In less than 12 hours we’ll learn Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s plan for accomplishing his two most repeated objectives: balancing the budget by 2015 and creating jobs.
Mr. Flaherty already announced some plans for the latter, like re-evaluating how provinces handle $2.5-billion of funding for training programs.
But the main thrust of the budget will hinge on turning a surplus.
In their 2011 platform, the Conservatives projected reaching a surplus by 2014. The target since shifted to 2015, when they project to see a $3.4-billion surplus.
Projections are a natural part of every budget. They cast an eye to the future and show how new policies might affect the bottom line in years to come.
They are, of course, remarkably unreliable – at least over the past decade.
Projections like those touted by Mr. Flaherty are based on the economic climate. Barring sudden shifts in policy, budgets rise and fall with the economy. So after the economy took a drubbing in 2009, the Government abandoned all hope of realizing a $2.3-billion surplus (first projected in 2008) and instead punched a $55.6-billion hole in their bottom line by 2010.
But just how wrong have these projections been? Below, find a few different realities painted by budget forecasters. We assembled 11 years of projections from budget documents and economic updates, grouping the highest and lowest projections together.
Forecasting the Budget
This is the most optimistic picture of annual budget projections, taking the highest available figure from any given year. Projections cast in 2005 were rosy indeed, projecting a $9.8-billion surplus for 2010-2011, which ended up being off by about $24-billion.
This chart shows the actual budget balances from 2001 to 2011. But the Government forecasted some very different scenarios. Use the buttons above to see how high and low the projections were over the years, assembled from 11 years of budget documents and economic updates.
This chart shows the lowest projected figures from all available years dating back to 2001. The recession punched a major hole in the budget and the Government sharply adjusted their expectations in 2009, causing the projection around this point to closely mirror reality.
Wonky projections continue today. The government's most recent economic update projected a $1.8-billion deficit for 2015, despite the Conservative's insistence a surplus can be reached in time. They were careful to note, however, the calculation was adjusted for private sector risk.
"If the risks to the outlook do not materialize and the adjustment for risk is not required, a surplus of $1.2-billion is projected for 2015-16," the report clarifies.
This is important context for tomorrow, where more projections will likely paint an optimistic picture of the future.