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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Haitian foster children arrive in Nelson after months-long lobbying effort

Marie-Paule Brisson and Sebastien De Marre have parented girls age 12 and 8 since they were babies

Nelson hospice starts Walk and Talk group in Lakeside Park

The Walk and Talk Grief Group is offered free to anyone grieving the death of a loved one

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

RDCK to implement new emergency alert notification system

System also includes sends alerts for water advisories

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

Most Read