Not the overhead. Not capital works. Not social programs. Not debt servicing.

$150-million just doesn't go as far as it used to. And it'll go even less far, given four years of inflation, when it comes due in 2016.



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