I ran into them on my recent trade mission to China. And I actually saw them in Japan. Spoke to them too.
Here's the deal. It's no secret that Japan, like most countries, is having money woes. Canada's debt in dollars is about 32% of the value of all the goods and services we produce, (called the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.)
The ratio in the USA of their debt to GDP is high, close to 80%.
Japan's? Their ratio of government debt to GDP is a whopping 200%!
The only reason they can carry all that debt is that it is mostly owned (or owed) domestically.
So they can arrange very accommodating (low) interest rates and payback plans. It's a little bit like those furniture store ads. You know, the ones that convince you to rush in now for those great deals by promising “You won't have to pay one cent till December 2012!”…or the end of the century or…whenever.
They still realize they have a problem…….Government spending.
They need to bring it under control and they're open to suggestions on how.
So that's why they, and other countries, are watching us.
They are aware that we are on the pathway to a balanced budget by the year 2014. Their government officials met with us to go over the details of our plan. It was an honour for me to do so.
When I got home and started to explain Japan's request for the key points of our spending reduction plan our business people looked surprised.
"We have a plan?" they asked.
They were serious. Even though these were well informed, entrepreneurial Canadians they were not aware of our road map to a balanced budget.
It struck me that with all the national news coverage of a smorgasbord of stuff there hasn't been much on our pathway to deficit elimination.
So let me give you a quick overview of how we intend to get there without 'slashing and burning.'
First, all the operational spending of all federal government departments will be frozen at existing levels for the next 3 years. No new money.
(That does NOT include the transfer payments we give to provinces for things like health care. Seniors' benefits and Employment Insurance will not be affected either.)
We have also frozen all MP salaries. And all travel and hosting budgets at 2009 levels for all departments.
Next, we are now designating all departments and agencies to go through a special cost reduction exercise.
For the next 3 years on a rotating basis we are asking each one to come up with savings of 5 percent.
This year, our goal is to find $1.8 Billion in savings.
That is not a one time saving. That means every year after, those departments will be spending 5% less.
This will not be an easy exercise. But the fact is, if we do this now we won't have to 'slash and burn' people programs.
All levels of government need to get serious about freezing and reducing operational and administrative spending.
It's the way to avoid a slippery (or should I say 'Greecey') slope.
Locally, Merritt hosted a great rodeo this weekend - all aboriginal riders from all over North America. I stopped in to watch. Great talent and high level action.
Gives a whole new meaning to the word “Brave”.
Braver than I am, that's for sure.
And this week was the Olympics of the Tradespeople in the Okanagan.
Local carpenter Devon Hamilton won the gold medal.
It was quite inspiring hearing from a number of these professional Journeymen in a variety of trades talking about their love for their work and pride of their craft.
Sometimes we forget to acknowledge these hardworking folks who put their boots on every day and head off to work, rain or shine, to literally build our nation.
We salute our Tradespeople and Apprentices. We'd be in a sorry state without their skills and hard labour.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.