Last week, the media delivered its resounding judgement on the Conservatives’ fall budget update. Jim Flaherty, they say, has unfortunately allowed the projections to slip. The deficit has grown. Canada may not balance its budget on time. Curiously, this fact does nothing to change the obvious cognitive dissonance now in play in the right-wing media. Conservative deficits are bad. But Liberal deficits would be even worse, because the Conservatives are going reluctantly into deficit, whereas the Liberals do so enthustiastically. CBC, also known as Conservative Biased Commentary, gave an online column to former Harber Cabinet minister Stockwell Day to deliver this message, along with some trumped-up nonsense about how “quantitative easing” means going into debt (no, it doesn’t).
Anyhow, it’s time for Sixth Estate’s budget commentary series. The theme as the same as the last time, and the time before that. The fact that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has announced we’ll “miss” our budget balance projections yet again isn’t news, despite what you may have read in the news media. In fact, that’s what’s happened, every year, since the Conservatives came to power. When it comes to accurately predicting the state of the nation’s finances in future years, you can see from the following chart that Flaherty is almost unbelievably consistent in never quite delivering a performance as good as he’d promised:
What this chart shows are the Conservative surplus and deficit projections announced every year as part of the budget, with the last line, the light blue one, indicating this fall’s budget update. As you can see, the government invariably comes in slightly below where it claimed it would be. That’s precisely what happened this fall, so it’s pretty much par for the course.
That doesn’t mean the overall deficit or surplus hasn’t changed. It has. The Conservatives started out with a small surplus of several billion dollars per year. They changed that into a record-winning deficit of $50 billion per year. Canada has been clawing itself back out of the budget deficit hole ever since. Good thing we didn’t have a left-wing government in power. Imagine how big their deficit would be! Thank God for responsible Conservative money management.
What this has meant is that, ever since the Conservatives first got us back into deficit, the day at which they claim they’ll balance the budget has slipped progressively farther and farther into the future. In the 2009 budget, they promised we’d be back into the black in 2013. Last year, they said it would be more like 2014. This spring, they promised to balance the budget in 2015. This fall, they said it would be more like 2016.
I wonder what they’ll say next year.Tweet