Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau repeatedly failed to answer questions about totals on Canada’s federal balance sheet.

Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre repeatedly pressed Morneau to provide figures regarding Canada’s assets, equity and liabilities during Wednesday’s House of Commons special committee on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Poilievre’s terse questions – seeking just the numbers – were answered with generic comments about Canada’s economy.

“I know we shouldn’t ask the minister about numbers, he’s just the finance minister after all but what is the equity on the government of Canada’s balance sheet?” asked Poilievre. 

“Mr Speaker, I would advise the member of Carleton to memorize those auditor general figures for his next foray into the House of Commons,“ said Morneau.

The exchange, which carried on for three minutes, shows Morneau repeating Liberal talking points to simple questions. 

“So the minister has claimed that our balance sheet is strong. There are three components to a balance sheet: the assets, the liabilities and the equity. The minister doesn’t know any of the three, so clearly he doesn’t actually know anything about our balance sheet. That’s reassuring,” said Poilievre.

“Now, according to the auditor general, the net negative net worth of our government, of Canada, will be as much as a trillion dollars by the end of this fiscal year. Can the minister, if he’s familiar with any of these numbers, tell us: is it possible his government will hit a trillion dollars of debt this year?”

“Mr Speaker, I want to assure Canadians that our approach will be to continue to make investments on their behalf and that is available to us because of our strong fiscal position but we will continue to take that approach which we think is the appropriate approach,” replied Morneau. 

Recently, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer told the Commons finance committee that Canada’s federal debt could reach $1 trillion by this year. 

“Possible, yes. Realistic? Yes. Certainly not unthinkable,” said Yves Giroux in a response to a question on the matter.

The Liberal government’s deficit has reached an estimated all-time high for 2020 and could surpass $252 billion this year due to coronavirus spending. 

“The figure of $252 billion is very likely to be the very optimistic scenario, as opposed to the number for the deficit for the current fiscal year,” said Giroux.

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