Takin’ Care of Business

The federal budget has been released and there’s little in the way of long-term infrastructure investment, help for seniors, or health care for veterans. Canada also struggles with a massive deficit, and it remains to be seen if cutting CIDA, the CBC and culture will allow the Harper government to balance the budget in 2015 as promised.

Takin' Care of Business: a look at Canadian provinces' budgets.

Takin’ Care of Business: a first look at budget season.

Balancing the budget properly, with a sense of fairness and propriety, takes a careful line-by-line approach. Federal governments in Canada, whether under the direction of Paul Martin and the Liberals, or Jim Flaherty and the Conservatives, cut and slashed with careless disregard for how reduced services affect families’ health, education, job security or future.

Balancing the budget, the right way, should be a priority of all governments. You cannot protect patients, seniors’ pensions, or kids’ class sizes while running deficits. Sound and stable financial responsibility is what allowed Tommy Douglas to introduce universal health care in Saskatchewan.

How are Canada’s provinces doing, as they begin to introduce their budgets? Are they on track? Or in the deep?

Alberta’s Conservatives are predicting a $2 billion deficit, on the heels of a 2012-13 deficit that is expected to reach $4 billion, and their 6th straight deficit budget. Increasing fees and sin taxes will help, and they may bounce back in a few years, if bitumen prices recover.

A few provinces, including Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, will be able to introduce small surpluses.

One province we have been hearing worrisome rumours about is New Brunswick. In their defense, the Conservatives received an economic wreck of a province from the Liberals. Indeed, Shawn Graham’s Liberal government should serve as a dire warning to Nova Scotians giving Stephen McNeil the once-over that he has says he is ready for. The New Brunswick Tories can either significantly increase taxes, fees and fines, or further mortgage their children’s future with massive deficits. We predict tax hikes and massive fee spikes when New Brunswick tables their budget today.

As far as the Nova Scotia budget goes, in an election year it is virtually inconceivable that the NDP government won’t take care of issues that have been in the public eye for a while. Insulin pumps come to mind. If they take care of enough of those, the opposition will have to invent reasons to vote against Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald’s first budget.