PBO says feds can spend more, but wiggle room has shrunk due to pandemic
The government could increase spending, reduce taxes, or a combination of the two and still reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio over time
OTTAWA — The parliamentary budget officer says the federal government has the wiggle room to add billions more in permanent spending before its finances become unsustainable.
Based on the budget officer’s calculations, the government could increase spending, reduce taxes, or a combination of the two to the tune of $19 billion and still reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio over time to pre-pandemic levels.
That’s down from the $41 billion the budget officer calculated in February before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yves Giroux’s report says the same can’t be said of some provinces, the territories, local or Indigenous governments, whose current spending levels would see debt growing continuously as a share of the economy.
He estimates permanent tax increases or spending cuts totalling about $12 billion and growing in line with gross domestic product over time would be needed to stabilize the finances of those governments.
Only three provinces have finances that are considered sustainable in Giroux’s view: Quebec, Nova Scotia and Ontario, each of which have varying levels of room to bump up permanent spending.