Never know when to trust numbers

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No one likes being in debt. But keeping people blissfully unaware of debt is doing no one any favours.

Once again, Nova Scotians are handed a gloomier-than-expected picture of the province’s finances. The provincial Liberals upon coming to power last October told the public that it didn’t swallow the previous NDP government’s claim that the books for the year would show a $16.7 million surplus.

Figures released by the Liberals Thursday reveal a deficit for 2013-14 of $678.9 million, according to audited statements. That’s $200 million more than their own forecast made in December, attributed to lower-than-expected revenues, higher expenses and a one-time $318.3-million pension adjustment.

Similar stories have been repeated over the years as we pass from one government to its successor.

We can’t blame any one single party. In fact, the last time the Liberals were in power, their claims regarding fiscal management were rebuffed by the Conservatives, who went on to defeat them in the next election.

At any rate, here we sit, having been told a year ago the province would be slightly in the black, but in reality we’re more than half a billion in the red for just that fiscal year. The overall debt is $14.8 billion, and the projected deficit for 2014-15 is $279 million, with the Liberals saying it will be balanced by the end of their mandate.

Any bets as to whether the other parties will challenge the figures if they make such a claim?

Moving an expenditure from one fiscal year to another is often cited as the reason for discrepancies – for example, so-called differences in accounting practices. Really that’s just a fancy phrase that means fudging the figures. Either you owe money or you don’t, that’s fairly simple. Maybe you plan to pay it off over a longer versus a shorter haul, but it’s still money owed.

Nova Scotians need to demand a crystal clear picture of what the finances are, no smoke and mirrors involved.

Organizations: NDP, Conservatives

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