Editorial: There's only so much room at the banquet table

March 29, 2019

Editorial: There's only so much room at the banquet table

As if there was ever any doubt, at least now we know the undeniable truth.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Or, if you want to be more blunt about it, you can most assuredly buy votes when it comes to politics.

Consider, for example, the recent announcement that Premier Scott Moe was positively giddy in delivering when he attended the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) annual general meeting. There he was, telling the folks that he had a boatload of cash for them. Specifically, a boost of more than $10 million for the province’s municipalities.

I’m sure this is unnecessary, but let’s just state the obvious in this case. Moe, and the Saskatchewan Party, have done their homework. Like everyone else is well aware, the unquestioned power base when it comes to their coveted voters are those very same municipalities who were just granted a nice four percent increase in funding.

To quote the good Premier, this was done with the desired goal of providing “a consistent source of unconditional provincial revenue,” citing words such as predictability, sustainability and transparency.

Remind me where I have heard those words before? Oh that’s right, it would be from the public education sector. That would include school boards, as well as teachers, not that either has a whole lot to say when it comes to hoping for a few scraps from the provincial budget dining table.

So as much as post-secondary institutions are also doing some of their own pre-budget lobbying, it would probably be foolhardy to predict that their voices will be heard above the din of those folks who can deliver votes when it comes time for the next provincial election.

To anyone else, the buzzwords that are being used are “balanced budget” and “austere budget.”

It absolutely bemuses me why there is this fixation with a balanced budget. Sure, it sounds good and it is much more palatable than a deficit. But really, you need to contemplate what achievement a balanced budget might be, if in the process, you are undermining some of the very core values of what makes for a stronger society.

Doubtlessly there has to be some belt tightening when resource prices are still in the tank, but to once again leave education as one of those components left largely empty-handed so that the good folks in the rural municipalities can have “consistent, predictable” funding is lamentable.

There is always this great song-and-dance routine before the budget when the government of the day announces just enough strategic information so as to create a buzz and simultaneously sufficiently dampen any undue enthusiasm for funding increases.

Here’s all the math you need. There is a finite number of dollars in the overall pot, so there will be winners and losers as there always are. The allotment for SUMA is in all likelihood a clear barometer of what is going to happen. Where that leaves education is less clear.