It’s now more than two generations since the legendary C. D. Howe became the embodiment of Liberal arrogance when he reportedly posed the question “What’s a million?” during a debate in parliament.
In truth, he never said any such thing, but the legend lives on about the politician who was essentially the CEO of Canada’s amazing industrial mobilization during World War Two.
These days the Americans measure their budget deficits in trillions of dollars and everyone is watching to see if Barack Obama can follow his election victory with a plan to avoid driving the U.S. economy over a proverbial cliff. We’ll find out in less than two months.
If the President does not pull off such a miracle, then the economies of much of the rest of the world, especially Canada, will also be in for a very rough ride.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty might have been thinking “What’s five billion?” when he presented his latest update on Ottawa’s balance sheet. I hope he wasn’t, because it’s going to be a long time before the bottom line is printed in black ink.
The Canadian economy is driven in large measure by exports of oil and potash, and many other natural resources. The price that the world is willing to pay for those commodities has fallen sharply, and it may not go back up for a long time.
Flaherty says this year’s deficit will be $26 billion, 5 billion higher than earlier estimates. The budget won’t be balanced until sometime after the next election. In the meantime, Ottawa is spending more money servicing the national debt than we do on Canada’s military.
The minister says they won’t reduce any of the transfer payments to the provinces, nor will they reduce things like old age pensions. The fact that he even mentioned these areas should make all of us very very nervous.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the global economy, and life on the edge of the cliff.
I’m Roger Currie
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