Every new year, we hear colleagues talk about their new year’s resolutions. Whether it is to eat healthier, to exercise more, or to help their neighbours more, they always come from good intentions and are intended to make the world around us a better place to live.
In that spirit, we thought of a few resolutions politicians should adopt in 2018. And unlike all those colleagues promising they’ll go to the gym everyday for a whole year, we’d like politicians to stick to them past January 20th and commit to keeping them throughout the whole year, maybe more.
- Have a plan to balance the budget within your mandate:
It’s kind of an obvious one coming from us, but it’s the key to keeping governments sustainable in the long run. With an aging population all across the country, the cost of government programs is expected to go up, while the tax base diminishes. Adding extra interest payments on top of that would just be irresponsible. Having a plan to balance the budget is key, but too often, politicians try and promise long-winded paths to balance, which seem to stretch so far into the future that they can easily blame changing circumstances to avoid doing good on their promises. By having a plan to balance it by the end of their mandates, it gives the opportunity to voters to judge them on their fiscal performance at the end of their term.
- Once budgets are balanced, keep them balanced:
Kind of an obvious one, but we thought we’d put it in there just to avoid those situations where politicians make the budget appear balanced for one year to score points with voters, and then go full-throttle on spending again after elections are passed. We’re looking at you Ontario!
- Put forward a debt repayment schedule:
Once budgets are balanced, the next step is to reduce interest payments to a minimum. What better way is there to do this than to start repaying the debt?
- Promote economic growth by cutting red tape:
A good way to raise government revenues without making the province uncompetitive is to promote economic growth. It allows governments to get more money, without raising taxes and making it less affordable for families and business in their jurisdiction. A good way to do this is to cut down on bureaucratic requirements and other job-killing regulations. This reduces the cost of doing business in one province, thus incentivizing companies to invest more locally.
- Make a full-review of government programs to ensure efficiency and sustainability:
Government doesn’t have the same incentives as a business. They know roughly what their level of revenue is from year to year, and generally don’t depend on people’s willingness to pay for it as they are coerced into doing so. Their leadership also thinks on a 4-year basis, rather than trying to ensure the continuity of the business in the long run. That has lead to ever increasing costs for programs, with very few verifications being made as to their efficiency and their value for money, or even their sustainability in the long run. As long as they are politically popular, they will keep getting funded time and time again, despite achieving poor results. By committing to review programs on an efficiency and sustainability basis, politicians could find better and cheaper ways to help Canadians.
Those are the five key commitments we’d like to see politicians take this year. Adopting any one of those would help make governments more sustainable in the long run, rather than staying on the current costly path governments are on.