Next month, on March 19, it will be two years since the Trudeau government delivered a national budget to Canadians.
Every province has managed to bring down a budget during the pandemic, but not Ottawa.
The last federal budget was delivered before the last federal election, when Bill Morneau was finance minister.
He’s no longer in government, let alone in cabinet.
Morneau’s replacement, finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Aug. 18 last year.
She hasn’t delivered a budget in a time of record federal government spending, deficits (currently about $381 billion) and debt (currently about $1 trillion), because of the pandemic.
It’s not as if no one has noticed.
When Freeland released an economic statement in November, independent, non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux didn’t mince words expressing his concern about the fact it contained a three-year stimulus package of up to $100 billion, with details still to come.
“For an amount of that magnitude over three years, I’ve never seen that,” Giroux said.
“And I’m surprised the government went for that because that exposes the government and the minister of finance to significant lobbying. I can only imagine how (Freeland’s) phone must be ringing off the hook.”
Giroux also warned about the lack of a so-called “fiscal anchor” in Freeland’s economic statement, meaning an indication of the government’s plans for federal spending built around the debt-to-GDP ratio, an indicator of the government’s overall financial health.
“Fiscal transparency and accountability would be better enhanced if the Government identified its fiscal anchor, supported with detailed economic and fiscal projections over a medium- and longer-term horizon, as well as a meaningful analysis of fiscal sustainability,” Giroux said.
We understand the pandemic is an extraordinary event that required an extraordinary response from the federal government in terms of public spending on health care and to keep the economy afloat.
But there needs to be a plan to get record deficits and debt caused by the pandemic under control.
Since Canadians will be paying for it, they have a right to know what that plan is.
Freeland started the consultation process leading up to a federal budget last month.
The sooner she delivers one, the better.