Creating policy according to polls is not a sign of leadership.
A Conservative supporter wrote to us asking our take on a Chronicle Herald story. The story reported that a Liberal survey was asking Nova Scotians if they would be comfortable with balancing the province’s books in 2017 instead of holding the line on spending.
While the Liberal Party would neither confirm nor deny they paid for the survey, the questions were all centred on potential planks of Stephen McNeil’s campaign: spending hikes, cutting health authorities, the Liberal’s electricity commercial, and whether Nova Scotia should continue to run a deficit.
As the Herald put it:
The questions sounded like ones the Grits would ask if they were building an election platform… there were also questions about balancing the budget, whether it should be done in a period of economic decline and if the government should balance the budget in 2017, not 2013.
While our readers may be concerned about Liberals building platforms around polling numbers, we do not find it strange or of much concern. Government policy should not be dictated by opinion polls, but the opposition may need this extra insight to craft palatable policy or ditch dangerous ideas.
Although the Liberals seem certain an election will be called this fall or next spring, we see the election coming in Fall 2013 – the NDP’s balanced budget would be law and a difficult step for any of the three parties to argue against.
If the NDP does introduce a balanced budget next year, Nova Scotia could be only the second province to manage that feat since the worldwide economic crisis, after Saskatchewan. Balanced budgets mean lower debt. Lower debt payments mean more money free for health, roads and help for the poor. Achieving a balanced budget without cutting economic stimulus (in the midst of a worldwide economic instability), is something to be proud of, or to envy, depending on your political stripe.