Ever since Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Monday that the federal deficit would top $18.4 billion, all the familiar voices of right wing commentators, Bay Street analysts and Conservative politicians have made their all-too predictable calls for budget cuts and curtailed spending. They couldn't be more wrong. Now, in fact, is the time for some strategic spending to get the economy going, even if it means increasing the federal deficit when the budget is handed down on March 22.
In an attempt to increase transparency, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made "mandate letters" to his ministers publicly available. These letters are intended to clarify the focus of each minister's portfolio. When it comes to the mandate delineated for the minister of finance, the prime minister should seriously rethink some of the priorities.
The federal budget announced recently has interesting policies that are expected to affect Canadians. Economic Action Plan 2015 has different components that may affect the lives of Canadians differently. An important aspect of the budget is that it would be balanced in 2015-16 with a projected surplus of $1.4 billion.
Nine-million baby boomers will retire from the workforce over the next two decades, and when they do, they will start to consume the most expensive forms of government programs. This is great news for seniors, but terrible news for our public finances and for young Canadians forced to foot the bill. Generation Y has been dubbed the "Millennial" generation because we came of age at the turn of the new millennium. A more fitting name for this cohort is Generation Screwed.
Most people would agree that you shouldn't have to pay someone else's tax bill. Despite all of the myths surrounding tax filing, this one is actually in accordance with Canadian law. If a relative of yours were to die owing money, you have no obligation to pay their debts. It doesn't matter who they are, parents, siblings, aunts or uncles. If they have spent all their money, and die having nothing but debts, you're in the clear. However, unlike people whose debts die with them, a government's debt is carried forward forever (or until it's paid off). As we move through time, we're getting closer and closer to the point where it will be impossible to "clear our tab."
Why has Canada's federal debt jumped over 30 per cent since 2008, to over $600 billion? Why did the government miss its deficit target by $1.4 billion last year, and what is pushing this year's deficit forecast higher by more than $5 billion to $26 billion? Figures released by the PBO show that, contrary to all the talk we've been hearing about cutbacks, Ottawa's payroll is getting out of control.
The management of public finances may not have received due attention from the premiers in Halifax. But as our federal and provincial political leaders gear up for next year's budget season, they would be wise to acknowledge the seriousness of growing government debt and put forth bold plans to balance their budgets. Kicking the debt down the road simply isn't an option.