It was the best of times–for the provincial government. It was the worst of times–for the federal government. A blogger ahead of his time from the 19th Century, Charles Dickens understood that conundrum. Dickens wrote best sellers as pamphlets and fed his readers a chapter at a time. Today, anything more complex than 140 characters in a twit seems to strain the attention span.
But finance ministers have special problems. While our new federal finance minister is busy bemoaning the size of the deficit left to him by the previous Conservative government, his provincial counterpart has a different song to sing. It seems that the (drum roll please) surprisingly good management of the provincial Liberals is the good news in Ontario.
We are told that Ontario will be below its deficit target for the coming year. Finance Minister Charles Sousa has announced that Ontario will beat the expected deficit level by over a billion dollars. It seems, Charles tells us, the sale of Hydro One shares is already fattening festive calves at the Queen’s Park money rooms.
While Charles is not ready to create a balanced budget until just before the next election, he is now more confident. And do not forget that he has more of the Golden Goose, known as Hydro One, to sell.
Meanwhile federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau is the new boy on the financial scene. Since incoming new governments always disagree with the figures provided by the defeated government, nobody was surprised when he “discovered” that the fiscal surplus promised by his predecessor was really a deficit. At a promised $1.4 billion, the surplus-come-deficit was only about one per cent of the federal budget. Morneau’s bad news was that it will really be about a $3 billion deficit.
This federal $3 billion does not factor in the Liberal’s promised deficit financing on infrastructure spending to get more Canadians working. Again, the Federal Liberals intend to run these until before the next federal election when they will also produce a balanced(?) budget. Morneau has four years in which to figure out how to do that.
Most knowledgeable financial experts gave Morneau a pass on his claim that his predecessor might have exaggerated. They thought he was only feeding the media a bit of B.S. on his claimed deficit. They did not treat Charles Sousa at Queen’s Park as kindly. They thought he was counting the same money too many times.
You have to be really old to remember the times when we used to take a finance minister’s claims as gospel.
Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry
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