Harper’s deficit wasn’t supposed to rise but did
The Conservatives have held a mantra of fiscal responsibility. It has worked up to now because neither the Liberals or NDP could offer a credible alternative. However, anyone who looks at the Conservative record would see their mantra is nothing but lies.
The Conservatives promised to eliminate the deficit by the next election. Up to now, they’ve told us we will have a $800 million surplus in the 2015-16 fiscal year which is a far cry from the $13 billion surplus they inherited in 2006.
The surplus was squandered within the first two years of their mandate as they recklessly increased spending and cut revenue and when the opposition was about to call them out on their behavior, the American economy hit the fan and sent everyone else in a downward spiral. Consequently, a government that was about to be defeated on the basis of economic mismanagement in 2008 has since used it as an illusion to gain votes.
The deficit for the first two months of this fiscal year, which started in April, is posted at $2.7 billion and the Finance Department is in the process of updating the numbers down the line. During this same period last year, the deficit was only $1.8 billion.
The deficit is explained by an $1.35 billion increase in expenditures to $39.2 on programs and higher consumer price index numbers on real bonds which drove public debt charges up $106 million to $5.4 billion which doesn’t quite match the $41.8 billion in income, up only $557 million due to higher EI Premiums and income taxes.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty predicted a $18.7 billion deficit by the end of the year, down from an estimated $25.9 billion in the 2012-13 fiscal year – the actual numbers will be released this fall – and down from $26.2 billion in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the Conservative government has been reluctant on their promise of accountability on budgets. When Kevin Page was the Parliamentary Budget Officer, he had a hard time obtaining documents from federal departments. As soon as Page threatened to take the government to court, he was replaced with interim Sonia L’Heureux who has repeated Page’s misfortunes and recently filed an access to information request for information her office is entitled to – unfortunately she doesn’t have the guts or teeth Page had to go to the courts.
The Conservatives have been spending, even in a time of austerity, and they have done a stellar job hiding their actions. Many can also question their priorities as they cut millions in safety regulations while spending hundreds of millions more on advertising campaigns on programs that don’t yet exist – and may never see the light of day. However, the Conservatives carry with cuts as numerous sources show contradictions to their initial principles – take the increase in bureaucrats as an example.
It is clear the Conservatives are desperately trying to balance the books so they can not only continue their mantra, but also offer new spending and promises to revive an ailing brand – one that’s ailing in a time of Liberal revival and in a time of a more mature NDP.
The opposition has until 2015 to reveal their fiscal agendas to counter that of Stephen Harper’s. However, it is imperative for them to avoid repeating 2011’s introduction of large spending sprees and tax hikes.
Do you think the Conservatives will balance the books by 2015? Will having balanced the books after creating their deficit in 2008 be enough to sell them as the fiscally responsible party of Canada?