If a federal election is called this week, British Columbians will be in the untenable position of having both a provincial and federal budget that have neither been debated nor voted on. Both governments will be operating on interim finance measures, able to spend taxpayer’s money without the scrutiny and permission of the elected members of the two respective parliaments. Whatever happened to former Social Credit premier Bill Bennett’s rallying cry of “not a dime without debate?”
In recent years, the federal government’s budget has become a focal point for political posturing and electioneering rather than an attempt to achieve a collaborative vision for Canada which elected members of Parliament and the people of Canada can rally around. In previous years, the political brinkmanship surrounding the budget has merely led to deeper ill-will between the political parties to the detriment of good government for Canadians. This year it looks like the budget will take us over the edge into a costly election that will likely lead to a parliament, which isn’t much different than it is now — meaning future federal budgets will involve more posturing and brinkmanship.
Provincially, we haven’t had a real budget since before the 2009 election and the introduction of the HST after that election. With our fixed election date established in May, every fourth year the B.C. budget is used as an election platform for the governing party, which can also go to the polls without the books for the previous fiscal year being balanced and independently assessed by the Auditor General.
The provincial situation can be remedied by changing the province’s fixed election date to the fall, thereby forcing the governing party to introduce a real budget in the spring of each election year. The people of BC will then also have the benefit of the Auditor General’s independent assessment of the government’s finances in the June prior to a fall election.
Budgets are too important to be used as political footballs. As citizens we must demand all politicians and political parties stop using them as such.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.