'Unbelievable, unreliable and incredible'

Scott Clark and Peter DeVries review the Auditor General’s recommendations on fiscal sustainability.

In its response, the Department of Finance has agreed to publish fiscal sustainability reports for the federal government on an annual basis, by 2013 at the latest.  It will not, however, publish its long-term fiscal projections for the provincial governments, arguing that it is not accountable for their fiscal situations. In its latest report, the PBO concluded that, although the federal government’s finances are sustainable over the long term, the provincial governments collectively face a huge fiscal challenge. For some reason, the Minister Flaherty does not seem to be interested in the long-term fiscal sustainability of the total public sector in Canada.

To us, this is “unbelievable, unreliable and incredible”. Federal actions can have profound impacts on provincial finances (e.g., restraining the growth in the Canada Health Transfer from 6 per cent per year to between 3.5-4%). The Department of Finance should publish its sustainability reports for the provincial government sector. Who else is in a position to do so or has the responsibility to do so. There is only one taxpayer and it is extremely important that Parliamentarians and Canadians fully comprehend the implications of federal actions, not only on federal finances, but on the provincial finances as well.