The debt, deficit and federal spending

AT ISSUE: The economy

Canada’s economy is on the right track but an election may threaten growth, if you believe the federal Conservatives.

“Only Stephen Harper can deliver the stable national government that Canada needs to complete the economic recovery,” read the announcement on Day 1 of the election campaign.

In the government’s 2011 budget, rejected by all opposition parties, Harper put forward a low-tax plan for jobs and growth, that he promises will transform the country’s deficit into a surplus by the 2015-16 fiscal year.

With two months still left to report, the budget deficit so far this fiscal year is $27 billion. Coincidentally, Canadians have paid nearly as much in interest payments on the country’s $559-billion debt, during the same 10-month timeframe,

Debt is a key factor in a strong economy, according to economist Christine Brown in Camosun College’s faculty of business.

“The more money we have to spend on the interest payments … the less money we have to spend on Canadians,” she said. “I don’t think Canadians realize how key it is,”

So are the Conservatives the party to fix the problem?

Not according to the budget they put forward, Brown said.

“This last budget was actually … it was sort of insipid.”

Brown said the Conservatives will not address the deficit until after the election.

“They knew there was a possibility of an election being called and for that reason, it was very difficult for them to come up with any of the strong fiscal restraints (necessary for balancing the books).”

The University of Victoria’s James Lawson also questions the Conservatives’ position on the deficit.

A cynical reading of a strong Conservative economic position “could say that slaying the deficit is not entirely the medium-term goal,” said Lawson, a political science professor.

“Even if it hurts the deficit in the medium term, you cut taxes in order to expand the economy and the bigger tax base pays you back in the long run,” he said of the theory.

“Then you turn around and say, ‘the government is living beyond its means,’ and this becomes an opportunity to bring in the other side of economic Conservative thinking, which is shrinking the size of the state.”

The problem is there’s not good evidence to suggest tax cuts help to rebound the economy, he said.

On this point Brown disagrees – but both academics agree on a number of other points.

Both credit the Liberal party’s track record at reigning in deficits.

They also point to investment in education as critical to growing a strong knowledge-based economy.

“I believe that affordable education is the key to our future productivity, especially in B.C.,” said Brown.

Other economic policies that could benefit the local economy include a national social housing program, added Lawson.

“This region is really prospering by the boom in real estate for retirees,” he said. “That can really squeeze out people at the lower end of the income bracket.”

Federal investment would stimulate the construction trades and “make it easier for a key part of the local economy … to stay in the region.”

Sasha Angus, economic development officer with the Greater Victoria Development Agency, also weighed in.

Though non-partisan, he praised the Conservative’s proposal to legislate a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund to provide predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for municipalities.

The move would allow municipalities to invest in capital over the next five to 10 years, he said.

rholmen@vicnews.com

 

Candidates Weigh-In

What would you do to build a strong economy? We asked candidates aiming to represent Victoria in the House of Commons.

“I’ll be the best salesman Victoria has sent to Ottawa since … Sir John A. MacDonald,” said Conservative candidate Patrick Hunt.

“I’ll focus on creating jobs, especially in the area of employee training, where Victoria has a natural, untapped advantage,” he said. “I’ll actively market Victoria to corporate Canada and HRDC as an ideal centre for world-class leadership, management, accounting and sales training.”

Christopher Causton, representing the Liberals, said his party proposes “affordable tax rates, spending discipline, programs to boost youth employment and investments in education.”

Causton also took aim at the Conservative government, which he says, turned a $13-billion Liberal surplus into a $56-billion deficit.

“Their fiscally irresponsible policies are aimed at plunging Canada substantially deeper into a deficit for fighter jets, U.S.-style mega prisons and corporate tax cuts.”

NDP incumbent Denise Savoie added “the Conservatives’ HST debacle” to the list of alleged misspending. They’re examples of a “tax and spend” approach sometimes misattributed to the NDP, she argued. “The NDP prefers ‘tax fair and spend smart.’”

“Tax fair means making wealthy individuals and corporations pay their share,” she said. “Spend smart means investing in the green economy, an educated workforce, public transit … and preventive approaches to health care.”

Green candidate Jared Giesbrecht shares the “smart” lingo. A strong economy is a smart economy, which entails balanced budgets and clear incentives for job creators, he said.

“We can reward hard work and waste reduction with meaningful tax breaks for citizens, and bring an end to corporate welfare, a tax on carbon pollution, and stable funding for municipalities.”

 

 

Just Posted

Victoria City Council approves inclusionary housing policy

After years of back and forth, the policy will be ratified in two weeks

Filipino Heritage Month event takes over Centennial Square

Dancing, music and food highlight Mabuhay Day celebration in Victoria

West Shore residents report finding anti-SOGI 123 flyers in mailboxes

SD62 trustee Ravi Parmar says the flyers are ‘garbage’

Saanich woman runs marathons to make dreams come true

Hempler gutted her way through 122 kms with minimal breaks, to support Help Fill a Dream Foundation

Victoria Weekender: What’s happening this weekend, June 15-16

Car Free YYJ, a barber battle and an Outdoor Discovery Day

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Homalco tour gives glimpse into area’s ‘People, Land, Water’

First Nation business mixes cultural components with wildlife excursions

Monkey spotted on late-night jaunt in Campbell River

Conservation officers also apparently looking for cougar in the area

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Most Read