It’s said that all budgets are political, and the 2015 pre-election budget tabled this week is, above all, a political document, aimed principally at winning votes for the current government of Canada.
It is hoped that its predictably glowing talk of tax cuts, balanced budgets, surpluses and mass-transit funds will be enough to sway an electorate not noted for examining the substance behind clouds of rhetoric.
Just as predictably, the budget has become a political talking point for opposition parties and watchdog groups determined to knock the reigning party’s ‘positive spin’ off-axis.
They have suggested, for example, that the tax cuts only really benefit the already wealthy and that a balanced budget has only been achieved by raiding the government’s contingency fund.
Release of the budget, they also suggest, was timed to deflect attention from the government’s current nightmare – the trial of a suspended senator, with implications of bad policies, poor judgment and systematic covering-of-tracks.
The minister himself showed bad judgment in delivering a gift to opponents – along with his budget – in an off-the-cuff quip during a live interview.
Questioned about potentially huge revenue loss as a result of doubling the tax-free savings account limit, the minister said facetiously that he’d heard there might be problems in 2080, but suggested “we leave that” to the current prime minister’s granddaughter to solve. In one way, however, the budget is a testament to the current government’s brilliant strategy – and their mastery of the political game.
By telling Canadians the kind of things they like to hear, they are leaving it to the opposition parties to remind Canadians of whatever unpleasant realities may be out there – effectively casting their opponents as the bearers of bad tidings; the messengers that everyone would like to shoot.