From a policy point of view election budgets are always a bit of a disappointment. And this year’s budget is no exception. The problem with an election budget is that it is designed to spread the gravy over the finest pork going.
Why pork? The central issue is this. There are any number of serious structural problems within any given country at any given time. The problem with election budgets is that they do not set a list of priorities and decide which structural issues will be given the necessary attention and resources, but, rather, are driven by the need to placate all the major vested interests: voters, corporations and provinces. The problem is that placation does not equal a comprehensive solution but rather a series of eclectic half-measures that do not add up to a coherent national policy or plan. So while everyone gets a little bit nobody gets enough to solve their fundamental problem: a little for the environment but not enough to even come close to a serious plan; a little for child care but not enough to actually make cheap affordable high quality child care a reality; a little for provinces but not nearly enough to make up for previous years of off-loading and the economic inequalities that it help to create.
The list of course goes on and on. Election budgets are bad because they attempt to mask the priorities of the ruling party and this is exacerbated when speaking of ruling parties in a minority position. I do not have the details at this time but I suspect as the fine print is sifted through and the numbers are crunched this budget is going to be long on smoke and mirrors (and provincial federal relations) and very short on decisive action. And while that might be a good thing so far as Tory budgets go, Canadians would to well to dwell on the fact that this tickle trunk approach to politics and economic development is the kind of monkey business that lead to 15 years of irresponsible liberal and conservative budgets and another painful 15 years to unwind.
And it seems this what we are back to: budgets devoid of vision and a plan but filled to the brim with crass political calculation. Gravy on top of the pork is good but vegetables are better.