The Harper government has promised a raft of consumer-friendly measures, as it prepares for next year’s election. But it has also sought to shore up its fiscal conservative credentials by proposing legislation to require that federal budgets be balanced.
There is one important caveat: The law would only apply “during normal economic times.” This would presumably remain somewhat vague, although it’s hard to recall the last time we had anything resembling normal economic conditions in this country, as the Bank of Canada could attest. So Ottawa would still be largely free to run deficits, provided these are accompanied by a clear roadmap laying out the return trip back to balance. Which sounds suspiciously like the policy Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has been pursuing since the Great Recession.