What would budget proposals look like if Ottawa made sense? Two think tanks’ adventures in coherence

What would budget proposals look like if Ottawa made sense? Two think tanks’ adventures in coherence

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) today released the Alternative Budget, its annual exercise in make-believe, where the left-wing group conjures up a budget that the government of the day—be it Liberal or Conservative—regularly ignores. This year’s alt-budget is, we’ll wager, likely headed for the same fate as all the previous ones, given what the details are: rolling back corporate tax cuts, establishing two new tax brackets for high-income earners, cancelling the F-35 fighter jets and imposing a national carbon tax and a new 28 per cent tax rate for the oil sands. “The money saved and generated could go into programs that would create new jobs, reduce income disparity, rebuild infrastructure, improve pension benefits and help the environment,” reports the Globe and Mail.

Tax increases? Cuts to the military? New program spending? A carbon tax? Did we lose a war? To the Soviets? Next thing they’ll want is national daycare. (Scratch that, it’s what they want now: start at p. 42 of the PDF and read on.) Kidding aside, this document has the virtue of being a coherent, left-wing response to the government’s proposals. The CCPA concedes that the deficit would be larger under their plan, but the debt-to-GDP ratio would actually be close to the government’s baseline—the CCPA argues the economy would grow faster with all their gravy public investment.

The Fraser Institute, meanwhile, has some coherent ideas about what a real small-C conservative budget would look like—and, amusingly, it looks like the budgets of Liberal Paul Martin. The Fraser suggestions include cuts to program spending, cuts to social and health transfers from Ottawa to the provinces, and privatizing health care. (Clearly, that last one isn’t as Paul Martin-y as the others.) Some will find it repellent—much like some will find the CCPA one repellent—but at least it’s an intelligible right-wing response to the problem of deficit spending when tax increases are anathema.

In the real world, of course, the budget will be written up with certain other things in mind—namely, the impending election and the seemingly unavoidable situation where everybody wants money and Ottawa has money. Is that a kind of coherence? Not really.

• Alternative budget would raise taxes on corporations and the rich [Globe and Mail]
Rebuild, Rethink, Renew: Alternative Budget 2011 (PDF) [Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives]
• Take a page from the 1995 budget [Fraser Institute]