There is no free lunch in the age of Sunny Ways
For me, the most telling moment of the 2015 federal election came at a Justin Trudeau rally on a bright, sunny, mid-August day in Regina.
While doing what he does so very well – cradling babies and posing for selfies – our tousle-mopped prime-minister-to-be explained that, if elected, his Liberals would “invest in the middle class so that we can grow the economy not from the top down ... but from the heart outwards.”
As economic theory, that’s gibberish. Twitterlectuals (people whose political thinking is 140 characters deep) may love it, but it made me wonder whether the Liberal leader was capable of wrapping his mind around even the most basic concepts.
But at least it was positive gibberish in a campaign marked by unrelenting negativity from the Tories and NDP.
For those Canadians who are becoming disillusioned with the Liberals’ inability to make even a start on their campaign promises, that whistle stop in the Saskatchewan capital can now be seen as a sign that Trudeau’s promises were so airy they were never going to happen.
Take the Trudeau pledge that a lot of analysts believe turned the 2015 election in the Liberals’ favour: Trudeau’s claim that three small deficits – no more than $10 billion each – spent wisely by Ottawa would unleash a torrent of economic activity.
Really!? Since when has government ever been able to invest more wisely to spur economic growth than entrepreneurs and investors?
And since when has $10 billion (one-half of one per cent) been enough in a $2 trillion economy to kick start any kind of boom? That’s priming a pump with an eyedropper.
More importantly, though, out-of-control spending has quickly turned deficits of $10 billion into $30 billion or more, without any evidence these deficits are spurring an economic revival. And now the government’s own Finance department is predicting annual deficits until at least 2050, not 2019 as Trudeau promised.
By then our national debt will be equal to 75 or 80% of GDP.
Grow that from your heart, outwards.
Then there was the Libs’ campaign pledge that taxes on the middle-class could be slashed because taxes on the rich could be raised substantially – again and again if needed.
There were never enough rich Canadians not already paying their fair share to finance Trudeau’s “investment in the middle-class” dreams. Middle-class Canadians are about to find that out with a thump in the coming spring budget when Finance Minister Bill Morneau includes a host of sneaky tax hikes on the middle class, such as making employer-paid health and dental benefits taxable and implementing Trudeau’s carbon tax.
There is no free lunch, no matter how charming Prime Minister Shirtless seems.
The Libs have also found it hard to keep their promise to eliminate first-past-the-post elections because the real world isn’t as neat and tidy as Sunnyways Lane.
Phasing out oil and coal production and creating a “green” economy will lead to big-time layoffs and sky-high electricity prices, but not to Trudeau’s pie-in-the-sky promise of zero-carbon prosperity.
Taxing families through the nose in some vain effort to live up to the Paris climate accords while the new Trump administration is cutting taxes and regulations will not, as Trudeau has claimed, make Canada more attractive to investors, not less. Investors are attracted by returns, not sanctimony.
And the problems for First Nations go deeper – much, much deeper – than a perceived lack of federal funding. So it’s no wonder Trudeau’s belief that waving the money wand over Indigenous communities has failed to produce magical results.
Governing is hard. Just smiling, hugging and being reassuring doesn’t cut it.