The Broadbent Institute is an independent, non partisan organization that promotes progressive change. Grounded in social democratic values and ideas, the Institute seeks to deepen our democracy, encourage strong action to counter growing economic and social inequality, and fuel a transition to a more innovative and sustainable economy. This submission lays out concrete policy proposals that the government should consider if it is serious about implementing progressive reforms in Budget 2016.
In the October 2013 Speech for the Throne, the Canadian government announced it would introduce balanced-budget legislation. At the time this vague proposal attracted little interest from anyone, although a year later the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) did produce a substantial document analyzing the benefits and costs of such a proposal.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's economic record since taking office in 2006 is at the centre of debate in the current federal election campaign. Arguably his signature achievement is to have radically reduced the fiscal capacity of the federal government, and with it, the broader role of government in advancing the economic and social welfare of Canadians.
Central bank governors are not normally known for being outspoken or critical of prevailing economic policies. Not the case, it seems, for Mark Carney and David Dodge, former governors of the Bank of Canada.
Mr. Dodge, in a report for the legal firm Bennett Jones, has recently warned against premature fiscal tightening in the current economic climate. Indeed, he and his coauthors advocate an expansion in infrastructure spending — in ports, roads and transit systems — among other things. Even though this will mean continuing fiscal deficits, they say that “in the current environment of low long-term interest rates, fiscal prudence does not require bringing the annual budget balance to almost zero immediately”. Such counsel flouts the current policy stance of the federal Conservative government, which is to eliminate the budget deficit next year.