How to give away $68 billion: Ottawa cuts cheques to the provinces

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.

Drawing data from this table at the Department of Finance, we can break a few things down: Continue reading How to give away $68 billion: Ottawa cuts cheques to the provinces

Voter preference by household income: Parties of the rich and poor


The Liberals have just released a new online video (see below) arguing against the Harper government’s income splitting plan. Liberal Justin Trudeau has vowed to roll back income splitting for parents if he’s elected PM.  Thomas Mulcair this week has vowed the NDP will fight the plan thought he was a bit more cagey about what he’d do if he became PM and income splitting was still in place. Given these arguments, I wondered about how income levels matched up to political preference. David Coletto, CEO of pollster Abacus Data, sent me this data set, Continue reading Voter preference by household income: Parties of the rich and poor

Parliament's budget watchdog warns: We're not as rich as we think!


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.

The PBO said Tuesday  [pdf] federal coffers will spill over with more than $53 billion in surpluses between now and the spring of 2020 but those riches are mostlyf from one-time benefits like the sale of government assets and an economy temporarily growing faster than expected. Continue reading Parliament's budget watchdog warns: We're not as rich as we think!

Fun with surpluses, Part II: Are we richer than we think?

At its Flickr page, the NDP have posted this pic of Leader Thomas Mulcair campaigning in Iqaluit earlier this year.

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.)

TD Bank says the cost of the 2011 campaign promises — which the Conservatives have already started to implement — will be a cumulative $19.9 billion through to FY20.

Continue reading Fun with surpluses, Part II: Are we richer than we think?

The funny thing about surpluses …

The deficit/Surplus chart from the February budget. Bay Street economists are radically re-drawing this.

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 …

The 2014 Summertime "Ottawa Spends" Winners

From a tuna sport fishing derby to golf tournaments to brain research, Conservative MPs rang up a whopping $1.4 billion bill handing out cheques on the summertime spending circuit.

The annual summer spending spree began on June 21 when the House of Commons shut down for the summer recess and it ends Monday when the House opens for its fall sitting season.

But in the 85-day-summer that government MPs had to hit the barbecue circuit, a total of 432 spending announcements were logged in our exclusive QMI Agency “Ottawa Spends” database.

Read the rest of the story ...

PBO: On austerity, size of the civil service, and computers

With just a few weeks to go until the end of Ottawa’s current fiscal year (March 31), the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s latest review of the government’s latest spending plan [pdf] concludes the federal government will spend about $259.9 billion this year or just 0.3% more than it spent in fiscal 2013.

And yet, the PBO believes that spending should have been higher as the government made, but did not follow through on, several spending commitments: Continue reading PBO: On austerity, size of the civil service, and computers

Flaherty and his post-budget QP performance:The record

Flaherty is applauded
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty receives a standing ovation during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 12, 2014. Mind you, this did not happen until 15:02 pm, or more than 45 minutes after the first post-budget QP was underway. By then, Prime Minister Stephen Harper (seen applauding above at right) had answered an unprecedented 21 questions. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)

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.

So I looked back at all of the 10 Question Periods which immediately followed the tabling of a budget. Turns out Flaherty played a central role in them only a handful of times and in fact, missed 5 post-budget QPs. Here’s the tale of the tape:  Continue reading Flaherty and his post-budget QP performance:The record

Flaherty poised to eliminate deficit but what about the $135 billion in new debt he rang up?

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty
TORONTO – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty adjusts his glasses as he talks to the media prior to holding pre-budget consultations with the business community in Toronto last November (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Conservatives, if you ask them, believe, above all else, in smaller government. U.S. conservative Grover Norquist once said government should be small enough you could strangle it in a bathtub, a line I’ve heard repeated by Canadian Conservatives.

But often enough, the rhetoric of these conservatives does not match what nominally conservative governments do in office. Case in point: The current Conservative Party of Canada government in Ottawa, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his finance minister Jim Flaherty.

Continue reading Flaherty poised to eliminate deficit but what about the $135 billion in new debt he rang up?

What do you want in the next federal budget?

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.

That committee held its first meeting of the new parliamentary session today and immediately got down to work on sorting through ideas for next year’s budget. Here’s the release: Continue reading What do you want in the next federal budget?