Threat of downturn demands caution

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The spectre of a recession should be informing our provincial and federal budgets this month, but we are worried that will not be the case with two governments casually treating the public balance sheet.

The Bill Morneau budget will be the unofficial launch of the federal election campaign. The Liberals have shown no concern about the size or duration of deficits, so it will be no surprise at the trail end of the election cycle if they commit to substantial spending as a lure to political support.

The selfish question will be what portion hits our province – whether it is proportionate today, much less anticipatory of British Columbia’s growing role in the national economy. Liberals have seats to lose in B.C., and many more elsewhere, so it can be expected they will play the traditional game of announcing pre-election goodies.

The Carole James budget next week might have been the unofficial launch of a provincial campaign, but it is increasingly apparent that neither they nor the opposition has the appetite for an election.

Which likely means we will be steered through choppier waters by a BC NDP government that appears to understand the value of a surplus in good times but has made substantial commitments that will come due when times toughen.

It has dampened the real estate market through taxes and may soon regret how far it has gone to appease its base. It has an opportunity in this budget to soften its measures; too many jobs in this province depend on the sector through transactions and construction to afford a protracted slump.

Curiously, the signals from Ottawa and Victoria are anything but cautious on public finances and surprisingly subdued on the approaching headwinds. We need mature stewardship, not another chapter of tax and spend.