Today, the federal government announced how much each province and territory will get in transfer payments next year. All told, Ottawa will transfer $68 billion to provincial capitals in the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2016. As federal finance minister Joe Oliver said, for every dollar that Ottawa takes in, it sends 20 cents back out to the provinces and territories.
Canada’s Parliamentary Parliamentary Budget Office is warning all political parties that while the federal treasury is about to overflow with billions in surpluses, any major tax cuts or new spending programs could plunge the country back into deficit.
But with political silly season upon us in advance of the 2015 general election, it’s unlikely the three major parties are going to pay much heed to this warning.
Last week, the economists at TD Bank put out a helpful paper in which they tried to calculate a) how much extra money the federal government is likely to have between now and March 31, 2020 and b) how much it will cost the federal treasury to do the things Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to do during the 2011 election once the budget was in balance.
The result of their number-crunching? From the 2014 fiscal year through to the 2020 fiscal year, Ottawa should post a combined surplus of $71.1 billion. (Reminder: Ottawa’s fiscal year ends on March 31 so “fiscal year 2015 or FY15” is the current fiscal year which began on April 1, 2014 and ends on March 31, 2015. By convention, fiscal years are denominated in the year they end.)
Last week in Brampton, Ont., Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered some good, if surprising news, about Canada’s fiscal situation. Here’s the transcript (my emphasis):
I want to draw your particular attention to the numbers, the one between the dotted lines there for last year, the year completed, 2013-2014. That has been our estimate until today. That has been our estimate of the deficit last year and coming up after that of course this year, 2014-15, we still have a small deficit and are projecting surpluses after that. Continue reading The funny thing about surpluses …
Was Jim Flaherty benched during Question Period after suggesting his party might back away from a 2011 platform promise on income splitting? Flaherty said next to nothing in Wednesday’s Question Period, the first one following the tabling of his budget on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the PM took an unprecedented number of questions. And the first minister to follow Harper was Employment MInister Jason Kenney, who, after Flaherty had backed away from the income splitting commitment had loudly affirmed that commitment to reporters.
Today, Flaherty was in the House answering questions — on income splitting, of course — and stuck to a very particular phrase, the same phrase Harper would stick to at an event near Toronto. (Harper was not in the House today.) Conservative sources are telling reporters, including me, that Harper and Flaherty both believe that their campaign commitment of 2011 now needs a re-think. Fine. Still don’t understand why Question Period unfolded in such an odd way yesterday.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance is easily the busiest committee on Parliament Hill mostly cuz it spends a lot of its time considering hundreds of presentations from Canadians who have ideas about what should be in the federal budget the following spring.