I have been pondering the upshot of democracy. I celebrate our democracy’s ability to sustain political commentary from television shows like CBC’s Rick Mercer report. I also want to kick dirt on home plate, like an angry major league baseball team manager, in light of the provincial government shell game with the provincial sale tax increase.
When I watch a world news report of events in other countries, I pull out my journal of quotes and read Winston Churchill’s original thought, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
In September of 2013 in an article for the Lance Community Newspaper, How much should a pothole and a movie cost? I suggested naming a pothole after ‘Greg Selinger’. I felt Selinger was appropriate because the pothole had similarities with his government’s approach to raising the provincial sales tax. It was unfortunate when I penned the article I didn’t have a picture of the pothole for the story. Road repair crews just filled it in before I could snap a shot. Well, the pothole is back and so is a shuffle in the tax increase.
I revel in satire on topical issues, especially politics. I find the comical exaggeration of the follies exposes the truth. Sometimes the truth pains me.
The NDP is reducing the infrastructure budget by $300 million down to $1.5 billion according the the Finance Department’s quarterly report. Premier Greg Selinger told Manitobans when the 1% hike was introduced, the monies would go to fund important flood protection projects and other infrastructure, like highways and bridges. That is not what the quarterly report is showing.
To better illustrate the shell game the government used to arrive at the outcome, I penned this story. Stories are a methodology that can be used to help us understand, similar to the use of satire. They can give us insight into people who are not like us.
The home owner’s property is bordered by three fences. The home owner is looking for funds to improve infrastructure — the fence. The home owner approaches each neighbour and asks for $300 for the project. He will put in $300 as well.
After securing funding from each neighbour the home owner does some painting to the fence adjacent to property A and changes a few palings on the fence to neighbour B. The home owner does nothing to the fence adjacent to neighbour C.
Neighbour C finds out the $1200 that was budgeted for the project was reduced to $900. When the home owner is asked about neighbour C’s $300, he responds that the money was spent exactly where it was allocated: infrastructure. The budget reduction of $300 was not neighbour C’s money. Their money was in the infrastructure project.
The government refused to have a referendum on the PST increase. It needed the deed to be done right away. There were projects that had to get built and the money needed to be available for the construction season. The provincial sales tax increase was carried. We just won’t see the money in infrastructure promised.
The last time a political poll taker was at my door, I expressed concern over the approach the NDP was using to increase the PST. I suggested maybe a referendum. I didn’t see this as a successful tactic for the government to get money. We taxpayers are a cheap bunch and don’t usually approve of politicians spending money. I supported a more focused action plan on maintaining infrastructure, especially roads. I was hoping to have something more than the lipstick promise from a premier telling us what the money was being used for.
The pothole I named ‘Greg Selinger’ is back this season. Now instead of uttering profanity when I hit it, I think of a check mark. Am I satisfied or unsatisfied by the actions of the current party in power? I’m hoping the city doesn’t fill in the pothole until after the next provincial election, it’s a reminder of infrastructure. When the next provincial election is held I can use a privilege provided by democracy, the ability to cast a ballot.
Photo and illustrations by Sean Conway