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Budget Briefs, Black Rod-style

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has come to the rescue of Gail Asper's vanity project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

According to Toronto Star columnist Martin Knelman, McGuinty has committed the Ontario government to giving the Manitoba project $5 million, in installments of $500,000 a year for 10 years.

"Premier Dalton McGuinty made the promise months ago to Gail Asper, chair of the fundraising campaign for the museum. But McGuinty asked for the deal to be kept quiet until he was ready to make an announcement." wrote Knelman in his column published Wedneday, March 25.

Nothing about the museum contribution was in the Ontario '09 budget this week, so a formal announcement is probably waiting for Gail Asper to get back from a trip to Argentina.

The money can't come soon enough. Private fundraising by Asper's organization, Friends of the Museum of Human Rights, has stalled millions short of the $105 million it pledged to raise for the project.

The publicly announced cost of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is $265 million, even though proponents have begun floating hints that the pricetag is already heading up, up and up.

*******

Professional Reporters At Work

"City council is poised to approve Winnipeg's 2009 operating budget this morning, even though as much as $15.1 million remains up in the air until the province tables its own budget Wednesday. "

(City hall puts its cash on the table, by Bartley Kives, March 24, 2009, Winnipeg Free Press.)

"But council's unofficial opposition opposed the spending plan because the city plans to make cuts to the public service if Manitoba does not grant Winnipeg $15.1 million in additional funding when the Doer government tables the provincial budget this afternoon. "
(War of words erupts at city hall/Council OKs budget but colourful language flies by Bartley Kives, March 25, 2009, Winnipeg Free Press.)

Tick, tick, tick, tick....

It's been four days now since the budget was unveilled and we still don't know if the city got the $15.1 million.

Did the province come through? Will property taxes be frozen?

Will we ever know?

******

The NDP government's spin machine was set to maximum overdrive in the 2009 provicial budget.

Faced with having to explain gallons of red ink, the NDP spindoctors went running to the works of George Orwell. Ahh, doublespeak. What a brilliant idea.

Henceforth, all expenditures by government will be known as "investments." Cue the trumpets.

And so it was----Finance Minister stuffed his budget with more than 80 references to "investments."

Not so fast.

There's one little problem.

Words have meaning.

It's not like inventing new words (planful, for example) which have no meaning except whatever you want them to mean at the moment.

"Investment" must, obviously, mean something beyond spending.

You don't invest in a pizza, however much satisfaction you get out of eating it.

You don't claim you invested in a copy of the Winnipeg Free Press, not unless you're looking at the job ads.

When you buy a Lotto 649 ticket, you're not investing, you're gambling.

An investment implies a return, a specific return over a specific time period.

So when the NDP budget says it's investing in education, or infrastructure, or health, we have to ask what's the return and over what time?

If the answer is "we don't know", then it's either spending, or a gamble.

Gary Doer has said he trusts the Auditor General's word on the budget. So, maybe, it's up to her to examine each and every reference to "investment" in the budget and to announce publicly whether it meets the criterion of an investment (specific return over a specific time period) or not.

Can we trust her to do that?

We're going to invest in a couple of beers before we answer.

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