NB Budget 2006-2007

I got my Budget 2006-2007 briefing in the mail today. As with the ‘Report Card’ and the ‘Prebudget briefing’ documents, I continue to be amazed that the government can spend what must amount to several hundred thousand dollars each time to prepare, print and mail these high impact pieces of propaganda.

I won’t dissect this to death. I already gave the budget a run through a few weeks ago. But I do have a few comments about this document:

1. After years of pounding the ‘Prosperity Plan’ into our heads at every possible term, now it doesn’t show up at all. Presto. No more PP. Why? Bernard Lord didn’t go the bathroom without reminding us that it would be part of the PP and now nada.

2. But we get the ‘5 in 5’ – which are as vague and unattainable as the PP but he has another 5 – no lets make it 3 to talk ‘5 in 5′ and then it’ll drop and we’ll get the ’10 in 10’ plan. This stuff is bonkers – make no mistake. Highest increase in workers with post-secondary education? We’ll when you are second last in the country – I would think any increase would be helpful. During Lord’s first Prosperity Plan we actually lost ground – i.e. got dumber compared to the national average and we are expected to believe we will be fastest growing? Ditto to the other four.

3. Personal and corporate income tax savings of $1.1 billion since 1999. Thank goodness that was offset by over $2.5 billion in increased Equalization. How’s that for a CONSERVATIVE economic development strategy. Substitute real tax revenue with Equalization. Interesting, at least.

4. 50000 New Brunswickers removed from the income tax rolls. Am I missing something here? The government spends something like $17,000 per taxpayer each year and they are bragging that they have taken 50,000 off the rolls. Here’s a hint, Bernie. How about working on strategies to raise income levels so people will gladly pay their taxes. Albertans pay the highest income taxes in the country – and are glad to do so. Sheesh.

5. $17 million in personal income tax reductions. I detest these little symbolic gestures. That work’s out to about $3 bucks a month per average taxpayer. Nothing. But $17 million into a targeted economic development campaign could have considerable impact. Think about that when you are spending your 3 bucks.

6. More jobs. I don’t know how they let this one slip in. Their own spin chart shows that there have been only 19,000 net new jobs since 2000 (go read this chart, I am not lying). So, if you consider the 15,000 in new health care and other public jobs, well, you get the picture. Their own chart shows 20,000 net new jobs from 1996 to 1999. Opps.

7. New Brunswick – The ‘Smart Province’ – Yes they have a caption that says this. Despite having the worst literacy rates in Canada. The second lowest standardized test scores, the second lowest rate of post secondary educated persons. The most Internet illiterate society. BUT DONT WORRY – there’s another $1M for adult literacy. Probably about the same amount as the production and postage costs associated with these propaganda pieces.

8. And the capper, of course. Once again, no mention of our population decline. First sustained population decline since Confederation and the government could care less. Bienvenue to New Brunswick.