Politicians get a lot of well-earned criticism for being dishonest and hypocritical. Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have just witnessed Liberal MHAs defend cuts to libraries that they called shameful a few years ago when the PCs made cuts of their own Meanwhile the PCs have criticized the Liberals for not doing enough to limit patronage appointments even though they seemed to have no issue with appointing PC supporters to patronage positions while they were in power. Amid all the scorn being heaped on politicians of all stripes in the province, one MHA caused a stir last week when he suggested that everyone in the province, not just the government, shares some responsibility for the mess we are in. He is absolutely right.
Voters are more hypocritical and dishonest than any MHA. How many of the people you hear bemoaning the fact that government wasn’t more frugal with public finances were calling into open line shows a few short years ago complaining about their income tax cut? Did you ever hear a public sector worker suggest that maybe it would be more prudent to get a smaller raise and put some money into a heritage fund for a rainy day?
When governments do their public consultations, how many people do you think show up and suggest that the government should spend less money or increase taxes? And of those who do, how many actually propose spending cuts or tax increases that would affect them? Nobody who works for the government is going to suggest spending less money and anyone who suggests increasing taxes is only going to want the increases for people who make more money than them.
Since last fall, the price of oil has actually been rising steadily, and there is reason to be optimistic that in the second half of the Liberal mandate the economy and oil royalties will be strong enough that the government will actually have some money to be spent again. You might think that after seeing firsthand the pain that can result from spending too much when times are good during an oil boom that voters will be encouraging the government to be cautious about increasing spending too quickly, but you would be wrong.
If the Liberal government wants to get re-elected in 2019 they will need to spend every cent of increased oil revenues they have. After attacking the PCs for not doing enough to save for a rainy day, some in the Liberal Party might have some reservations about doing the exact same thing they accused the PCs of, particularly when they have already broken so many promises in the last campaign, but they will have no worries about a voter backlash. Voters only get upset about government hypocrisy when they are taking money away, not when they are spreading it around.