Joe Oliver: How Trudeau got mugged by reality as his economic strategy crumbled
Modest deficits and a promise to return to balance have all crumbled in a mere 15 months …
The Liberal government’s recent cabinet shuffle signalled no change of course on fiscal policy, in spite of the dramatic deterioration, over a two-year period, of Canada’s projected fiscal situation from budgetary surpluses to deficits extending to mid-century. Andrew Coyne and Colby Cosh, writing earlier in the National Post, evinced little worry on the subject. Does this sound the death knell of fiscal responsibility as a widely accepted idea? I certainly hope not because, as George Santayana wrote, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Paradoxically, while many remember his quote, they frequently forget history’s lessons.
For those of us who found it painful to endure the reign of Trudeau Père, a lot is worryingly similar about Trudeau Fils. The admiration of China’s one-party rule and affection for Fidel Castro. Policies unfriendly to Western Canada. Impoverishment of the military. A bureaucratic centre-left orientation, with its attendant waste. A sense of self-entitlement and condescension. Charisma that diverts attention from substantive problems, combined with an authoritarian bent. Pierre’s “Well, just watch me” insouciance, regarding the impending suspension of civil liberties during the 1970 October crisis, has its parallel in Justin’s imperious 2015 declaration that it would be the last time Canadians elect MPs the way we have since Confederation.
The list goes on, but my focus is how out-of-control spending and ballooning debt will inevitably come to grief, damaging Canada’s economy and undermining the standard of living of current and future generations. Recall, national debt increased 10 times from 1968 to 1984. We went from near fiscal balance to a $37 billion deficit, while federal spending rose from 25 to 42 per cent of GDP. Notwithstanding Pierre Trudeau’s iconic status, we cannot afford a repeat of his fiscal mess.
The result was predictable then and it is predictable now. Indeed, the Department of Finance, with its beady-eyed look at economic data, revealed the stark numbers in its latest Update of Fiscal Projections.