Fiscal Insolvency: Trudeau's Budget

April 1st, 2017 | M. Menuck
trudeau budget
Normally it takes governments a term or two in power before it becomes clear they have no more gas in the tank and are just coasting along on whatever residual momentum they had going for them initially. Justin Trudeau seems to have accomplished this barely a year into his mandate. Need evidence of this, then look no further than the recently unveiled budget.

The 2017 Federal Budget is what the show Seinfeld was to television, a budget about nothing. Bill Morneau tried his best to hide this behind glitzy language about how the government was equipping Canada and Canadians to face the challenges of the future. Spending announced in the past budget was repackaged and trotted out again, along with future commitments to do various things "in the fullness of time" and "at the appropriate juncture". When all the jiggery-pokery was put aside, however, there was no denying that the budget was all sizzle and next to no steak; the fact that the cancellation of a tax credit on public transit is the item that was cited most often in the days immediately following tells you all you need to know.

Simply put, Justin Trudeau has spent himself into a corner. He blew through all the fiscal breathing space painstakingly acquired during the Harper years in 2016 only to find that the mystical economic growth it was spent in the pursuit of failed to magically appear (not surprising given that for all the rhetoric on infrastructure and investing in Canadians Trudeau somehow spent less on shovel ready projects than Stephen Harper did in his first year in office). It's not like Trudeau could raise taxes either, not after campaigning endlessly on the promise he had the backs of the proverbial middle-class. Hiking ordinary Canadians' tax bills or raising corporate taxes to job destroying levels does not really come across as particularly endearing to the middle class.

Despite all this, the country continues well on the way to fiscal insolvency. Long gone is the promise made during the 2015 election that the federal deficit would remain a modest $10 billion. Forgotten is the pledge to be back in the black by the next election (the new goal is to balance the budget sometime by mid century). Now even the pledge to keep the debt to GDP ratio consistent is looking increasingly doubtful. The Trudeau Liberals are mortgaging Canadians' future, and we won't even get shiny new kitchen counter-tops out of the deal!

It turns out we won't be getting a few other things also, as the list of ditched Liberal promises grows ever longer. New money for the military? Actually eight billion is getting trimmed from the defence budget and that slurping sound you now hear is the Canadian submarine fleet slowly sinking to a final and inglorious end. Taking care of our veterans? Sorry, better luck next time. Additional healthcare funding for the provinces? Nope. First Nations. Oh please. 

It has become increasingly clear that Justin Trudeau is amazing at saying wonderful things, and taking selfies, and posing for family pictures that are so cute as to induce vomiting, but when it comes to actually doing anything he pretty much sucks. Unfortunately, Trudeau is not a motivational speaker but the Prime Minister of Canada - a job that involves a little something called governing. The fact that a year into his mandate he's already out of ideas speaks quite poorly to the long term prospects of Canada. Sorry Canadians, but you really should have kept the receipt.