Book Reviews

Book Review: What I Learned About Politics


On October 8 2013 Nova Scotia’s NDP government went down in a devastating election defeat. Even premier Darrell Dexter lost his own seat, and the party holds the dubious distinction of being the first one-term majority government in Nova Scotia in over a century.

In this memoir, the author, a lawyer who was appointed the finance minister, explains how provincial governments of sparsely populated provinces in Canada function and are governed. In most cases, such provinces rely on their natural resources to enhance the inflow of taxes tot eh treasury. When prices fall, taxes collected diminish, but government obligations remain the same, or even increase.

The author explains that 80 per cent of government budgets go to civil servants, and the government can manipulate only the rest of available funds.

There are only four ways to increase the income of the treasury or balance the budget – increasing taxes, sell government assets, cut expenses, print money,

Increasing taxes has its side effects, and repercussions. If taxes are already high, as they are on certain ties i.e alcohol or tobacco or luxury goods, smuggling same may be the result, and this is highly undesirable.

Provincial governments cannot print money, therefore must borrow from banks or the population by issuing bonds. Both represent drains on the treasury later.

There are many stakeholders who expect politicians and the governing party to make life easier for them. They watch, and scrutinize each policy that affects their benefits and living.

In sparsely populated provinces, all these aspects play important roles for any governing party when the election time comes.

Governing is never easy. There are always segments of the population that criticize any policy.

The media is another source that watches politicians and more than ready to publicize shortcomings of politicians.

The author is also highly critical of politicians in the legislature who devote their time to attend to personal matters, rather than participate in policy making and debates.

In short, most provincial politicians become caseworkers of their constituents to “fix” their “problems”.

The author pulls no punches in assessing the “rights and wrongs” with our current provincial political system.

The writing flows seamlessly, exposing the corrosion of partisanship in politics today.

I recommend this book to understand the failure of achieving true political progress that eludes democracy as practiced in North America and possibly western European countries.

The author is to be lauded for his commitment to expose hoe modern governments of sparsely populated provinces function.

Highly recommended.

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