Some tidying up is in order

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All it takes is a majority on a committee to say no to an opposition demand to know about a mysterious $27 million of public money. Funny, isn’t it, although not in a ha-ha way.

Even if the public wasn’t deliberately misled, as Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald said Wednesday, still the public has expectations of absolute clarity about how its money is handled. Even taken in perspective – a 2012-13 deficit of $238, as it turned out, alongside an overall budget of $9.5 billion – $27 million isn’t chump change.

That was what the auditor general said too, that it was significant enough to correct, when Jacque Lapointe reiterated this discrepancy last week and stated the government knew about it when the budget was released last spring.

In chasing down explanations on this, the opposition had called for MacDonald and Graham Steele, finance minister at the time of the budget release, to appear before the legislature’s public accounts committee, but that was voted down.

There’s nothing to hide, MacDonald said. There was no intention to deceive anyone, she added. We certainly hope not.

Obviously some miscalculations were entered originally, corrected afterward, but the lower number was issued as the projected deficit, even though the true figure was known by the time the budget was announced. That is Lapointe’s assertion.

Forecasts are just that. MacDonald explained that department staff submit budget estimates. We can understand that. Circumstances change through the year, we receive updates of any ups and downs and altered expectations.

A couple of good reasons to go ahead with such a committee review would be to clear up any questions lingering among the public and political watchdogs. It wouldn’t be time wasted, it would just be a matter of tidying up – and probably wouldn’t take long if it’s as simple as the government suggests.

If there is nothing to hide, that’s fine. But until the public learns the details, we’ll always suspect there is.

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  • Johnny smoke
    February 14, 2013 - 08:30

    I guess this gang of dippers never learn do they. When first elected they switched payments to Universities around paying twice the amount in one year so that they could blame the deficit on the Tories, then claim a bogus surplus the next year. Now I see that old habits die hard so why not try the same bait and switch again. However this time it is with red ink instead of black. Problem is while most look at the $9+billion dollar budget and think that this is a piddley amount, what you really have to look at is the deficit numbers and it grows from a piddley amount to over 12% of the deficit amount. Inconsequential says the minister of finance from her previous vast knowledge as a social worker. This may be so in her and her government's eyes, but I wonder if they were to cut their salaries and the salaries of the public service by 12% would that be inconsequential ? You bet your boots it would not and neither would the ruckus that would ensue. It just goes to show how desperate this party has become in it's attempt to hold on to power. Well the gig is up that fat lady is getting ready to sing all we need is an election, God willing it will be soon.