It’s possible to trace, year over year, the increasing negligence and partisanship of the Canadian media by how they react to government budgets. Take this year’s budget, for instance. If a Liberal or NDP government anywhere in the country, let alone federally, tabled a budget that blew past its previous deficit projections by billions of dollars, the media would be screaming about the evils of big government deficits.
Which is why it’s worth poking a hole in the balloon conveniently floated for the government by the major corporate media in this country, that the new Harper government budget is somehow “chipping away at the deficit” by developing a plan for balancing the budget in 2015-2016.
Nope. This is sanctimonious bullshit. It would be naked dishonesty if it came from the Conservatives themselves. I’m not sure what you call it when it comes from The Globe & Mail and even the Toronto Star. Smug commentators often claim that voters have short memories. Apparently they’re projecting their own inadequacies onto “the voter,” which is hardly surprising, since they do that sort of thing all the time.
Here’s the thing about this supposed “plan to balance the budget by 2015-2016.” Now, I suspect they will produce a balanced budget in 2015. How, I’m not sure. Perhaps they’ll lie. Perhaps they’ll obfuscate. Perhaps there will be a massive economic recovery in the next two years which will inflate government revenues. My guess is they’re hoping for the latter. But the truth is, we’ve had multiple “plans to balance the budget by 2015-2016.” Like most addicts, the Conservatives have blown one of these vaunted “plans,” and then another, and then another. This time, their latest blunder will add billions of dollars in debt. I’m not sure why this is something worth crediting them with “sound economic management” for.
To wit, when the Conservatives came to power in 2006, they inherited a Liberal budget surplus. This surplus ended in 2008. The 2009-10 budget ran a $33.7 billion deficit, but the Conservatives promised that by 2013-2014, they’d be back in surplus territory again. It’s worth noting that this is the 2013-2014 budget we’re talking about now, and we’re nowhere near surplus territory. That was the first plan to restore a budget surplus.
The year after that, as a result of Economic Action Plan spending, the deficit ballooned to an estimated $49.2 billion. The 2010-11 budget was also the first time, for those who care to keep track, that the Conservatives laid the necessary framework to balance the budget in 2015-16 (in that case, by drawing the deficit down to near-zero for the previous fiscal year). By 2011, they promised, they would have made good progress towards that goal, by reducing the deficit to $27 billion.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the next year the budget projection for 2011-12 was tweaked to be a $32 billion deficit, but the Conservatives insisted — in an election year, notably — that even though they’d missed their deficit reduction goal, they were actually balancing the budget even faster than they had thought: now a surplus would be regained in 2014. And, they promised, they were going to get started on that right away by reducing the deficit down to $18 billion in 2012.
Once again, that didn’t happen. Instead of $18 billion, the 2012 budget deficit was recast as $21 billion, and the Conservatives moved the balanced budget goalposts back to 2015. But they still promised that they were going to get to work on that right away, by reducing the deficit to just $10 billion in 2013. That would be the lowest it’s been in years. We’re slowly getting back to Liberal-style spending, the Conservatives promised, although they didn’t exactly phrase it that way, of course.
Well, it’s budget time again, and, surprise! The Conservatives have missed their deficit projections. Again. And they’re promising that this will in no way affect the schedule for achieving a balanced budget. Again. Exactly how many times do we have to listen to this broken record before the editorial boards of the major newspapers take notice?
Instead of a $10 billion budget deficit this year, the Conservatives now say they’ll be running an $18 billion deficit. Instead of a trivial $1 billion deficit next year, they now say they’ll be running a $6.6 billion deficit. And they’ll balance the budget in 2015, they say, but only by a few hundred million dollars, not by $3.4 billion, as we were initially promised. At best, this means painful cuts are ahead.