Flaherty, don’t forget about the poor regions

I know the Federal Tories look at the world through a national lense. I know that all of the ‘have not’ Atlantic provinces only amount to 7.5% of the total Canadian population – just an annoyance really – especially from a votes perspective. But the problems facing New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland are not going away. They will only get worse without a serious bump in economic growth. And I think that inevitably resentment will only grow.

It is clear that the Federal Tories are not focused on the ‘national’ view when they talk about cutting debt and lowering taxes. That is a perfect message for Alberta. Maybe for Ontario as well (although they would like a few more bucks for the provincial level of government). BC aussi.

But in New Brunswick, it rings cold. NBers already pay the second lowest amount of personal tax – because we earn the second lowest average earnings. Low income, low taxes paid. We want to pay more taxes – if it means that our collective income is going up.

What NB needs is a 10-20 year plan for economic renewal and cutting debt and taxes does almost diddly squat for that.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty outlined a program to wipe out the government’s net debt within 15 years and use the interest savings to finance tax cuts. He said he would cut total federal debt to 25 per cent of GDP by 2021.

He compared it to paying off the national mortgage, but Liberal MP John McCallum accused him of using “an arcane statistic” – the net debt – to confuse people.

The federal government’s total debt is about $480 billion, but the net debt involves a calculation which piles up all government debt – federal and provincial – then subtracts government assets, including the Quebec and Canadian pension plans. It’s far less than the total federal debt.

Net debt is something that “only a handful of economists in the OECD have every heard of,” McCallum said.

Even Flaherty’s promise on net debt may not be deliverable. The federal finance minister has no say in how provinces handle their purses.