The proverbial ping-pong pundit game provided the usual fare after the Liberals tabled their budget.
NDP operatives slammed the 2.6 per cent increase in health-care spending, insisting it was a cut. Mayor Derek Corrigan criticized the government for selling Crown land and buildings (estimated at $800 million) and so on, and so on. Granted the Liberals did some unpopular things: increasing MSP premiums, and raising taxes for those making more than $150,000 a year, and hiking corporate taxes. But did they really have any choice?
The mere fact that they raised taxes on the over-$150,000 group - their target supporters - indicates that they were making choices they would rather not have made.
The truth is that there simply are no good choices. The Liberals, through their own making - and with some help from a flaccid economy - are faced with the inevitable "between a rock and a hard place" cliche. They cannot offer their supporters any more free rides, and they also can't cut community services anymore - triggering more ugly headlines and giving Adrian Dix ammunition. The problem is Dix can, at this point, just criticize and stand back hoping no one notices that he cleverly avoids offering any clear, viable alternatives.
It reminds us of an election a couple of decades ago when the hot topic was the government taking casino funds. An NDP insider confided that he hoped the Liberals would do it, even though the NDP had criticized it. He knew that government coffers were in desperate need of a new cash flow, and casinos would be a cash cow. And, when the NDP won the next election, they could tut tut about it all they wanted, but they all knew that they would never roll back the decision and lose all that money.
We think Dix can tut tut all he wants now, but he knows, as do others, that the NDP isn't going to roll back anything that can bring in much-needed cash.