Only three years ago, there was an unwritten rule for federal budgets: you had to balance the books or have a very specific plan outlining when you would. If you went into deficit, you needed a clear reason and a deadline, usually conveniently right before the next election, for going back into surplus.
Typically that reason was a weak economy that needed stimulating. With his campaign promise to run $10-billion deficits in 2015, Justin Trudeau bent the rule, but he still promised to get back to balance within four years. Since he took office, Trudeau has not only broken the rule, he’s rewritten it.
Now, it seems, there’s no longer a requirement to talk about balanced budgets now or in the future. The new budget forecasts a deficit of more than $12 billion in 2022. These are not backbreaking numbers, but they do raise an important question: if we can’t balance the books when the economy is going well, what will we do when the next recession happens?
Unfortunately, Trudeau’s Liberals don’t seem to be paying any political price for adding to the national debt. That means it’s a lot less likely they or any other government will care about balanced budgets in the future.