It’s budget time in the world of politics, with both provincial and federal budgets coming down.
And everyone — people on the street, politicians, chambers of commerce, think tanks on the right and left and more — all have an opinion on how the money should be spent, and what mistakes whichever political party is handing down this year’s budget made.
And most of the talk adds up to zero. As we saw in the B.C. budget, political ideology and election promises can only play a limited role in financial planning for entities as large as provinces or countries.
Before you can ever get to those political ideals, there are the basic costs of running a province that have to be taken care of: schools, highways and more, not to mention the cost of running the government itself.
Then, there are market forces to consider. What’s needed to keep the economy growing, or at least not slipping into the red ink?
So if you were expecting the B.C. NDP budget to sweep away tolls on bridges and the like, that was never in the cards; that income is too important for funding not only road maintenance but other needed projects.
Many years ago, when the Coquihalla was built, the expectation was the newly-introduced toll would be removed when the construction costs were covered. That happened when the bill was paid in 2008, but it wasn’t without a lot of public pressure on the Gordon Campbell-led Liberal government of the day.
No matter their political stripe, any government has to answer some basic needs when preparing a budget, not unlike your own personal planning: keep the money flowing in, pay for the essentials first, prioritize new spending. What’s needed most, affordable housing or daycare?
Luxuries, the category where most political ideals and election promises fall, come last.