By: Graham Lane
For the insider connected elite, politics in Manitoba has been a ticket to a comfortable life. For some who worked in government and watched policy-making in action, politics is a force for high taxes, mediocre services and crumbling infrastructure. For the vast majority, however, politics is a black box seldom truly engaged or understood. Most are too immersed in the hurly burly of life in general to bother with it. Sure, they pay the bills for government services, but are given few clues as to whether they are getting good value.
Tuesday is election day in Manitoba, an opportunity to either stick with what we have, an obviously too long-in-tooth four-term NDP government, or try something different.
We can expect the organized minority, with the public sector unions, to stick with a Selinger government that has delivered to them unprecedented largesse. On the other side, informed skeptics will vote Conservative or Liberal — both parties at least talk about tax cuts and some new and non-deficit related ideas. But, what of the uninformed majority who will decide the next government?
It is a good question that mainstream media has not adequately answered. Most of their pundits continue to miss the forest for the trees, blithely pussy-footing around the accelerating fiscal train wreck that is Selinger’s NDP. Being unaware or ideologically-attuned to big-government thinking, they have mostly chosen to ignore these troubling facts:
Government spending during the NDP’s 17 years grew two and half times faster than growth in economy and population.
Manitoba has the most expensive health care per capita — almost a billion dollars costlier than the Canadian average, but with the longest waiting lists.
We score as the lowest performing public schools in Canada on international tests — but with the highest costs as a percent of GDP. Spending at the Canadian average would reduce education outlays, and perhaps taxes, by $660 million.
We have the largest public sector in Canada, measured by government employment as a percent of total workforce — 40% above the Canadian average.
Hydro’s transmission and generation expansion will triple Manitoba’s provincial debt and triple your power bill. All for nothing really but to serve a permanently changed and over-supplied American market paying only a fraction of the costs.
It’s not hard to connect the dots between Manitoba’s absurdly expensive and low-performing services; high taxes; rising deficits; lowest private investment per capita of any province; and, relatively lower family income (steadily slipping further behind other provinces).
So what should voters do based on this harsh reality?
Public policy should be about one thing — generating excellent results. On that score our province is at the bottom of the pack. As Brian Pallister states in a well-done campaign video, our next government should focus on making Manitoba the most improved province in Canada on metrics such as access to health care, educational results, and front-line services.
Note the magic word: results.
Not a word found in the NDP dictionary.
If you care about Manitoba’s future, it’s time to say good-bye to the spendthrift NDP and its failed and unsustainable operating model. Best to roll the dice on fresher options — who, one baby step at a time, are at least beginning to talk about results.
— Graham Lane chairs Manitoba Forward (www.manitobaforward.ca).
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