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Opinion stories

FUREY: Expect the Liberal budget to be all handouts and distractions

A cynical approach to budgeting would be putting it mildly.

The Liberal early approach to budgeting was something of a betrayal of trust. All of those Canadians who took Justin Trudeau at his word that he could stimulate the economy, bring benefits to the middle class and boost infrastructure spending, all by going into deficit to the tune of a minuscule, measly, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it $10 billion dollars, well they quickly learned things would turn out very different.

First, and the part that garnered the biggest headlines, is that they learned that the deficit was going to be almost triple that previously promised ceiling. And it’s never gone back before $10 billion with no real sign of balancing the budget in sight.

Yes, they got their middle class tax break (dropping from 22% to 20.5%) but then – as a report by the Fraser Institute concluded – still saw their overall taxes rises because of the elimination of other credits.

As for that infrastructure? The money is barely out the door. Those nation building projects that Trudeau said we’d get aren’t currently under construction.

I wrote back in 2015 that we should expect something like this very let down because it’s not like we’re missing something big like a national railroad. There was nothing Trudeau was actually proposed that was on the table anywhere in the country. Except for one big thing, that is. Pipelines. It’s rather ironic that the biggest nation building projects current on the slate are pipelines and they’re the ones the Liberal government isn’t expediting.

But that was then. This is now. Is the Liberal approach to budgeting any better? Not really. There was initially a finance report that cautioned the budget wouldn’t be balanced until the 2050s given the track they were on. That’s since been improved to the 2040s. Some improvement.

Then there’s the worrisome fact that the 2018 budget implementation omnibus bill included the changes to the Criminal Code that are the focus of the Lavscam saga.

What should we expect then from the 2019 budget, the one that’s coming out next week?

Two big things: Handouts galore and distractions.

The Liberals continue to be bogged down in Lavscam. Every development just ends up digging the hole deeper. The latest one coming courtesy of the Liberal MPs on the Justice Committee voting to shut down Wednesday’s meeting before they could vote on inviting Jody Wilson-Raybould to return.

They pushed it back until… wait for it… budget day! So when all of the country’s Parliamentary Press Gallery correspondents would normally keep a keen eye on the committee hearings, they’ll be in budget lock-up instead. No wonder the NDP and Conservative MPs on the committee shouted “cover up!”

Then there’s the double whammy of what attempting to bribe people with their own money will do this year, an election year. Expect some unexpected handouts – some previously unheard of freebies and big spends for a handful of interest groups to keep them in the Liberal fold at a time when their support has been steadily dropping over the past few years.

If the handouts are enticing enough, worth talking about enough, then they’ll both get to woo voters and get them talking about something other than Lavscam.

A cynical approach to budgeting would be putting it mildly.

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