Voters interested in promises today, not future fiscal responsibility: U of M prof


Throughout the federal election campaign, voters have raised a number of issues that are important to them – everything from climate change to jobs to immigration – but one topic that hasn’t received as much coverage is the country’s deficit.

A University of Manitoba professor says the issue isn’t a concern ‘at all’ for the average voter, and there’s a very simple reason it’s not top-of-mind during the campaign.

“I don’t suppose it’s very hard to figure out why,” John McCallum told 680 CJOB.

READ MORE: Debt and deficits: Where the parties stand on balancing the books in Canada

“The thing with a deficit is its effect on you is not this year or next year or the year after… it’s way off in the future when you’ve got this big debt that has to be serviced.”

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When you’re in a situation with unprecedented low interest rates, he said, many voters are even less likely to be concerned about the potential ramifications of debt. That’s why many politicians are happy to pass it on to future generations.

“Nothing makes a deficit look OK more than incredibly low interest rates. What I suppose could catch us and eventually will is an accumulation of these deficits that lead to massive debts and then you get hit with a big rise in interest rates, and that’s when the game really changes,” he said.

“I think the people who are going to be paying the money back that we’re borrowing now are definitely our children and grandchildren. It’s them that are also going to be paying the interest on it.

“Perhaps they will do just like us and just run up even larger deficits and debt and stick their children and grandchildren with it. You can continue this game for as long as the capital markets will give you money.”

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McCallum said it’s difficult for a politician to convince people there’s merit in being fiscally responsible – especially if their opponents are promising to give voters the moon.

“If you do that and your opponent simply says we can have it all now. It’s unkind to say they all try to kick it under the rug, but it’s fairly close to that.”

Click to play video 'Manitoba deficit down, but health spending up' Manitoba deficit down, but health spending up
Manitoba deficit down, but health spending up