Beyond the Budget: Examining Canadian Fiscal Policy

A central role of government revolves around the allocation of resources. This includes  raising or lowering taxes, deciding which programs to allocate funding to and determining how much of the fiscal pie to give to each program.

The nuances of fiscal policy often get lost in the fray.  How can governments ensure that programs Canadians view as essential – like healthcare, education, pensions, and housing – are viable in the long run?  This issue has faded in and out of the broader public consciousness but is always present.  Right now, many are concerned about the long-term sustainability of all three levels of government in Canada.

At the federal level, the 2017 budget showed a deficit of $28.5 billion and the government’s own long term projections see deficit spending continuing until the 2045/2046 fiscal year.  This is a significant change from projections put forward when the current government was still in opposition, when the budget was to be balanced by the 2019/2020 fiscal year.  Is this an early indication that Canada is at risk of entering a  period of fiscal crisis, much like we saw in the 1990’s?

At the provincial level, many commentators have expressed concern about Ontario becoming the largest indebted subnational jurisdiction in the world (passing California), but how well founded is this concern?  What impact might spiralling debt have on the province’s ability to finance vital services, and to what extent will the costs be born by Ontaria residents?   

At the municipal level, the Toronto government struggles year in and year out to simply maintain sub-par programs, let alone improve and expand.  Are there easy solutions the city can implement  to solve these problems or does the city need to rethink its revenue structure?

All levels of government  face fiscal challenges.  Today on Beyond the Headlines, we’ll go BEYOND the published budgets to find out what exactly this means for Canadians.  It’s time to go BEYOND the budget!

Sean Speer is a Munk Senior Fellow for fiscal policy at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and a Fellow at the School of Public Policy & Governance. He previously served as a Senior Economic Advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Director of Policy for the Minister of Finance. [Interview at 2.31].

Benjamin Dachis is Associate Director, Research at the C.D. Howe Institute, and has been with the organization since 2006. He has an Honours Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Regional Science from the London School of Economics (LSE). He has also worked at the Centre for Economic Performance, an interdisciplinary research centre at the LSE. In 2012 and 2013, he was a member of the Insight Grants Economics Committee for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He has written on municipal finance, infrastructure, tax, energy, environmental and labour policy. [Interview at 21.04].

“Any new revenue source is politically difficult … in order to do it we have to build public trust” — Enid Slack, Director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance.

Enid Slack is the Director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance and an adjunct professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. She is a leading Canadian voice on municipal finance with over 35 years experience in the field, working with organizations like the World Bank, the IMF CID and UN Habitat. She has previously been awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award medal for her work on cities. [Interview at 38.53].



Peter Huycke, Host, Junior Producer
Kevin Hempstead, Host, Junior Producer
Majenta Braumberger,
Junior Producer
Jonah Kotzer, Technical Producer
Ian T. D. Thomson, Technical Producer, Executive Producer

Music Credits
Not Dead 
by Fine Times
by The Weather Station
If I Had a Million Dollars 
by Barenaked Ladies


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