Give it some thought, folks

I was in the parking lot at the grocery store yesterday when I saw a man and a woman arguing about their grocery receipt. They were having a very heated exchange gesticulating and using colourful language.

And as we are in election season and I spew forth on this blog, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment.

And it goes like this.

Since 1999 the New Brunswick government budget has increased by roughly 40% or around $2 billion a year (give or take a few million).

That works out to about $9,000 for every household in New Brunswick (750k households/3.3 persons per household).

Overall, the New Brunswick government alone (not the feds or the municipalities) spends about $5.8 billion per year (the 06/07 budget is $5,798,433,000) or about $25,500 per household.

Now, most of us have had ‘heated’ discussions about our personal finances (eating out, housing, cars, trips, big TVs – oops that one’s mine it just slipped in there) but don’t give a second thought about our single largest expenditure – by far – our taxes paid.

Now, don’t get me wrong, almost everyone gripes about paying taxes (I have a litany of blogs on the subject) but who really stops to think about with any depth what party is serving up the best value for dollars spent program? After all, which one of us ‘households’ could use a little of that $9,000 in our pockets each year?

Now we have all heard the Premier bragging that 76% of all new money has gone into health care so presumably that means about $6,800 per household into health care.

Now, if this was your personal finances and this cost bucket was rising at these astronomical rates (imagine if your personal ‘health care’ budget increased by $6,800 per year), you would have a serious look at it – a very serious look at it as that $6,800 would presumably be cutting into your food budget or your RRSPs or your house repairs budget.

You might a) look for another health care plan; b) look for ways to cut the benefits back, c) try and become more healthy so that your premiums might go down, or d) increase your deductable and become a lot smarter about how many trips to the emergency room you actually need in the run of a year.

But your government, on your behalf, has decided on e) just keep dumping more and more of our money in to the system without even look at a, b, c or d.

And our response?

We tell them through the polls that we want them to dump even more of our money into health care. 76%? Not enough, Bernie. 98% -That’s our number!!! Oh, and by the way Bernie get back up to the trough in Ottawa and pry loose some more money for health care.

So, I ask you folks to do one little thing for me this election. Think about what type of province you want to live in over the next 10-20 years. Forget health care for a minute.

By the way, neither Lord nor Graham mentioned ‘health care’ early on in the campaign but the ‘editors’ criticized them for it and so did the poll on Friday. You can expect the health care gravy train to flow over the next few weeks.

Back to my ask.

It’s your money. What do you want? Do you want government to give you dribs and drabs back (like the HST cut on electricity or the teensy weensy income tax cut) and spend nothing on the types of investments that will ensure you have a province to live in the next 20 years?

Or do you want government to spend your money wisely as you would – with necessary spending on expenses such as health care and education but also considerable investments in infrastructure and economic development and generating the ‘own-source’ revenue base needed to ensure we actually exist as a viable, political and social entity in 20 years?

For me, the answer is simple. If the government had just spent $1,000 per household each year investing in economic development since 1999, where would we be today? That’s $227 million per year investing in our future. Helping communities attract industry. Targeting training for specific company projects. Investment in rail and industrial park infrastructure. Investment in innovation and research.

I resent plowing all my tax dollars into health care (and increasingly ‘senior care’ which is health care, no?) without any intelligent discussion about it.

I once heard a politician say that health care costs are ‘rising faster than any other single government expenditure’.

I chuckled at this.
In New Brunswick, health care (and education) are the only costs ‘rising at all’.