The analogy is appropriate, but it needs to be taken a step further.
In a year-end interview with Black Press’ Tom Fletcher, Premier Christie Clark tried to compare her government’s finances to that of any household.
Repeating the words she and her finance minister spoke earlier in the week, the premier suggested a family that has rode through tough times using credit cards needs to put money on those cards when the finances improve.
She was speaking of the government’s estimated $444 million surplus and her plan to put that money toward B.C.’s debt.
We agree that is a prudent strategy. It is irresponsible to ignore the debt. It’s almost criminal to burden future governments and future generations with such a financial millstone.
However, we don’t believe the entire $400 million needs to go to paying down the debt.
Let’s continue with the premier’s fictitious family. When times are tough and you are living off credit cards, many things around the house fall into disrepair. The plumbing, the electrical, perhaps the roof.
Yes, you can get by for a while without these things being fixed. They can be put off until finances improve. But when the money situation gets better, it makes sense to not only put some cash down on the credit cards, but fix the roof. A leaky and/or old roof is just going to cause more expensive problems down the road if it’s not upgraded.
The B.C. government has a bunch of leaky roofs. It’s time to take a quarter, a third or even half of that $444 million to fix some of these problems around its house.
There is no shortage of suggestions for what to do with some of this money. Ask the NDP for ideas — they are very good at spending taxpayers’ money.
When times were tougher, maybe it made sense to hike medical premiums and claw back child support payments from social assistance and disability recipients. Perhaps it was prudent to increase ferry rates and cut some of that service. However, we are seeing some of the results of these cuts, especially in regards to the ferry service. Those measures have caused damage to the economy.
Sure, Premier Clark, pay down that credit card debt. But fix the roof first.
— Editorial by John Harding