Dr. Ray Stantz: “Gozer the Gozerian… good evening. As a duly designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension”.
Dr. Peter Venkman: [Sarcastically] “That oughta do it. Thanks very much, Ray…” 
The Honourable Joe Oliver: “The only acceptable deficit would be one that responds to a recession or to an ‘extraordinary’ circumstance — that is war or a natural disaster with a cost exceeding $3 billion in one year…”
MrServomechanism: [Sarcastically] “That oughta do it. Thanks very much, Joe…”
This week tonight, let’s examine the Conservative’s latest political strategy of conciliation to the electorate moving into the polls. On Wednesday April 8th, 2015 Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver stated he intends to enact legislation that effectively prevents individual provinces from running a deficit. In the pre-election speech Oliver explained that, barring ‘extraordinary circumstances’ (such as war, natural disaster, [gigantic crabs roaming the Earth]  or recession incurring over $3 billion in added expenses), each province must balance its books or face the consequences. 
And the consequences, under this proposed legislation, would include first and foremost the triggering of an ‘automatic operating spending freeze’. The Finance Minister, after incurring a deficit (in times of non-recession), would be required to testify before a parliamentary committee within 30 days in order to construct a plan to return to balance to the budget. Also, individual Cabinet Ministers would have their pay docked five per cent if the federal government failed to balance its books.  The legislation, announced by Oliver, would reinforce the promise Prime Minister Stephen Harper made in a 2013 throne speech to enact a ‘Balanced Budget Law’.
And the mudslinging immediately commenced. Justin Trudeau, ironically, was quoted as saying: “It’s a great example of how this government simply cannot be taken seriously”, that he finds it “a bit ridiculous” that the Conservative government is introducing anti-deficit legislation after seven straight years of running budget deficits themselves.  Like an idiotic clown as juvenile as Trudeau could ever make comments about being ‘taken seriously’ with a straight face. And yet, almost in unison, both opposition parties started in with snide remarks and skepticism as well, citing the fact that Harper’s government has consistently run a deficit dating back to 2008. “It’s largely symbolic,” said Ian Lee, a business professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. “They have all kinds of ways of getting around it.” 
And just what makes everybody so certain that this is new proposal is a ridiculous subterfuge? It might have something to do with the fact that so many Canadian provinces have run into budgetary shortfalls the past few years and haven’t a hope of meeting with these newly announced expectations. With the bottom fallen out of Alberta’s economy, one of the country’s greatest rainmakers, other provinces will most certainly fare no better. Indeed, many other provinces are struggling and many are failing. A humorous yet accurate chart from February 2013, the ‘deadbeat bunch’ enumerates some very disturbing trends.
- Newfoundland– deficit for fiscal 2012 – 2013: 726 million. Net debt per capita: $17,360. Debt-to-GDP ratio: 26.4%. Chance of default within 30 years: 50.2%.
- Manitoba– deficit for fiscal 2012 – 2013: 567 million. Net debt per capita: 567 million. Debt-to-GDP ratio: 27.1%. Chance of default within 30 years: 66.7%.
- Alberta– consistently blows budget: total overruns from 2000 – 2010 were 10.4 billion or 25% of its 2011 budget. Faces a $6 billion budget shortfall. Chance of default within 30 years: 84%.
- Nova Scotia– deficit for fiscal 2012 – 2013: $277 million. Net debt per capita: $14, 463. Debt-to-GDP ratio: 34.8%. Chance of default within 30 years: 53.6%.
- Prince Edward Island– consistently blows budget: total overruns from 2000 – 2010 were 300 million or 20% of its 2011 budget. Debt-to-GDP ratio: 34.6%. Chance of default within 30 years: 57.1%.
- New Brunswick– deficit for fiscal 2012 – 2013: 411 million. Net debt per capita: $14,553. Debt-to-GDP ratio: 33.1%. Chance of default within 30 years: 57.1%.
- Quebec– consistently blows budget: total overruns from 2000 – 2010 were 10.4 billion or 15% of its 2011 budget. Net debt per capita: 22,001. Debt-to-GDP ratio: 49.6% (highest in the country). See the full chart, published by Maclean’s, here:
Ontario, Saskatchewan and B.C. also appear on this chart (although Saskatchewan has improved drastically over the last couple of years). Based on these numbers it doesn’t look like any province is prepared to save us from our economic free fall. Who will save us from our own fate? With or without a new law in place it seems highly unlikely that most provincially elected bodies are willing or even able to change their spending habits. Could this be why critics described the new proposed balanced budget law as “symbolic at best, hypocrisy at worst”? 
My own take on Oliver’s proclamation is this: I want to take it at face value and believe that the Conservatives are going to get it right. I want to keep the faith and believe that Conservatives will start living up to the namesake of their party and that, under the direction of Harper (who has legitimately accomplished a great deal over the years), we will start to subsist upon more modest means. Most of all I want to believe that Canada can turn it all around and stop incurring debt that future generations will surely be saddled with; debts that they are grossly incapable of dealing with due to years of softening at the hands of liberals. But sadly, I don’t believe it at all.
I don’t believe that any political party in Canada is anywhere near harsh enough; there is none that has the will or the resolve to reverse the current trends leading to unsustainable national debt. The nature of big government in Canada is a model reliant upon ever expanding economic growth, not prudence, and hasn’t been since the 1960’s. When a ‘recession’ sets in the model is incapable of fiscal restraint. What Canada needs is much more than a law stating each province should be responsible for balancing their books (for this is self-evident and should never have been allowed in the first place). We require complete accountability on the part of our leadership, and complete transparency.
For example, a real law would reflect the methodologies of the private sector. If a province failed to meet its fiscal commitments Cabinet Ministers should not have their pay truncated, they should be fired. All involved. And the opposite holds true: those that meet or exceed their economic goals should be rewarded accordingly… that simple. A deficit, once exposed at year end, should not incur merely an economic freeze: it should necessitate a complete audit, similar to that imposed by Canada Revenue when a tax evasion is discovered. And finally, the Finance Minister, instead of having to report before a Parliamentary Committee for remedial planning if the budget is not adhered to, would be taken out and publicly flogged… and then fired.
Canada is destined to go broke—we all know it deep down and we all secretly fear it. And let’s face it: every year there are excuses that can be brought forward in order to evade responsibility, regardless of how many toothless ‘laws’ the Federal Government invents. Like a bum with a found credit card, our provincial governments, regardless of the party, will slowly incur debt on our behalf, all the while claiming that it was ‘necessary’ or ‘an emergency’ or ‘unavoidable’. In my estimation, nothing is unavoidable. Canada, like America, is foundering in debt. Our current national debt stands at $614,795,841,333.78 , that’s over 600 billion, in case you’ve lost count of the zeroes. We, as Canadians, are well on the path to our first Trillion, it seems. We, as a nation, should be dealing with the very real national debt crisis, the collapse of Canada, which is being paved by yearly federal deficits stacked upon each other like cord wood.
So, do I think Joe Oliver’s proposed ‘Balanced Budget Law’ will result in the desired ends? Will the Conservatives enforce the new legislation and make it stick (despite an endless array of excuses from provinces like Quebec?) Will each province begin to straighten up and fly right, bringing about an end to fiscal deficit and ultimately, over time, the national debt? And will we usher in an age of fiscal responsibility for the sake of Canada and our children that will one day inherit our legacy?
Unfortunately, no, I don’t believe any of this. Without the firings, the audits and the floggings accompanying it, none of the desired ends envisioned by this legislation will come to pass.