Yesterday, the opposition parties hammered the Harper government on what was supposed to be its signature issue going into the upcoming election. The NDP's Nathan Cullen observed that the prime minister had "painted himself into a corner:"
They spent the surplus before they had it, and they spent the surplus on an economic scheme in which only 15 per cent of Canadians receive any benefit, but 100 per cent of Canadians will have to pay for it.
Still, Joe Oliver insisted, the government would balance the budget and not cut services. Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write:
The PM has never liked budgets. He never saw them as a means to articulate a vision of the economy and the country. To Harper, a budget is a PR document — and a Trojan horse for pushing through legislative changes that have nothing at all to do with the budget.
Past governments, both Liberal and Conservative, saw the budget as their most important policy and political document. Budgets set out the government’s fiscal, tax, industrial, social, developmental, international and defense policy objectives and the policy initiatives the government intended to take to achieve them. They were visionary documents. You didn’t have to agree with the vision … but it was there.
No longer. Since 2006, major policy decisions have been made outside the budget, with no discussion or parliamentary debate. The change in the Canada Health Transfer escalator was made at a meeting of federal and provincial finance ministers in December 2011. Harper announced the change in eligibility for Old Age Security benefits in Davos, not Parliament. And he announced his “family tax package” in Vaughan, Ont., back in October — shortly before the oil market fell off a cliff.
At every turn, Harper has tried to cut Parliament and the budget process out of the equation. Once upon a time, governments had to table a Borrowing Authority Bill if they needed incremental borrowing. Parliament demanded that any Borrowing Authority Bill be accompanied by a budget in order to provide the proper economic and fiscal context to justify the borrowing.
In the 2007 budget, the Harper government eliminated the need for a Borrowing Authority Bill. Now the government can borrow through an Order-in-Council — no budget, or parliamentary approval, required.
That's what happens when a man who claims to be a "trained economist" turns out to be utterly incompetent. He doesn't present a budget -- because he doesn't know how to budget. The trained economist has no clothes. And, when he's naked, he looks ridiculous.