Few organizations would be bold enough to label a $590-million deficit as a $58-million surplus.
But there is only one Saskatchewan Party. And if the government says “growth,” then all signs will point to growth. Even if the signs have to be creatively reorganized.
Saskatchewan’s acting-auditor Judy Ferguson filed the first “adverse” audit opinion in the province’s history. She accused the government of not following generally accepted Canadian accounting principles. If the government had followed those rules, Ferguson said, the general revenue fund would show a nine-figure deficit.
But, like Catherine Martell from early ‘90s cult TV show Twin Peaks, the government appears to be keeping two sets of financial books.
The General Revenue Fund (GRF) focuses solely on government revenue and spending.
The Summary Financial Statement is more comprehensive. It includes the GRF numbers plus the revenue and debt of Crown corporations and other government agencies.
This is the type of dance the Sask. Party has been doing for a few years already. They can slap “balanced” on the front of a budget, and the taxpayers of this province buy into it.
For example, Ferguson said the government inappropriately counted transfers from its rainy-day fund as revenue.
If you owed a friend $100, and you borrow $200 from a family member, you are not up $100. You still owe money.
That rainy-day fund belongs to the taxpayers, the very same group of people Premier Brad Wall said he was defending in his recent letter to the CEO of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.
Wall accused PotashCorp of favouring the interests of shareholders over the interests of employees.
That may be true, and December is a very bad time to do layoffs, but you certainly couldn’t accuse PotashCorp of manipulating the facts.
The case can be made, however, that the provincial government is manipulating numbers. Keeping two sets of books allows the government to lie to the taxpayers without ever having to admit it.
That’s why Ferguson’s report, tabled in the legislature on Dec. 4, is so important. Someone with authority, independent of the government, has told the people of Saskatchewan the financial statements the Sask. Party are trying to sell us are unreliable.
Our hope is that the taxpayers listen.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.