“The government should build better roads! The government should stop wasting money! The government should pay for childcare! The government should lower taxes! The government should make school classes smaller! The government should make transit free! And, the government should…” well, pretty much nearly everything.
If you have read my columns before, you will know that I am happy to lecture leaders for their shortcomings, but, if voters are in favour of the government living within its means, voters have to reign in their expectations, especially now.
Our economic output has dropped faster than it did in the Great Depression. Locally, the City Of Prince George is predicting a $9 million shortfall this year. Even if the optimistic forecasters are correct, and economic growth continues to recover, and Covid doesn’t force us to shut down again, the money lost to government revenue won’t be recovered.
Less money means less spending, or it should. Anyone reasonably good at managing their own money knows that when income is down, family and business spending is reduced by the same amount. Spending is either eliminated or severely restricted. Spending on entertainment, renovations, eating out, and travel is out the door. Phone bills, hydro, heating costs, the grocery budget, are all carefully examined for cost savings.
Less spending for governments means the same things in our cities, provinces, and country, as it does in our homes: no new projects, no fun projects, repairs instead of replacement, and cutting discretionary spending.
When it comes to election time, and politicians show up at our door or in a town hall, will we ask them “What (increased spending) will you do for me, us, or them?”
Or will we ask for less spending; fewer services and regulations, tighter control of spending, and no shiny new buildings? The questions you ask them determines the outcome of the election, almost regardless of who gets in.
Politicians respond to voter requests. They have to, or else they don’t get elected. Everything we ask the government to do costs money, and while it is the role of politicians to make wise decisions, they are human, and if the only feedback they get is to spend more, it is hard to make decisions that mean fewer services or facilities.
Election promises are made to attract voters. What the promises are, depends on what the voter wants.
I saw Neil Godbout’s article on the city’s salary increases, which follows several different news organization’s articles this past week about budgetary overruns for city projects. Also, the Citizen published the Canadian Tax Payers Federation article on the need to have a provincial oversight for municipalities.
While these issues are not the focus of this column, they highlight the need for voters to pay attention to elections. Get involved, don’t think that we can spend ourselves into prosperity, and help campaign for the candidate that understands basic economics.