Holding pattern budgets create ho-hum result

All the provincial budgets have come down. 


Yawn. 


Did I mention they were boring?


Unless some devilish details emerge from the bowels of the budget documents, these are among the dullest budgets ever. 


Last year was quite a different story. 


In Alberta, for instance, a tentative conversation began around implementing a sales tax. The province has been saved from that debate this year by a newly emerging boom, funded, as always, by oil.


Still, the province continues to borrow, and borrow big. Alberta plans to take on slightly more than $5 billion in debt to fund its capital budget to pay for new infrastructure. Whether that is a good idea remains to be seen.


Alberta did increase agriculture funding, with a $200 million endowment fund for agriculture and food innovation. That allotment helped increase the Alberta ag budget to slightly more than $1 billion, up from $938 million last year. 


In Manitoba, last year’s budget was anything but boring. The provincial government increased its sales tax to eight percent from seven, and debate still rages over that piece of unpopular decision making. 


Sensibly, the government did no such thing this year. What it did do is announce infrastructure funding of $5.5 billion over five years, which will go to such items as municipal roads, bridge repair and water services.


The last budget to land was Sask-atchewan’s, perhaps the most boring of all. Agricultural and municipal leaders said it held no surprises, but that was fine with them.


Ag spending fell slightly, and it was status quo in terms of programs such as the Growing Forward 2 package. 


That’s about it. No tax increases, no drama, no excitement, no fury. It seems as if the governments are, in general, collectively holding their breath. It seems that citizens are too. Things seem a bit uncertain.


Commodities remain low, with the possible exception of oil, and the American economy, while improving, is still not full steam ahead.


With inflation well below the Bank of Canada’s target rate and an economy that is flat if not sputtering, no government wants to outrageously ramp up taxes or spending. Neither would it want to pull back too much and cause an economic retreat.


Perhaps prudence was not just politically but also economically correct this budget season. Still, it just about puts you to sleep … but maybe that was the whole idea.

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