But we’re not out of the blue. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty
is predicting a balanced budget in the 2015-16 fiscal year. And it’s not
just a balancing act. He expects more surpluses thereafter. Some
analysts suggest that Ottawa may already be in the black. Great news for
fiscally-minded Canadians. Flaherty has sold most of the government’s
stock in General Motors and other assets such Ridley Terminals and
Dominion Coal Blocks in British Columbia. Although the Conservative
budget doesn’t abolish income taxes, the budget is expected to ease the
load by offering a split-income deal for households.
Of course headwinds in the economy are still persistent. Despite
Flaherty’s reassurance that, “as long as the housing market remains
relatively strong, we don’t really have a debt issue,” the fundamentals
speak otherwise. The Bank of Canada still has rates as low as 1% and
this in turn is fuelling the credit bubble. Of course, the situation is
nowhere near as bad as the neighbours, but with the US being Canada’s
largest trading partner, Canadians could be in for a rough ride.
It’s hard to say what will happen to the federal government’s budget
when Canada enters a recession. Even a devastating bust could be
curtailed by the sound fiscal management of less spending and fewer
taxes. But if the actions of 2008 are repeated, Canadians would be in
store for another round of bailouts and stimulus packages.
Flaherty maintains that he will intervene further into the mortgage
market if need be. He also spoke of a meeting between himself, Bank of
Canada Governor Stephen Poloz and provincial finance ministers. Flaherty
is quoted saying, “He [Poloz] indicated there might be some softening
in the dollar. But with the dollar in the 90′s somewhere, it’s good for
manufacturing and we can still travel reasonably.” If Flaherty really
believes this, his lack of economic sense may inadvertently put the
government’s finances back into the red.