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?

The Ministerial handout: The scorecard on who in Harper's cabinet handed out how much

Denis Lebel hands out the cash
Minister Denis Lebel (left) is one of the pros in Stephen Harper’s cabinet when it comes to handing out federal cash. Here, the mayor of Saint-Edmond-les-Plaines, QC, Rodrigue Cantin gives Lebel a hug earlier this year after taxpayers across Canada chipped in $272,000 to help fix up the community centre in Cantin’s community. See bottom of this post for more info. (PHOTO COURTOISIE/LE POINT)

One of the most important jobs for any minister is handing out tax dollars. The federal government collects more than $245 billion dollars a year in taxes and fees paid by individuals and businesses and, more often than not, spends more than it collects. Some of that spending is unavoidable — think Old Age Security benefits or transfer payments to the province for health care and social services — but a good chunk every year is quite discretionary. And when there’s a political spending choice to be made, you can bet a government minister wants his or her name associated with this decision.

As I’ve written here before, I try to track as many press releases as I can detailing spending announcements through my “OttawaSpends” project and, so far, up until Monday’s cabinet shuffle, Continue reading The Ministerial handout: The scorecard on who in Harper's cabinet handed out how much

"Important government spending". Like those snowmobile machines. Or tennis courts.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released the semi-annual fiscal and economic update in which, among other things, he announced that his government would not be able to return to a balanced budget during the life of the current Parliament. Six months ago, when he released Budget 2012, he said the budget would be balanced in this Parliament’s last year. In facing up to the fact that, by the election of 2015, the Conservatives therefore will have run deficits in eight of their 10 budgets, Flaherty offered this:

Nevertheless, we remain on track to meet our goal to return to balanced budgets over the medium term. Continue reading "Important government spending". Like those snowmobile machines. Or tennis courts.

Flaherty takes a shot at Ontario

In Stittsville, Ontario, at what will likely be his last “media availability” before tabling the federal budget in a week’s time, I asked Finance Minister Jim Flaherty what he thought of the provincial budgets already tabled by Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta. He didn’t have much to say about those provinces, but he did say this:

“I’m concerned about Ontario. Let’s face it, the credit rating agencies have already warned Ontario. Continue reading Flaherty takes a shot at Ontario

Bad news for the deficit hawks: The storm clouds are parting

Some have observed that doom-and-gloom scenarios for our economy and the world economy provide the political cover for politicians to engage in initiatives, such as cutting public services, which might be politically unpopular.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech in Davos last week was a good example the kind of doom-and-gloom diagnosis for which the prescription is convincing enough Canadians they are no longer entitled to their entitlements. Continue reading Bad news for the deficit hawks: The storm clouds are parting

Flaherty exits boldly from one fine mess

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty boldly went Monday where no finance minister has ever gone before when it comes to the billions upon billions Ottawa transfers every year to the provinces for health and social services.

He told the provinces they would continue to get the billions upon billions from the federal treasury and — here comes the bold bit — told them they could spend it however they saw fit.

Imagine that: A federal government program with no strings attached.

Still, provincial finance ministers are a tough act to please. Continue reading Flaherty exits boldly from one fine mess