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Mr. Oliver took great pride in announcing a balanced budget. But what he really demonstrated is how imbalanced and self-serving his government’s approach to budgeting has become.

 

Back in the day, as an economist in the federal Finance Department, I was actively involved in the budget process. How different and, dare I say, better that process was then from the cynical political posturing that masquerades as macroeconomic policy setting now!

Until recently federal budget determination was done in a very professional, objective way. Trusted senior Finance officials – not politicians – developed a package of fact-based initiatives for the Minister’s approval. It was designed to have positive impact on important issues of pressing concern in the near-term performance of the Canadian economy. The document was tightly controlled and announced after financial markets had closed to give the financial markets time to adjust before the next business day began. Any early leaking of the contents of the budget was grounds for dismissal of officials and the resignation of the Minister.

Fast forward to this week’s budget and the process has been turned on its head. Now political staff and communications advisors meddle with each budget element and every word of the Minister’s speech with the primary goal of improving the re-election chances of the governing Conservative party. Far from being objective and discreet the budget process is now subjective and expedient – almost promiscuous. Consider that income splitting for example was announced months ago and has been advertised using taxpayers money for months. This initiative does little for the underlying performance of the economy. But it is a welcome bone for wealthy suburban families – one of the key demographics if the Harper re-election campaign is to be successful.

Consider too that many of the spending promises in this budget are back loaded. One billion dollars for infrastructure and public transit and $12 billion for defence will not affect current spending for at least two years – if ever. Where I come from these are not appropriate budget initiatives; they are campaign promises.

Mr. Oliver took great pride in announcing a balanced budget. But what he really demonstrated is how imbalanced and self-serving his government’s approach to budgeting has become.

 

Making Waves I am Trent Gow
For more of Trent’s podcast or more news from Bayshore. bayshorebroadcasting.ca

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