A report was released in March indicating the Manitoba provincial government earned a C letter grade in delivering its budget targets and providing transparent financial reports. With our provincial infrastructure mirroring the C grade, perhaps the government’s focus and efforts needs some improvement.
The C.D. Howe Institute was responsible for this report entitled, Credibility on the (Bottom) Line: The Fiscal Accountability of Canada’s Senior Governments, 2013 report. The authors, Colin Busby and William B.P. Robson, created a report card on the performance of Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments for hitting budget targets and providing transparent financial reports.
A budget is an estimate of income and expenditures for a specified period of time. A budget document can be used to determine what the goals of the organization are in financial terms. A theoretical example would be the Manitoba NDP government raising the provincial sales tax by 1% (i.e. income) and a corresponding 1% spent (i.e. expenditure) on infrastructure.
Budget documents can be nasty beasts to fight when trying to understand the information. The presentation of financial numbers are especially confusing if the reporting is not held to a common standard. The C.D. Howe Institute’s goal is to provide feedback to governments to improve their reporting so the average citizen would be able to find and analyze the key numbers, in an effort to hold governments accountable.
Since budgets show spending and saving habits, taxpayers have the ability to examine their representatives’ track record and determine for themselves if there is a good measure of fiscal responsibility with the monies collected in the form of taxes.
The C. D. Howe Institute, which touts itself as an independent not-for-profit research institute that is non-partisan, evidence based and subject to expert review, gave Manitoba a C grade in its report.
Our provincial government’s budget doesn’t provide information clearly enough to allow taxpayers to compare the actual results to what the budget had planned. The cause is multiple revenue and spending balance figures. In 2006/2007, the books were approved by auditors but they had some reservations on how some finances were being reported.
The scourge of my public education was the school report card. Three times a year my mother went to the school to collect the document from the advocates of my education. I can’t recall one review during my childhood education when that document resulted in any rejoicing by this student.
I was held accountable to the report. Any deviation from a baseline of respect would result in discipline. My mother assumed she was responsible for that guidance, the school only measured it. I was expected to get the respect commitment right, all the time. Making it through the teachers’ comments without having any supporting opinions of being a smart arse was a good thing. That left only the letter grades.
With a grade eight education, my mom, who was a single mother, knew she wanted more for her boys. If the grade letters on the card didn’t reflect what she required, you could expect to lose after school road hockey privileges in favour of reviewing school books under an overseer.
C letter grades were never a good indicator in a school report card. Knowing how my lack of focus and effort earned them, I don’t feel a C is a very good grade for my government. We could ignore the results and use the tactic of deflection by noting our government’s report is better than the Territories. That trick never worked with my mom.
The NDP government has been suggesting they are fulfilling their promise of using the monies raised from the increase to the provincial sales tax to fund new infrastructure initiatives. It will be difficult to hold the government to that promise if the average citizen can’t understand the accounting.
I guess we can always accept the government at its word. They did promise to not raise the provincial sales tax. As a line in the report says, People with a duty to act in the interest of others do not always do so.