Optimistically speaking

In the upcoming election, the provincial Liberals are expected to argue they're better at managing the economy than the New Democrats. But what makes for a good economic manager, you may wonder? Well, according to Small Business, Technology and Economic Development Minister Ida Chong, a certified general accountant, the answer is twofold: adherence to generally accepted accounting principles and "fiscal prudence." But fiscal prudence wasn't one of the words the Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia used to described the Campbell administration's most recent budget.

In a news release generally praising that budget, the association's president Stephen Spector nonetheless warned, "We believe that the Minister is optimistic in his predictions of (2.4 percent) economic growth and increased revenues in 2010 and we caution that these are volatile times."

So, if that's the case, how can British Columbians have confidence the Liberals are good economic managers? Speaking on Public Eye Radio, Minister Chong said, "I think it's important, as well, to understand how budgets are prepared. They're not prepared on the day they're released - that they're printed. The figures are calculated and ministry budgets are developed with input from the various ministers and their staff. And the economic forecast council's latest calculations - latest predictions - were that (economic growth in 2009) would be 0.0 percent."

"The fact it's changed even now, indicates what is happening around the world - the seismic shift, as they say, that's occurred. The speed and scope of what is occurring is less predictable than one would like to have but it is still changing. Will it re-shift itself in another quarter? It could do that to a more positive figure. Can we get back to 0.0 by the end of the first quarter? That's also a possibility. So I accept the fact the accountants - my own professional organization - came out with that on the day. Because that was perhaps at least ten days after the budget was prepared."

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