Monday April 21, 2014

Keep budget in balance

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is grinning an awful lot these days, and who can blame him?

The Tories’ financial mastermind has been confidently boasting his government will balance the budget in 2015, coincidentally — or not —an election year.

If Flaherty’s fiscal predictions of a $3.7-million surplus come true, and many analysts believe they will, several Tory campaign promises will kick into gear. The biggest promise, income splitting up to $50,000, will have a massive impact on families seeking a little more breathing room. Other promises include tax cuts that would only come into effect once the deficit is limited.

These promises are welcomed, but it’s what comes after the budget is balanced that makes one wary of the good news. After all, the Conservatives haven’t been exactly conservative when it comes to fiscal policy.

Indeed, Harper’s Tories have had trouble keeping spending under control since coming to power in 2006. Spending in areas including the public service, advertising and military has risen over the years, and only recently has there been a focus on austerity.

The Conservatives probably don’t like the fact that it was former prime minister Paul Martin, then the Liberal finance minister, who balanced the federal budget in 1998. Now, we look on those days with envy.

Federal and provincial governments have long succumbed to the temptation to over-spend
when times were good — even the former penny-pinching premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein, saw his government spending balloon after years of preaching against bureaucratic waste.

The federal government has been often praised throughout the world for its strong financial system in the wake of the Great Recession, and that fiscal restraint has helped us stay on track. Now that the country is ready to dive back into the black, we hope our leadership won’t recklessly loosen the purse strings now that the nation’s finances are out of the red.

Now, let’s tackle that debt.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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