The Rise of Balanced Budget Laws in Canada: Legislating Fiscal (IR)Responsibility
Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 681-740, 1996
60 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2010 Last revised: 9 Apr 2010
Date Written: 1996
Fiscal restraint and deficit reduction have become virtual mantras for all levels of Canadian government in the 1990s, regardless of geographic or political affiliation. An attitude of skepticism toward government spending, borrowing, and taxing has established itself as the political norm and shows few signs of dissipating even as federal and provincial governments begin to report dramatically lower deficits and, in some cases, budget surpluses. This article examines the sudden mania for balanced budget legislation in Canada as one expression of this new found politics of fiscal austerity. In recent years most of our provincial and territorial legislatures have passed laws to prohibit budgetary deficits, or to limit other fiscal policy making powers traditionally exercised by their executive governments. Tax referendum laws, spending caps, debt repayment mandates and other legal mechanisms are springing up in increasing numbers, and may well proliferate further.
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