1996 | NDP: The original 'fudge-it budget'
Pre-election surplus: $201 million over two years Post-election deficit: $703 million over two years
The fudge: NDP politicians and backroom operatives kept inflating revenue projections to infuse the budget with ' more optimism' while hoping for a ' revenue miracle' that never arrived.
Background: The NDP government wanted to run for re-election on balanced budgets. So it drafted a 1995/96 budget with a $114-million surplus. As the economy slumped, Finance Minister Elizabeth Cull decided to insert more ‘optimism' into her revenue forecasts to compensate. Backroom staff took it further, crafting forecasts that Cull later admitted went beyond her comfort level.
Aftermath: Compounding problems, the NDP built the next year’s budget estimate (an $87-million surplus for 1996/97) upon the previous year’s fudge.
After the NDP won re-election in May 1996, Premier Glen Clark admitted he needed ‘a little bit of wiggle room’ on the numbers. The 1995/96 budget was actually a $318-million deficit, and 1996/97 was $385 million.
Finance Minister Elizabeth Cull and Premier Glen Clark.