Hundreds of cellphones were raised in the air Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, as supporters tried to capture a picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he made his rounds at Semiahmoo Secondary. (Aaron Hinks photo)

PBO sets budget baseline for campaign vows with tools, deficit projections

Parliament’s spending watchdog estimates that federal books will be in the red by $20.7 billion this year

Parliament’s spending watchdog is predicting years of deficits deeper than the government has laid out.

The numbers are in a report the parliamentary budget office says should set the baseline for the campaign promises parties will dangle in front of voters this fall.

WATCH: Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

The PBO estimates that federal books will be in the red by $20.7 billion this year and bottom out at a deficit of $23.3 billion the year after, before improving to a $12.5-billion deficit by 2022.

The numbers are better than the PBO predicted in April but worse than the figures in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s pre-election budget that forecast deficits between $19.8 billion and $12.1 billion.

The estimates and a new online costing tool are part of PBO efforts to prepare for its role as an independent auditor of each party’s spending plans in the upcoming election campaign. The watchdog office plans to post cost estimates of campaign promises as the parties announce them before and during the campaign.

The report is likely to make it more difficult for any party to cook its own projections and also makes it difficult for any party to promise a quick return to balanced budgets.

Still, the PBO offers one possibility for making up some of the shortfall in a separate report detailing how much the government loses to tax evasion, to overseas tax havens, and through tax avoidance through legal loopholes that contravene the spirit of income-tax laws.

The difference between what is collected and what could be collected absent tax-evasion schemes is known as the “tax gap.”

The Canada Revenue Agency, in a report earlier in the week, pegged the lost take in federal corporate income taxes in 2014 at between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion. But by looking at electronic transfers into and out of Canada, as well as special tax filings, the budget office gives a “hypothetical” estimate that $25 billion might have been lost in corporate tax revenue.

What the PBO was more certain of is that money flowing between Canada and countries known to be tax havens was “disproportionately large.”

“One thing is clear — we need greater transparency on corporate finances and financial flows, including who owns what companies,” said Toby Sanger, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, in a statement.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ladysmith Little Theatre now showing The Dining Room

Opening night is Thursday, September 19 and the final performance is Sunday, October 6

Long-awaited Crofton road improvements finally happening

Paved shoulders on both sides will be a welcome addition

‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

Trudeau says he also wore makeup while performing a version of a Harry Belafonte song

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

B.C. bus crash survivor petitions feds to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

Most Read