Jim Stanford writes that the sound a fury about a balanced budget is about politics, not economics:
Running spending cuts since 2011 now total more than $14-billion a year. Canadians experience real consequences from those cuts every day: shuttered veterans’ offices, deteriorating statistical data, questionable railway and food safety, ridiculous waits for statutory benefits and more. Federal government employment has plunged by 47,000 jobs since 2011 – explaining much of Canada’s lousy job-market performance. These sacrifices were not necessary. Worse yet, the government is throwing away the savings with its tax-cut agenda.Indeed, if the government truly believed that balancing the books was the most important priority, we could be back in the black right now, never mind next year. Before opening the cookie jar in October for income-splitting and other giveaways, Ottawa was headed for a $3.3-billion surplus for the fiscal year ending March 31. Falling oil prices knocked $1.2 billion off that balance, according to the PBO, leaving a $2.1-billion surplus. But the government spent $3.2-billion on the immediate first-year cost of the tax cuts – pushing itself back, incredibly, into deficit. Without the tax cuts, the budget would already be balanced, even with low oil prices.
Harper's claim that only he could provide prudent fiscal management of the nation's finances was -- and is -- just election hoopla. And it distracts the public from the real problem:
The bigger issue is how much was needlessly sacrificed in pursuit of that balanced budget – and how quickly the Conservatives squandered the results of those sacrifices when it politically suited them.The government’s focus on eliminating the deficit at all costs was misguided and destructive, and undermined the economic recovery. We should stop worrying whether next year brings a small surplus or a small deficit. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is why so much was sacrificed in the single-minded pursuit of a supposedly overarching goal – that the government quickly threw away for short-term political benefit.
The Harper years have been an unmitigated disaster. Mr. Harper is doing everything he can to distract voters from reaching that conclusion.