The contemporary social welfare state, of which Canada has been (used to be ?) a good example, is characterized by its commitment and ability to care for its citizens by overtaking the management of certain areas of social life. The areas are those where, individuals or families, by themselves, are powerless to mobilize the resources for vital tasks to be fulfilled. There, the machinery of the state, run by governments, uses the resources at hand, to a large extent the monies collected from the taxpayers, corporate or individual, to satisfy the demands of the individuals making up the society.
This is a somewhat boring theoretical, but necessary introduction to an issue that is beginning to affect many people in the province.
Within a space of just a week, our provincial government has shown the tact (audacity?) to announce major spending cuts in two vital areas that only governments and nobody else can be responsible for: health care and education.
And the way the spending cuts were announced bordered the ridiculous:
In the morning the premier tells a news conference that his government understands the need for more and better schools and hospitals for the growing population of the province and stresses the requirement for qualified personnel to run these institutions; in the afternoon his finance minister announces staff cuts for health care institutions. This is followed in less than two days by the education minister announcing spending cuts totalling $80 million, (and this is where the cookie crumbles) including for projects already agreed.
Having come to a point of freezing recruitment is not a desirable situation even for a commercial company, let alone a government.
But laying off of staff due to a budget deficit is simply embarrassing for a government. It is so not only because governments, by their nature, are required to act prudently and cautiously, but also because they (should) have the tools and the wisdom to predict the developments and act accordingly to ensure that life goes on with minimal damage being inflicted on the citizens.
Premier Ed Stelmach and his cabinet colleagues have been giving examples of disastrous governance practices ever since the economic downturn began to hit the province, emptying the coffers of what was the richest province in the country just a year ago with more than $ 8 billion in surplus.
As such, they have already secured their places in the history books, which is said to be the ultimate height any politician would like to reach.
They are going into history books all right, but whether they will like how history (and the electorate) will remember them, I am not so sure.