All dressed up. Now where to go?

In Policy Options, the great Tom Courchene offers a tidbit: last year marked the second consecutive year in which every province and territory, in addition to the federal government, delivered balanced budgets. It had been 60 years since Canada had two consecutive years of balanced budgets across the board.

Already this suggests an interesting question: what did we spend 60 years balancing our books to do?

A second interesting question is suggested by the short article’s abstract, which makes a claim I cannot find in Courchene’s actual text: that “the excess of provincial over federal revenues has never been larger.” It’s fairly clear from Courchene’s (i.e. the federal budget’s) Chart 4 that the, ahem, fiscal imbalance in the provinces’ favour is larger than at any point in nearly 25 years, but that’s the extent of the chart’s ambit. Can anyone out there confirm the more sweeping claim?

If it could be confirmed, the second claim would suggest its own intriguing followup questions, such as: did we want the most decentralized federation in the world to decentralize further than ever before, or was that a surprise and is it a problem? I know a certain emeritus professor of comparative federalism, now recycled in politics with varying levels of success, from whom I’d love to hear the answer to that one.

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