Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau has tabled a very interesting progressive Fall Economic Statement that carefully but sensibly seeks to balance the need for ongoing stimulus of the Canadian economy with prudent economic management. He is targeting a stable -but still not low enough- unemployment rate and remains very sensibly committed to very modest stimulus deficits combined with a projected declining debt to GDP ratio over the next five years.
There will be critics who understandably question the wisdom of tax expenditures on behalf of business innovation and capital investment pointing to solid profits data for most of the business sector already in place. Furthermore a program which rewards business for innovative investments which target job creation and employment growth in a global economy needs careful monitoring to ensure that what has been promised gets delivered.
The key to the Minister‘s strategy can be found in chart 1.13 on page 23 where the projected deficit which is currently a very modest -0.9 % of GDP declines over the next few years to -0.4 % of GDP by 2023-24.At the same time the debt to GDP ratio currently at 31.4 % is projected to fall to 29.8 % by 2021-22. The government‘s very sensible rational approach to debt management and fiscal policy has been a long time time coming but it is a very welcome policy innovation and compares very favourably with the Conservative party‘s dogmatic obsession with budget balance no matter the consequences.The only potential somewhat unpredictable factors are ill trade winds from south of the border, excessive imprudent interest rate rises by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada which continue to believe in the notion of inflationary expectations automatically arising even when oil prices are falling and irrational pessimism after a serious bout of irrational exuberance on the global stock markets. As usual, time will deliver the answers.