Finance Minister Ralph Goodale sought the input of Canadians for the new federal budget during his cross-country consultation tour that brought him to Montreal last Tuesday.
“The prime minister has outlined his vision for achievement. It focuses on three imperatives: strengthening Canada’s social foundation, building a 21st century Canadian economy and ensuring a place of pride and dignity for Canada around the world. In short, I want to hear your ideas on how we can address the fundamental issues we face in the next budget.”
Goodale spoke at the downtown Hilton hotel to the Montreal Board of Trade.
“This afternoon I will participate in a roundtable on priorities for the next budget,” he said. “There will be business people, of course, but also representatives of social groups. I want to make this initiative a consultation exercise that is inclusive, not exclusive.”
Last Wednesday, Goodale was in Toronto, where the Canadian Press reported that his stopover had “some stakeholders crying foul” because they did not get invitations to the consultation meeting.
Concordia Professor Lawrence Kryzanowski, who holds the Ned Goodman chair in Investment Finance, said, “These road shows are fairly common. I don’t think they’re overly effective because some people have more the ear of the government than others.”
After Goodale’s speech, in Montreal, reporters questioned the amount of the surplus available, which would determine the amount the federal government can give to the provinces for health care.
He said, “In the interest of prudence and staying balanced, while the opposition parties bounce around by $4 billion here, and $8 billion there, it’s fundamental that the government of Canada rely on the hardest and clearest information we can have and at the moment our best projection is 2.3 (billion dollars).”
Professor Kryzanowski said, “[The government] has a history of underestimating the surplus, which is fairly prudent. It will probably come in higher. When you forecast a higher surplus, there is pressure to spend…Budgets are very much about what they’re doing now and promises about the future. But in the future, priorities change.”
When asked about suggestions he would give the finance minister, Kryzanowski said from a personal view-point, he would like to see a reduction in taxes.
“It’s hard to separate what you would like and what you think will happen. I don’t think they will do very much. We will hear lofty, nice promises in terms of education and municipal governments…but not too much action.”
During his speech, Goodale said with a $2.3- billion surplus “that might exist, once our books are closed at year-end,” if they give $2 billion to the provinces for health care, it does not leave a very big security “cushion” ($300 million) for any unexpected expenses.
He said, “We are not yet ready to make firm guarantees.”