March 20, 2019
The federal Liberals, seeking to move past a political crisis threatening its re-election, lavished new spending on middle-class voters in its budget on Tuesday, but the measures may be spread too thin to move the needle before October’s vote.
The budget was aimed at boosting consumer spending at a time when the economy is slowing, while shifting the narrative away from a scandal involving a major engineering and construction company that has shaken the ruling Liberal Party government.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation slammed the Trudeau government’s pre-election budget which officially left its balanced budget promise in tatters while continuing to hike spending.
“The Trudeau government has betrayed Canadians who entrusted it to manage their money responsibly,” said CTF Federal Director Aaron Wudrick. “They are now on track to add $127 billion in new debt by 2024 – a full $100 billion more than they promised during the last election.”
The federal debt is now projected to rise to $761 billion by 2024. The debt interest costs alone will jump from $26 billion per year in 2019 to $33 billion per year by 2024.
Wudrick noted that the government’s deficits are a result of higher spending, not lower revenues.
“Even with increased spending, higher than expected revenues could have meant a smaller deficit or even a balanced budget, but instead the government has chosen to simply spend every unexpected dollar – and then some,” said Wudrick.
Trudeau has been on the defensive since Feb. 7 over allegations that top government officials leaned on his former justice minister to help SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoid a corruption trial.
The issue has dragged the party down in opinion polls, which indicate it is at risk of losing power to the official opposition Conservatives in October’s federal election.
The Liberals looked to counter that narrative with a budget that sprinkled benefits widely, helping everyone from millennials to retirees.
But with no single blockbuster pledge and with opposition antics distracting from the Liberals’ message, Nanos Research pollster Nik Nanos said the budget was unlikely to put Trudeau’s party back ahead.
“At best, they can hope to stop the political bleeding,” he said. The Liberals fell to 32.6 per cent support in the latest Nanos Research poll, behind the Conservatives at 35.5 per cent.