The Minister of Finance Speaks!

Copyright 2016 – Stephen Redgwell

Media Question: Good morning. Skiff Transom, CNN News. That’s the Canadian News Network. We were first with the acronym. Really!

We’re all concerned about the budget today. How will the government deal with the country’s economy, and how it will affect the average Canadian? According to analysts, we’re running a deficit, but the government is saying it’s a surplus.

I’m confused by the numbers released this morning, and wonder if you could briefly explain what the release actually means, in layman’s terms. Are we in a surplus or a deficit state?

Response from the Minister of Finance:

I would like to thank you for allowing me to clear this up, Skiff. Most people, including the media, the business community, and some politicians, don’t understand the process. That is because they are not present at the weekly finance meetings, and most are not trained economists. As a result, they are at a loss when it comes to fiduciary responsibilities, debt structures, monetary architectures, revenues, taxation and monetary reporting.

But let’s keep this simple. Let me explain what is meant by ‘a surplus’.

If you are in debt for billions of dollars, that is a surplus of debt. For those of us who went to university and actually stayed awake during English classes, the statement,

“We are running a surplus.”

can be interpreted several ways.

  1. Surplus – having more money (as assets) than what is owed (as liabilities)
  2. Surplus – having an abundance of debt. More than is needed or wanted. ex. I have an abundance (a surplus) of debt.
  3. Surplus – generally having a lot of anything.

Occasionally, a politician will say something that is misinterpreted. This usually happens in a scrum or a question period. Unfortunately, it is broadcast almost immediately to the public without explanation. The problem, in brief, is that questions are not correctly phrased. I don’t like to point fingers, but the media has to accept the responsibility for this. They compose the questions.

What makes matters worse is the media misinterprets the response. So, you have a poorly phrased question and an improper understanding of the reply.

Unfortunately, for viewers at home, this can cause a lot of confusion. I wish I could get the media to understand that reporting inaccuracies is unfair to the public.

I wish every Canadian could drop by my office and read the volumes of reports I receive on a daily basis. It would really open your eyes! That’s impractical of course, but rest assured that everything is vetted so that only important and necessary files are put on my desk. And goodness knows, most of it would put you to sleep! But everything is read and given due consideration.

I think everyone can appreciate that some of what is sent to the Minister of Finance for review does not come from a bona fide economic authority. Indeed, some correspondence is written by unqualified individuals or agencies – including other members of Parliament! Nonetheless, it is the law that all communications sent to my office must be received and processed. Any action taken will be based on the contents of that correspondence, given serious consideration and treated in a confidential manner.

Just as a point of interest, all material forwarded to any minister, regardless of portfolio, must be dealt with and forwarded to the competent authority within that ministry, who is responsible to take possible further action on the minister’s behalf.

I would also like to assure everyone that all departments of government take every communication seriously, and confidentiality is guaranteed.

Regarding the recent media statement – that being our release of the proposed budget figures for the coming year – it is difficult to forecast with 100 percent reliability the veracity of future projections. They are, after all, estimates. Estimates that could be amended or appended at any time, throughout the life of the budget. And this is the same for any government, regardless of party.

I think everyone can understand fluctuating income and unforeseen costs.

The best way to explain this is by thinking about your pay cheque. You know what you earn every week, but unexpected expenditures, illnesses or instabilities in consumer prices, like the cost of a litre of gas for example, can affect your budget.

I can say that I will continue to monitor the financial well being of Canadians. It is something that everyone has come to expect from our government, and is a hallmark of our Parliamentary process.

Thank you again, Skiff, for the opportunity to clear up the confusion.