Monday, 30 January 2017

Validate and Prioritize

Validate and Prioritize

By: Ryan Young

Last week the government announced its 2017 pre-budget consultation schedule. Yes, that’s right, more expensive consultations, just so the government can say that they consulted with the people prior to bringing down their new budget next spring. I am all for consultation, as long as it is productive. That, however, would mean that the government actually listened to what the people were saying instead of cherry-picking a few ideas that suit their plans and presenting it as what the people said they want.

During the public sessions that were part of the Government Renewal Initiative that the Liberals began last fall, people were asked three questions:

1. Thinking of all of the things government spends your money on to provide the residents of the province with services, what are three things that could be stopped in order to save money?

2. Given the financial challenges facing our province, what three things do you think government could do to raise money (increase revenue)

3. How can government be more innovative or efficient to provide quality services at lower costs?

While the official results of these consultations are not due to be released until March, likely at the same time as the budget, these questions guided the direction of The Way Forward document that was released last fall. This year, people are now being asked to provide their input on the four main pillars of The Way Forward.

1. A more efficient public service

2. A stronger economic foundation

3. Better services

4. Better outcomes

Looking at the “Our Fiscal Future” road-map, the consultations happening next month are listed as “Validate and Prioritize” with the subheading as “Seek Public Feedback on Choices Presented.” That indeed seems to be what they are attempting to do by setting the events up with the four main questions for discussion. This will be the final phase of the renewal initiative before it is completed and incorporated into The Way Forward, and future Liberal budgets. Whether on not what people have to say will change anything in The Way Forward will remain to be seen, but this writer wont be holding his breath.

You can be sure that the last thing that these Liberal ministers and MHA’s want to do right now is to publicly engage with people across the province. Unfortunately for them, it is a necessary step for them to be able to complete their promise of public consultation, and so they will be able to fall back to the argument that they asked the people what they wanted when more “tough decisions” come down the pipe in subsequent budgets. For them it is all about the optics of it, but as we recently saw on the Prime Ministers optics tour, things can quickly backfire when you put arrogant politicians in a room with angry people who are directly suffering under their policies.

It will be interesting to see if there is any productive discussion at all or if the whole thing just turns into a long parade of people who want to air their grievances directly to government. I expect it will be a very tough tour for the Liberals who will be asked to publicly answer for their poor choices so far. Last time around people were still somewhat optimistic that they might actually have a say in the future of their province, but with the actions of this government over the past year, only the most partisan reds still share that view. The rest of us just see it as an exercise in futility and even more wasted taxpayer dollars. I really wish I could write with a less cynical view, but I can only work with what I am given. At the end of the day, Dwight, Cathy, and all the rest already have their minds made up and no matter what they hear from people over the next couple of weeks, it will be full steam ahead for The Way Forward.

If you are interested in attending a session, you can find the information here:

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