There’s no question that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has had a tough few months. Unfortunately for him, the bulk of the damage has been self-inflicted.
The ham-fisted handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal chief among the gaffs, but there were so many more. And quite possibly when the trial of Vice Admiral Mark Norman begins this summer, there is much worse to come prior to the fall election.
While these are all problems, they are just indicators of his incompetence for the office he holds. Gone today are the sunny ways. So too the media fawning over him.
Canadians are starting to realize just how right Stephen Harper was when he coined his campaign slogan “He’s just not ready.”
But his biggest failing has been his handling of the economy. Since the election of Donald Trump the U.S. economy has been firing on all cylinders. Unemployment figures released this week show it at a 50 year low. That’s impressive.
But the Trump economy has also achieved so much more. His slashing of business-killing regulations and red tape coupled with his tax cuts effectively lit a fire under the U.S. economy.
As our closest neighbour and our largest trading partner, the Canadian economy is inextricably tied to the U.S. economy. All Trudeau needed to do was to get out of the way. He should have seen what was occurring and just allowed the Canadian economy and Canadian business to ride the coattails of the American economy.
But he didn’t do that.
Instead, he began spending like a drunken sailor racking up successive deficit budgets after inheriting a balanced budget when he took office. During the campaign he said he would run deficits of around $10 billion and would balance the budget in 2019.
To cover off the profligate spending he increased payroll taxes which hurt small business especially, but everyone who was self-employed. Farmers were especially hard hit. To add insult to injury, his carbon tax or “price on pollution” as he has taken to calling it of late will be another kick in the gut to farmers who still have to plow their fields and feed their livestock.
His recently tabled 2019 budget was far from balanced. He increased spending by a further $22.8 billion and a has predicted deficit of $20 billion. He has increased the per capita debt for every Canadian at a higher rate than any of his predecessors since, well, since his father was the Prime Minister. And the 2019 budget estimates that 92% of Canadian families will be paying an additional $2,200 in taxes this year according to an analysis done by the Fraser Institute.
He could have possibly salvaged something for the economy had he taken Trump seriously when he said he wanted to renegotiate the NAFTA agreement. He spent his summer surfing in Tofino while the U.S. was in negotiations with Mexico. Canada all but ignored the process.
Then in the fall when he realized Trump was serious after finalizing a deal with Mexico Canada rushed to the table and had to take whatever Trump was prepared to give. But he bungled it from the start. He couldn’t resist virtue signalling and said any new deal had to include language on climate change and gender equity. In a trade deal. The U.S. predictably weren’t having any of that and in the end Trudeau got nothing of the sort.
Whatever else he may have mishandled, the fumbled opportunity to take advantage of the exploding Trump economy was his biggest failure and not one he can fix before the election.
He just wasn’t ready.