Remember the good old days? You know what I mean – the days when Paul Martin would announce that Canada had done better than he had estimated and that there was money in the bank to cut taxes and pay down debt?
Remember who absolutely hated those days?
Every time that happened he would rail about some supposed disingenuous shenanigans in the budget estimates. How could Paul Martin have been so wrong as to underestimate the fiscal balance by a Billion or two? How dare he do so and cheat the taxpayer by putting aside a little extra in case things didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped? And the nerve of the government using that money to reduce the taxpayers burden by reducing debt!
In other words, we witnessed the rather laughable notion of a Conservative party leader blaming the government for acting, well, conservatively would seem to be the most accurate description.
Those days, of course, are long gone.
One must imagine, based on his prior complaints, that Stephen Harper is thrilled that his government has managed to do away with those dastardly budget surpluses and those pessimistic budget projections. No, instead of the embarrassment of a Finance Minister having to announce that the country was doing better than expected we now have the much preferable announcements that we are doing quite the opposite.
And so it was this week that Finance Minister Flaherty once again did just that. Only a couple of short months after dropping the election campaign bombshell that the country would return to balanced budgets a year earlier than previously estimated, Minister Flahery was forced to concede that no, that just wasn’t going to happen after all. Instead we should not expect that event to happen until a year later than originally estimated.
The cynical voter could be excused for assuming that this was due to simple electioneering. Some people might call that “lying”, but it has always been excused with a wink and a nod during elections. Campaigns, after all, needn’t have an air of truth about them, and the Conservative track record on this is rather predictable – going right back to their electoral win in 2008 when they managed to keep straight faces while proclaiming that Canada would be exempt from the economic downturn that was already gripping the US and Europe as the banking crisis began to unfold. No recession would ever happen here!
And it isn’t as if Flaherty hadn’t had good reason to revise his long-term estimate upwards. After all, Canada had enjoyed two complete months of higher than expected growth. Sure, so that isn’t even a entire fiscal quarter, but extending that seasonal blip into a long-term trend wasn’t at all unsound right? Well, unless you were an actual statistician, but we already know the Conservative opinion of THAT science. No, all would have continued just swimmingly if it weren’t for that totally unexpected problem in Europe. You know – that Greek issue that has only been in the news for about a year that suddenly and unexpectedly turned out to matter.
And the cynical voter could also be excused for wondering exactly what the government bases its budget math on considering its abject refusal to cost major legislation like the omnibus crime bill that would significantly affect the bottom line. Heck, even talking about cost analysis is something to be quashed in committee studying bills. After all, it is not as if Parliament has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer is it?
No, we should just smile, and nod, and accept Minister Flaherty’s latest projections as gospel. Or smile, and nod, and wonder how the dartboard is configured that his estimates must be derived from, and how bad it will all eventually get before a little discipline is exercised in managing the purse strings of the nation.
Because the good old days are gone. And if Stephen Harper has his way, they are never to return.
But at least we have our memories of a time such as that. A time of proper conservatively estimated fiscal projections.