Editorial: Federal budget is a big gamble

Their promise to reverse the decade-long austerity measures of the Conservative government is what pushed the Liberals to the front

Their promise to reverse the decade-long austerity measures of the Conservative government is what pushed the Liberals to the front of the election race last October.

The only political party willing to entertain a deficit in order to jumpstart the sluggish Canadian economy struggling with the drop in oil prices, the Liberals put forward a fiscal management plan of running $10 billion deficits for the next three years in order to invest in much-needed infrastructure projects that would in turn create economic growth, ultimately helping balance the books by 2016. It was a fresh approach and it helped Justin Trudeau win the election, but now, six months later, Canadians have been presented with a much bigger deficit than they bargained for and many are left wondering what’s in store as a result.

Defending the 2016 budget in the House of Commons against a Tory attack, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded: “This is the budget that Canadians have been asking for through the last election campaign.”

To make this statement is quite the stretch considering that what’s now on the table is $100 billion in deficit spending over now four years — more than triple what was promised at election time.

That an unprecedented amount is being invested in Aboriginal communities as well as green infrastructure, that veterans’ offices are reopening, and that child benefits will increase, among a long list of other announcements, is welcome news. And the government’s projections for economic growth, the price of oil and the value of the dollar are lower than the current expectations and values, leaving room for the numbers to look a lot better than they do now.  But the fact remains that the Liberals’ first budget is based on the broken promise of a modest deficit. Investing in Canada in one thing. Being given an inch and taking a mile is another.

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