So as Justin Trudeau declares that the economy is getting worse and we need to turf the Harper government out comes the latest monthly fiscal monitor from Finance Canada.
This is a document prepared by bureaucrats and put out every month regardless of election cycles. There will be another in September before we vote and maybe those numbers won’t be so good for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives but this one is.
On June 2015, the budgetary surplus was $1.1 billion.
From April to June 2015, we achieved a budgetary surplus of $5.0 billion.
Sign of a bad economy? Look, we know things are not great in every part of Canada. I was just speaking to a guy who has worked the oil and gas sector for a long while and he tells me what it is like on the patch but this doesn’t make it sound like the wheels are falling off the bus.
Now let’s be clear, the fiscal monitor is an interesting data point and if you follow them monthly as I have for about a decade they can show you interesting trends but there are also seasonal variations. When did companies remit their income or payroll taxes? When did they pay their GST and how is that booked?
So one fiscal monitor, even one with a quarterly summary doesn’t prove the Conservative claim, put forward in a statement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that:
“The report shows that under our strong economic leadership, Canada had a $5 billion budget surplus for the first three months of the year. This means that we’re actually ahead of the game on our budget plan, while at the same time delivering historic tax relief directly to Canadian families. That’s good for Canada and good for the economy.”
It doesn’t prove that but then again neither does it prove the news release of the Liberals, the ones promising to run more deficits but complaining that this fiscal monitor proves nothing and Stephen Harper is running another deficit.
Complaining that the other guy might be running a deficit while you are promising to run several just isn’t a good campaign tactic.
Anyway, can this all be explained away as Justin Ling of Vice tried to do by saying, look, we sold the GM shares the government bought during the auto bailout?
Yes, Canada posted a $5 billion surplus in Q1+Q2, because we're still counting the impact of selling those GM shares. http://t.co/bW0b8GolhB— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) August 28, 2015
No, it can’t be. And of course the purchase and bailout of GM counted to the deficit of the day, so of course you would count this towards your surplus but that is not the whole story either.
Let’s compare the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015.
In every category revenue is up:
* Personal income taxes collected from April to the end of June are up from 31.1 billion to 32.9 billion
* Excise and duty taxes up from 11.9 billion to 13 billion
* Corporate income taxes are up from 9.8 to 10.3 billion
* Other revenues are up from 7.6 billion to 102 billion
* EI premiums collected are up from 6.7 billion to 7 billion
Now the spending side.
They held the line of direct program spending, 24.5 billion each year, transfers to people and provinces went up and public debt charges went down from 7.6 billion to 7 billion.
I’d say that is a pretty good record for the first three months of fiscal 2015.
The $5 billion surplus for the first three months of 2015 compares quite well to the 400 million dollar surplus from April to June of last year, even if you take out all of the GM share sale.
The June surplus in 2015 is down to 1.1 billion from 1.6 billion but as I said, monthly swings are wild, quarterly swings are less wild. The first three months of 2015 compare favourably for government finances.
Each party will try and use this data for their own devices.
What can I tell you objectively?
I can say that knowing what is happening in oil and gas and a few other sectors of the economy things will not be great going forward and probably are not as rosy as some Conservatives will have you believe but they also are not nearly as bad as the doom and gloom preached by the NDP and Liberals.
Final thought, I mentioned that the Conservatives held the line on program spending year over year. The NDP and Liberals have promised to do just one thing to that... increase it and increase it dramatically.
READ Brian Lilley's book CBC Exposed -- it's been called "the political book of the year.”
SIGN UP FREE for exclusive Election 2015 coverage from The Rebel team!
JOIN OUR CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN to bring you fearless Canadian election coverage!