Once you get past the hundreds of pages of budget documents, their carefully targeted baubles, the reactions, media commentary, the tweets and retweets, the promotional advertising and smoke and mirrors—if you’re still paying attention—there’s something basic underlying both federal and Ontario budgets neither admit to: the big squeeze on public spending is still on.
Austerity may be out of political fashion, but it’s clearly still in practice. They’ve just been doing it in slow-motion, hoping the public doesn’t notice.
Week in Review April 17, 2015
- Fight for $15 gains momentum
- What about $70K minimum?
- Inflation rising
- Economic growth declining
- Federal cuts killing jobs, services and safety
- No P3 penalties for corporate crime
- Hydro Gone?
- Whack-a-union bill back in Senate.
Canada’s budget season really got underway in the last week of March, with the three provinces of Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick tabling their budgets. These recent budgets all feature a return of austerity: not the type of immediate deep cuts they had warned about and that have hobbled European countries, but more of a slow neo-liberal bleed that will restructure their states and contribute to stagnant economic growth.
After a cold and bitter winter in Central and Eastern Canada and balmier weather in the west, temperatures across Canada are about to rise—and not just because spring is officially upon us. Budget season has started and it looks like it will soon get hot and stormy.
For the first time in memory Quebec will boast a number of years of balanced budgets while Alberta simultaneously runs deficits—but that’s not where the real dividing lines are.
Over 60,000 Quebec students started rotating strikes to protest spending cuts and austerity measures anticipated in the province’s budget tabled on Thursday and are planning another stormy spring with many actions against austerity. The Liberal government of Phillipe Couillard has already made its intentions quite clear. Its spending review commission proposed cuts of over $2 billion, primarily by slashing support to municipalities, agriculture, education, ambulance and childcare programs, where the government has already hiked rates. This is even though Quebec already has the lowest program spending per resident of all provinces.
Today the Fredericton Daily Gleaner published an op-ed I wrote about how the province doesn’t have a structural deficit, despite the government claiming it does. The commentary piece is behind a pay wall so I’ve copied it below.
Last month, CUPE New Brunswick also published a paper I wrote on this issue, Deficit Déjà Voodoo: is New Brunswick really headed off the fiscal cliff? It and a presentation I gave, another blog post and other background material are also available through this post.
Want to know a secret? There is no structural deficit
By Toby Sanger
The New Brunswick government is engaged in extensive province-wide consultations focused on finding $500 to $600 million in spending cuts or increased revenues to address what it claims is “a serious fiscal challenge.” It says this is necessary because the province has a “$400 million structural deficit” has “been spending beyond its means,” and additional funds are needed for other initiatives.
There’s just one big problem with this exercise: the province doesn’t have a “structural deficit”. It’s not that the emperor has no clothes: it’s that he’s hiding them and pleading poverty instead.