Monday was budget day in Ottawa.
This budget was historic in three different ways.
First, it was presented by the first female Finance Minister in Canadian history—my congratulations to the Hon. Chrystia Freeland on this milestone.
Second, its presentation ended the longest period in Canadian history without a budget—it’s been more than two years since the Liberal Government presented their plan for the country’s finances.
Third, it marked the single largest increase in spending and debt in Canadian history.
Despite running an already unprecedented deficit of more than $354 billion, the Liberal Government is proposing an additional $135 billion in new spending and a $155 billion dollar deficit which will see our national debt increase to an astronomical $1.4 trillion dollars and continued deficits past 2025 with no plan for repayment.
Long gone is any notion of returning to balanced budgets. Spending like there’s no tomorrow appears to be the new Liberal fiscal orthodoxy.
The Budget centers around a pledge of some $30 billion for a new permanent national daycare plan. The Liberals have been promising this for 28 years, so, needless to say, it’s tough to have confidence that they’ll actually deliver. Despite the Liberals co-opting our previous Conservative Government’s Universal Child Care Benefit and re-branding it the Canada Child Benefit, now they are taking the choice away from parents and in true Liberal fashion, putting more control in the hands of the government. Given that daycare is provincially regulated, we also have yet another example of the Liberals trampling on provincial jurisdiction. As such, they will have their work cut out for them to salvage the centerpiece of their budget.
There were some potential positives for Provencher residents in the budget.
There was $2.2 billion announced for infrastructure for municipalities. That said, the Liberal record on infrastructure has been they are great at making announcements, but lousy at getting money out the door.
The Budget allocates $145 million for mental health care—a growing need as Canadians struggle thanks to COVID-19 and the cycle of restrictions imposed by governments in response. The continued harm to the wellbeing of Canadians will require a serious response in the months and years ahead.
It also offers some support for seniors, although not nearly the amount urged by opposition parties. $3 billion to begin the long road of fixing standards for long term care homes. $90 million for a program that would help provide supports to seniors to allow them to stay in their own home longer. It also proposes a 10% increase in Old Age Security for Canadians 75 years or older.
I’ll be doing everything I can to hold the Liberals accountable on these commitments.
What the Liberal Budget fails to do—and fails spectacularly—is to offer any kind of fiscal anchor or plan for a return to balance. Rather than tie spending to a clear fiscal plan, the Liberals are stopping just short of throwing piles of money in the air and shouting “whoopie!”
The Budget also fails to offer any concrete plan for re-opening the country and a return to normal.
The Budget’s lack of any increase in health transfers clearly shows that Justin Trudeau still isn’t listening. Not only is he ignoring opposition parties—which are united in calling for this—he is ignoring the provinces. Canadian’s have been robbed of a year of their lives because the provinces claim they lack the healthcare infrastructure to cope. Give the money to the provinces so COVID-weary Canadians can get on with their lives.
Rather than listening to Canadians, the Liberals have, instead, chosen, once again, to scatter tax dollars among the demographics they are targeting to win the next election.
Make no mistake, this was an election budget. Justin Trudeau is desperate to go to the polls.
Given that the Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois and NDP have all clearly stated they will be proposing major amendments to the budget but are not looking to force an election at this juncture, that leaves the fate of this Liberal budget and the Government, itself, in the hands of Justin Trudeau.