The economic news coming out of Ontario in recent days has been far from positive. The province's economic and fiscal position is weak and new analysis released by the Ministry of Finance suggests its economy will remain sluggish for the foreseeable future.
If you listen to Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner, the province's public finances are under control. The government's budget imposes no new taxes, spending growth has been moderated, and Alberta is running an operational budget surplus after successive years of budgetary deficits.
When apologists for the provincial government's new borrowing binge defend it on the grounds that private sector companies borrow money for capital expenses so why not have the Alberta government do the same? their defence invariably contains a significant and faulty assumption: that political behaviour is the same as that of private companies.
The policy direction of the Liberal Party of Canada and its leader Justin Trudeau, as evidenced by the speeches, motions, and debate at the recent national party convention seem to indicate that the party is rejecting the successful pragmatism of the 1990s. Instead, the federal Liberals favour a more interventionist and activist government, much like that of the current Ontario Liberal government. If such policies are enacted, the results would be ruinous for Canada.
Tuesdays BC budget, which Finance Minister Michael de Jong called boring, balanced, should have set out an ambitious agenda for the next four years.
As anyone who has ever watched puppies tussle over a bone knows, nothing will lead to acrimony quicker than competition for an object everyone wants. Keep the puppy image in mind. Replace it with provincial governments, many of whom now have a stake in the federal transfer program, equalization.
Another year has come and gone and Ontario's weak public finances remain largely unchanged. The provincial government did little to improve its fiscal position in 2013 and recently signalled it intends to continue with debt-financed spending into the New Year. But the status quo isnt serving Ontarians well. For 2014, the government should chart a new course that places provincial finances on a more sound footing. That would be a much-needed New Year's resolution for Canadas largest province.
Therell be no doubt that were balanced in 2015, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters after recently meeting with a group of private sector economists. This is among Mr. Flahertys most categorical statements to date on his plan to achieve a balanced budget in 2015-16. But in light of recent economic forecasts and potential threats to the governments revenue projections, he would be well-advised to focus on further spending restraint something he can fully control in order to deliver on his promise.