In the fine tradition of ‘rules are made to be broken,’ we have legislation on the way that most will welcome. But it’s anyone’s guess how enforceable it will be.
Among items in the federal government’s throne speech delivered Wednesday, the Conservatives are planning to introduce legislation requiring balanced budgets. Fantastic. In the fine print, however, is the provision that it must be balanced in normal economic times. In the case of economic crisis, a restoration of balance would have to be achieved using “concrete guidelines.”
If everyone agrees what normal is, we’re onto something here. Otherwise….
Budgets, balance and government deficit and debt have become political bywords in recent decades – and it’s well that Canadians are more in tune with that aspect of government business.
Laws requiring balanced budgets are a fantastic idea. In fact, in Nova Scotia, former premier John Hamm created just such rules after getting the books back under control. Then the recession of 2008-09 set in and the NDP, just coming to power, were forced to amend the balanced budget legislation – since no government in this country was able to get by without running a deficit. In fact, most are still trying to get back to balance.
It would be interesting to know in the drafting of that legislation in this province, whether the Conservatives of the time were overly optimistic about the economy or simply didn’t expect the unexpected.
At any rate, it’s clear governments have to perform better when it comes to expenditures stacked against revenues. Ballooning debt being left to future generations, particularly with a shrinking workforce in coming years, simply has to stop.
Economic crises aren’t necessarily foreseeable, nor can the spending brakes stop on a dime.
That tends to suggest that governments need to have a comfortable cushion between what they expect to take in and what they spend. Preferably, the way to do that is find ways to spend less.