Canadians express frugal tendencies

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Forty years ago, as annual deficits saw government debt piling up, few discussed the crunch looming for future problem solvers. Now it’s an inescapable part of most conversations on politics.

As federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented his budget Tuesday in the House of Commons – one touted as having a degree of austerity – a survey shows a majority of Canadians are on the same wavelength when it comes to defeating deficits.

The Harris-Decima poll, as reported by The Canadian Press, shows 57 per cent believe the deficit should be eliminated before increased spending occurs, compared to 34 per cent OK with increases in spending despite red ink.

Furthermore, the poll shows, that sentiment crosses party lines. Those who said they support the NDP were 48-44 in favour of deficit slaying before new spending. Those identifying as Conservatives were 69-25 in favour, and Liberals fell somewhere in between.

The increased awareness is not surprising since, in recent years, election campaigns if not fought on the handling of finances certainly see that issue front and centre.

It’s sure to come up next year, with a federal election scheduled. Flaherty has said the government is headed for a surplus for 2015-16 – allowing the leeway for some anticipated tax breaks and extra spending.

Interestingly, even some financial experts don’t necessarily go along with the strict need to balance the budget at this point – keeping in mind Canada’s in a lot better shape than most other developed countries.

They point out that deficit spending has benefits, indeed, is often necessary, during times of economic downturn. Canadians were reminded of that when governments turned to stimulus spending after the crash of 2008.

Debate about deficit spending during such times will undoubtedly continue. But in any case it’s better when political parties hash that out in the open and have to convince the public of the need, rather than do it mutely as in past decades.

Organizations: House of Commons, The Harris-Decima, Canadian Press NDP Conservatives

Geographic location: Canada

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