Trudeau government spending is out of control

The next federal election is less than a year away. A lingering issue for the government, in particular Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, is their ability to soundly manage the country’s finances.

While much of the attention has rightly focused on the government’s ongoing inability to balance its budget, more focus is needed on spending, which is the underlying reason why the government can’t match spending with revenues.

The government’s philosophy seems to be to spend as much as possible, given current revenues and its ability (economically and politically) to borrow.

The starting place to understand the government’s proclivity for spending is election year 2015. Budget 2015, tabled by the former Conservative government, estimated spending on programs and transfers to total $263.2 billion in 2015-16, while projecting a small surplus of roughly $1.4 billion.

Upon winning the fall election, the Liberals immediately increased spending. Their first budget as government (released in the spring of 2016) projected program spending in 2016-17 at $291.4 billion, an increase of $28.2 billion, or 10.7 per cent, in one year.

Almost all the new spending was to be financed by borrowing, with the annual deficit projected to reach $29.4 billion in 2016-17.

The most recent federal budget (2018) projects program spending will reach $321.5 billion next year (2019-20) — an increase of $58.3 billion or 22.2 per cent since 2015, when the government was elected.

And despite revenues increasing from $295.5 billion in 2015-16 to a projected $335.5 billion in 2019-20, the government still expects to borrow roughly $15 billion next year just to finance its operating spending.

Statistics from the Department of Finance indicate that the cumulative deficit — a measure of overall debt — increased from $628.9 billion the year before the Liberals took office to more than $671.3 billion last year, with another roughly $30 billion more in deficits expected this year and next.

And it’s worth noting that these spending and deficit numbers would have likely been worse had the government delivered on its infrastructure spending promises.

The government is being forced to back-load an increasing amount of infrastructure spending because it’s been markedly more difficult to spend the money than originally anticipated.

Again, the federal government’s guiding principle for the country’s finances seems to be to spend as much as possible given available revenues and borrowing.

One of the many problems with this approach is that it risks a serious deterioration in federal finances when the inevitable recession arrives. In times of recession and even economic slowdown, federal revenues automatically decline, while a number of spending programs, such as employment insurance, automatically increase, resulting in larger deficits.

A recent analysis, for instance, applied the experiences of recent recessions to current federal finances and concluded that the annual deficit could easily reach upwards of $42 billion to $48 billion, depending on the severity of the recession and the government’s response.

As election year 2019 quickly approaches, it’s imperative that the federal government demonstrate both a willingness and ability to return to a balanced budget based on more prudent and focused spending.

Such policies worked well under the government of former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien and will work again.

Jason Clemens, Jake Fuss and Milagros Palacios are analysts with the Fraser Institute.

Just Posted

Victim in 2015 murder stabbed a dozen times

Daniel Boyd Sawyer on trial for second-degree murder

North Pole Stroll returns with Red Deer Lights the Night, Late Night Shopping

Red Deer’s Lights the Night and late night shopping events are back… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s Canyon Ski Resort is ready for the 2019 Canada Winter Games

The upgrades prepare the resort to host free-style skiing and snowboarding events

Red Deer man patrols streets at night after his truck was stolen twice in 3 months

‘I stay up every single night, they drive around, they test every car door…’

Lowry has strong words for Raptors’ lack of communication after loss

TORONTO — Raptors coach Nick Nurse might not have had a good… Continue reading

S. Korea’s ‘Garlic Girls’ accuse coaches of derailing team

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — The Garlic Girls, South Korea’s hugely popular… Continue reading

Trump administration defends its case against CNN’s Acosta

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to fend off a… Continue reading

Long hidden, Marie Antoinette’s jewels go up for auction

GENEVA — Diamond and pearl earrings, pearl necklaces, a giant pearl pendant… Continue reading

A No-Go: Athletes and officials weigh in after Calgary votes ‘no’ to 2026 bid

TORONTO — Rotating Olympic hosts? A single go-to destination every four years?… Continue reading

Predators may have NHL’s best goalie combo on, off ice

NASHVILLE — Pekka Rinne is off to an even better start than… Continue reading

Canadian Premier League buys Ontario’s League 1, looks to develop talent there

TORONTO — The Canadian Premier League has bought Ontario’s League 1 and… Continue reading

Most Read