The deficit in this country is now apparently $50 billion or more. I personally stand by my earlier estimate of eleventy billion dollars as being every bit as legitimate as any other guess. Now Flaherty’s party has leapt to his defense saying that these are tough times and that it’s difficult to predict what will be needed in order to bail out this or that industry or to fund EI. (I thought EI had a surplus, what happened?) The Conservatives are saying that this is money that the other parties would like to see spent to revive the economy, so how can the opposition complain?
I think what is significant here though is that this is part of a series of revisions, first there was to be no recession in Canada, then there was to be a small recession but no deficit, then there was to be a deficit, now it’s a bigger deficit. The pattern here is of the Conservatives confidently asserting that the best-case scenario was the most likely outcome – how convenient – only to later come back with a revision to the new best-case scenario. This is in stark contrast to the Liberal approach throughout the 1990s and early 2000s where Paul Martin and later Ralph Goodale consistently under-promised and over-delivered with cautious budgets that were actually derided by the Cons and their precursors for being overly, what’s that word, oh yeah, conservative when figuring out the numbers.
Given the magnitude of our economic woes I would find it likely that even Martin and Goodale would run deficits in times like these (unless they went for a wholesale shift towards a radically shrunken government or dramatically increased taxes) but given the track record of those two, I’d expect that we would have been given the bad news up front, as if we were adults.