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Balancing the books

Another year, another spending plan. The provincial Liberals have released their plans on how they’re going to spend our tax money over the next year.

The biggest headline, or at least the one that the governing party pushed the most, was that this was the first balanced budget it had put together in nearly a decade. Provincial budgets across the country had faced deficit after deficit after deficit following the economic crash of 2008, and some are still seeing their books in the red. For example, Saskatchewan’s budget is facing a deficit of nearly $700 million based on $14.8 billion in spending.

However, the Liberals have chosen to play a game played by many a politician when it comes to using budgets as an election ploy. After all, this is the budget that will stick in many a voter’s mind come next year’s election, as it is the last full-year spending plan that will be passed before then.

And the game played was making a show of balancing that budget. And just as is the case whenever any government balances a budget following years of deficits, there are questions as to whether the balance is a true one. In this case, PC leader Patrick Brown was quick to point out that the Liberals were hiding a $5-billion operating deficit.

Similar questions were raised in 2015 when, during a federal election year, the Conservatives presented a balanced budget. Opposing politicians went after Stephen Harper for what they saw as not a truly balanced spending plan, having used contingency funds and selling off assets to make the numbers work.

So with all the arguing over whether the budget is balanced or not, at the end of the day, it’s just a way to work to confirm political biases. In this case, if you lean as a Liberal voter, then you’ll be pleased. If you’re a PC or NDP voter, then you’ll see this as a sham.

So what to do? Look at the actual policies being announced, and see how they would affect your life, whether it is for better or for worse.

Next year is an election year, and all signs point to a high voter turnout. So take the time to know not only what the parties are promising, but also their track record on following through on those promises. After all, is it really worth voting for a party that promises you the moon and the stars if they can’t even get the rocket off the launch pad?