A few decades ago, the average citizen didn’t talk about balanced budgets. Now, it’s a buzzword for those on the political sidelines.
Nova Scotians don’t know yet what details might get in the way of the black ink promised next spring. But Premier Darrell Dexter is preparing us for the possibility that things could change.
The premier made mention Tuesday of a document – reportedly the fall fiscal update – to be released by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that could throw a “huge wrench” into the province’s plan to achieve balance by this spring’s budget.
That something momentous might happen shouldn’t be a surprise. The federal government is bent on getting its deficit under control, and it has happened before that a higher level of government finds ways to download fiscal responsibilities on lower levels.
The Canadian Press article reporting this potentially disappointing news also says about 35 per cent of the province’s revenues come from federal sources.
Indeed, the equalization system between the federal government and provinces is consistently described as complex. We shouldn’t be shocked at some point to see an alteration that would squeeze a province that’s a net recipient.
In this case, Dexter said last-minute adjustments could mean a difference of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Unforeseen or not, people likely won’t cut the province a whole lot of slack.
The NDP campaigned on balanced budgets. It’s not hard to see how the economy of 2009 and following threw that off track – no government went unscathed.
Nova Scotians have weathered the pain of cuts in recent years and grumbled sparingly over a two per cent increase in sales tax.
Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald says the government is still looking at ways to save money and generate more revenue, but we’re not quite there yet.
But balance has become a magical threshold. The NDP will have to live up to expectations – “come hell or high water,” to quote another famous deficit slayer.