I know I have asked this somewhat rhetorical question a few times over the past two years each tim the Tories do a decidedly non conservative thing.
But after crunching those job numbers the other day, I continued to wonder about this issue. Since 1999, here are a few ‘Conservative’ actions:
Increase government spending wildly – in line with other provinces who have been growing their populations (presumably if you have more people you need to spend more on government – not so for the NB Tories – less population means massive new spending) – up over 40% since 1999 – close to $2 billion more.
Government jobs make up the bulk of all net new jobs created since 1999. During the Liberals in the 1994 to 1999 period something like 85% of all net new jobs were private sector and – it’s hard to get a hard # here but my estimate is that almost half of all net new jobs created by the Tories were government employees (the bureaucracy, health care, education).
Increasing dependency on Equalization and other Federal transfers. This one confuses me the most. The Premier has been by far the most vocal about this issue among all his peers – demanding more Equalization – stating our ‘constitutional’ right to more. Why would a Tory Premier want the brand of Welfare Premier? (I note with some glee that he has worked the term ‘self-sufficiency’ into his comments during this election – as someone who has warned for years against over dependence on Equalization and other transfers after witnessing first hand the devastation after Paul Martin’s cuts in the early 1990s – I find this a little ironic)
A colleague of mine that studies the health care sector told me that New Brunswick was one of only two provinces that categorically stated they would not be looking at ways to engage the private sector in health care in the wake of the Chaoulli decision in Quebec. Only Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
Gas price regulation.
So, to sum up.
The Liberals spent the last five years of their government in the 1990s climbing out of a huge post-recession hole – created in large part by decreases in Federal transfers. They created very few government jobs and increased the size of government by a relatively small amount.
The Tories spent the last six years rapidly expanding government spending and employment and demanding more Equalization and transfers to pay for it. In addition, they have made a number of moves that would be to the left of the Liberals such as their position on Chaoulli and gas price regulation.
What’s a Tory?
Maybe the question should be what’s a Liberal? With Bernard Lord firmly planted in the ‘liberal’ camp – big spender and big government – and poking fun that the Liberals for all their ‘cuts’ in the 1990s (the term they use is ‘lack of investment’), what’s a big ‘l’ Liberal to do?
It looks like Shawn’s only choice is to out-spend Lord which will be challenging considering his other promise to become a ‘have province’ which will necessitate big time recalibrating spending with own-source revenues.