The Telegraph-Journal is reporting today that the Liberals may wait until after the end of the fiscal year - March 31 - to table their first budget if new equalization figures are not yet available as of that date.
Volpé complains that this is in violation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act which requires a budget tabled by March 31. Notwithstanding this requirement, the Auditor General is quoted as saying "there are no consequences in the legislation if that date is not met" and goes on to explain that the only real concequence is if a budget is not passed by July 31 at which time, under the Financial Administration Act, the government loses its authority to spend money.
In my mind, it would be sound fiscal policy to pass your budget before the end of the fiscal year because, until it passes, you keep operating on last year's budget. Thus, whether a budget is introduced on March 31 or April 1 (the last day of the fiscal year of the first day of the new one) it doesn't really matter because neither will be in effect until well into the fiscal year.
Let's take a look at when the Tories introduced their budgets:
- March 28, 2000
- March 27, 2001
- March 26, 2002
- December 10, 2002 (for fiscal year 2003-2004)
- March 30, 2004
- March 30, 2005
- March 28, 2006
So, as I said, it is mere semantics whether or not your budget is introduced just before or just after the fiscal year ends because it has the same effect - the budget isn't passed until well into the year for which it is budgeting.
So what Volpé is screaming about is something that all three of his budgets were guilty of, as were most of the budgets of his predecessors in the Lord Government.
However, there are a lot of other problems with his claim.
1. The provision requiring a budget to be tabled by March 31 is a new feature included in the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act which was passed last year. Rather unusually, the government proclaimed this Act as a law in force after they lost the election, but before transition had occured, on September 21, 2006.
2. Volpé's arguement was not that it is bad policy to introduce a budget late but that "I don't think it would look good for the government to not follow laws. They can't ask everyone else to abide by the law and then not do it themselves." However, this is a matter of the government meeting a superficial deadline in law by a matter of days or weeks. Volpé's government refused to obey the law and appoint a Child and Youth Advocate for over two years.
3. Lord ran a number of deficits in his budgets and invariably blamed it on federal government monies not being at the level he expected. Volpé should be applauding the government for working to avoid running "surpluses" that actually turn out to be deficits when the feds come through with the cheques.
Even better than this nonsensical criticism is this gem which I will allow to stand on its own from the mouth of Mr. Volpé:
I want all the attention on the session itself. And put all the attention on it and all our work on it so there is no time lost on who will be the best leader, should he be from inside the party, outside the party, bilingual, unilingual, whatever. That will create internal division and I don't need it. So nobody will talk about the leadership race before the session was over.Yes, that's right, Volpé is forbidding people from even beginning to campaign until after the legislative session! We will be looking forward to almost a full year of Volpé at this rate... heh heh heh