08.28.2015 08:06 AM

KCCCC Day 26: Snake eyes?

  • Justin Trudeau has rolled the dice, big time. He says, if elected, he will run big budgetary deficits – $10 billion a year for three years.
  • Why did he do it? I suspect he knows that – at this point, at least – he is running third.  Individual horse race polls notwithstanding, any credible synthesis of voting intentions suggest this thing is still between Team Orange and Team Blue. So he figured he had to make a bold move, and he did.
  • When all else fails, go left. By just about every economic measure, Trudeau is now running to the left of Mulcair. And he has therefore commenced attacking the NDP leader for being an austerity-loving Thatcherite. Will it work? I don’t think so.
  • Trudeau’s deficit pledge requires a fundamental reordering of our thinking on what the parties believe. It was always simple: Conservatuves on the right, New Democrats on the left, and Liberals in the pragmatic middle. Can the ideological underpinnings of a political party change? Of course. But only over a long period of time, with careful reflection and lots of consultation, and certainly not during the middle of an election campaign.
  • It helps Trudeau’s opponents. The Conservatives have repeatedly attacked Trudeau for saying that budgets “take care of themselves.” The NDP has been frantically attempting to shift towards the economic middle. With one swift and decisive move, Trudeau has provided evidence in support of the Tory criticism – and has opened up a ton of centrist ideological breathing room for the Dippers.
  • That all said, could his deficit gambit work? Maybe. Perhaps. But at this point, it looks a bit dangerous. Justin Trudeau has rolled the dice – and only time will tell if he’s rolled snake eyes.

133 Comments

  1. Kevin T. says:

    But the thing is, we all know there will be deficits, he’s the only one saying there will be, the others still want us to see through their rose-coloured glasses and pretend all will be right as is. We KNOW it is not the truth, they just don’t have the stones to be honest.

    • Maps Onburt says:

      Trudeau Jr isn’t promising “technical” deficits of the sort that the left is accusing Harper of though where we might go into a $1B deficit at worst case. He’s talking about PLANNING on taking Canada into a $10B year deficit for the next three years adding a billion dollars a year to Canada’s ongoing interest payments… And we all know Liberal governments almost NEVER deliver on their promises (and often do the exact opposite of what they promised – witness Pierre Trudeau’s reversal on Price and Wage Controls, Jean’s reversal on eliminating the GST and the Free Trade agreement. You don’t borrow money from your credit card to pay down the minimum payment on your credit card and keep spending more than you are bringing in. It’s not sustainable and one day you will have to pay a very heavy price.

      • Kevin T. says:

        The Harpercons are an unsustainable and heavy price to Canada that we will all have to pay.

        • Eddie says:

          Trudeau’s pledge is great news for Mulcair.

          Step 1. Harper wins minority.
          Step 2. Mulcair forms govt after Harper loses non-confidence vote.
          Step 3. Mulcair brings in deficit budgets and says he had to do so ‘unwillingly’ in order to get Trudeau’s support. Trudeau takes fall for bad economic policies of NDP without being PM.
          Step 4. Butts get promoted somewhere else to wreck someone else’s career.

        • terry quinn says:

          Amen to that. Plus Harper has starved the real infrastructure needs of the /country for mostly showcase projects that give the cons free advertising. Sidewalks to nowhere and gazebos come to mind.

          • Curt says:

            The fact is most of his infratructure is not federal responsibility. He is saddling our grand children with his financial policy.

    • Mervyn Norton says:

      The polls over the next 53 days, including the most important ones on Oct. 19, will tell us whether it is a good race move to outflank the NDP on the left. Surveys show people are more worried about jobs than deficits, and smart business investors are also less concerned about marginal tax increases than crumbling infrastructure.

      The Liberal strategy definitely makes the race more interesting but it may also make it more difficult, after Oct. 19, for the two parties to cooperate on shaping a progressive agenda. Strategic voters will nevertheless mark their ballot for whichever of the the opposition candidates has the best chance to unseat a Harper lackey.

    • Michael Bluth says:

      Everyone knows there will be deficits. Justin has just made it clear that his deficits will be larger than either the NDP or CPC would run.

      I suspect the NDP deficit would be slightly larger than the Conservatives.

      The NDP wouldn’t spend as much as the Liberals, and would also raise taxes more. The Conservatives wouldn’t spend as much as either of the other two. They Conservatives would definitely be the lowest tax option.

      At least Trudeau may have made himself somewhat viable. There still may be a number of voters parking their vote intention with the Liberals before the real campaign starts after labour day. What motivated the bold move? Maybe the Liberals internal polls are that bad. I suspect all three parties have internal numbers for the Liberals lower than what we have seen released publicly.

  2. Maps Onburt says:

    You’re absolutely right (again) Warren. Among those of us old enough to actually remember that Trudeau senior took Canada from $19B in debt (and zero deficits) to $172B and even though Mulroney managed to run structural surpluses the annual interest payments on the debt ran as high as $45B/year. It took a generation of suffering to crawl out from under that. He wants to revert to these ways. This is going to drag out the financially conservatives like nothing else. People who were upset that Harper is a control freak but we’re content to vote for Trudeau because his “heart is in the right place” will run to the other parties. Mulclair’s platform hasn’t been costed yet but even a cursory look says he can’t balance his budget due to all his promises without massive cuts to government spending which no thinking person believes he will/can do. This plays right into Stephen Harper’s hands. The boys and dirks at Queen’s Park are clearly running his campaign now. He’s doomed.

    • Maps Onburt says:

      SIlly iPad autocorrect Meant “were” and not “we’re” and “girls” and not “dirks”. (How did it ever get that?????).

    • doconnor says:

      As you reveal that suffering was unnecessary. All that was really needed was to reduce the interest rates, which is what happened in the 1990s.

      • Maps Onburt says:

        We couldn’t reduce interest rates willynilly… interest rates are set by the Bank of Canada (independently of the politicians – at least theoretically) and to drive the price of our currency. If you drop interest rates below the global market people stop buying Canadian dollars… the interest rates are set to capture the ForEx market and to keep a lid on inflation. What eventually killed inflation was the super high interest rates and a true willingness of the BoC to drive inflation out of the market… they could only do that when it was believed we had a handle on our debt problem because nobody was investing in our bonds without some assurance they were actually worth something. You can’t just snap you fingers and repay debt by printing money either… makes existing money worthless (although Obama has been getting away with this because the US Dollar happens to be the world’s reference currency). The net is, if you borrow money, SOME DAY you will have to pay it back… with interest. If infrastructure investments are so great on their own… then there should be a business case for them. Trudeau can’t even tell us what ASSETS we will be getting for our investments because he knows he just wants to spend more money like Ontario.

  3. ralphonso says:

    This post is bang on. It is a real “third place” move.

    It shores up soft NDP voters already uncomfy with Mulcair and looking for a reason to ditch him – a la Horwath – but does nothing for anyone else.

    It does nothing to win over potentially Conservative voters. It does nothing to attract the centre-right Liberal voters that most “don’t split the vote!” pundits forget exists.

    The last election saw a big shift of Liberal voters to the Conservatives. Will this move keep those people there? Time will tell.

    It’s great press for the Conservatives, that’s for sure.

    • Skoblin says:

      I doubt it will do anything regarding soft NDP supporters since they will still remember a vote for Justin means a vote for Bill C-51. As for saying he would run $10-billion deficits for three years – I can’t fathom the thinking behind this. He should have simply said he would run deficits until the economy has been turned around or looks like it can manage without government intervention. How can he arrive at an arbitrary figure of $10 billion for an arbitrary number of years? Where are his handlers in all this?

      • The Doctor says:

        You’re right, it reminds me of Hudak’s promising to nuke 100,000 jobs — pull a number our of your ass and then get flogged for it the rest of the campaign.

        • Mike says:

          Funny because it reminds me more of Kathleen Wynne. Tell people you are going to run a deficit to invest in the things they want and they are ok with it. Joe and Jane Frontporch aren’t as whipped with hysteria as you or the average conservative thinks they are.

          • ralphonso says:

            Exactly. It is right out of Wynne’s playbook.

            The difference is that Wynne was running to win against a Conservative boogeyman. She just needed to peel enough votes from the NDP to squeak a couple of ridings.

            Trudeau needs to win voters on both his flanks. This will not win him enough votes or seats to win.

          • Christian says:

            No, but being told ‘vote for me and you’ll get deficits until 2019’ doesn’t really sound like much of a great sales job. Also it does play into Conservative attack lines questioning his ability to manage the economy and that he really thinks ‘the budget will balance itself’.

  4. Kaiser Helmets 'n Motorbikes says:

    Did he role the dice, or did he do what every great actor does from time to time; improvise.

    I used to think Ronnie Reagan was a “one off”. Of course in the age of TV we needed actor-politicians. But they weren’t that common, celebrity bimbo eruptions aside. Not that many MPs or members of congress are professional actors.

    Or are they?

    Trump has got me thinking (reflect on that statement for a minute…) How can this man say whatever pops in his head and get away with it, week after week. What if this is more than just Ross Perot redux?

    What if the voter has moved on from TV Sitcoms, and TV sitcom sets, scripts, … and actors?

    What if this is the first Real Housewives + Internet Election in history?

    Reality TV, not scripted TV. What if Ashley Madison is hosting the debates this time, not Gordon Sinclair?

    If the age of scripted (indeed all) TV is over, where does that leave our Actor-Politicians?

    Maybe its time for “Your Fired”… All of you.

    What if ALL our current political leaders are actors. Justin & Ronnie might be actual, professionally paid, actors, but what if Harper, The Jelly Filled (sorta) Leftie, and even Lizzie MayI are all actors. What if all of them depend more on the party than their respective parties depend on them…

  5. Priyesh says:

    I’m gonna call BS. “Running a deficit” versus “balancing a budget” are neither left nor right. Everyone WANTS to balance a budget, from left to right. But Stephen Harper has created billions in new debt. Last government to balance things were the Chretien-Martin Liberals.

    After the years of Conservative mismanagement, and shooting craps with the oil sector, every party is going to need to run a deficit. Liberal, Conservative, and NDP. The Liberal party here is just being more honest. But not more left, not more right.

    • The Doctor says:

      Correction, Priyesh – not everybody wants to balance budgets. Go check out the brilliant writings of NDP star candidate Linda McQuaig. She thinks balanced budgets are nothing but an evil corporatist plot.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Get your facts straight. The first two years the CPC paid tens of billions against the national debt.

      Then the crash of 2008 hit, the attempted coup of the Coalition From Hell, and recovery.

      Can anyone even begin to imagine the amounting of spending largess Dion would have had to indulge to keep both Layton and Duceppe on side and himself in the PMO? Or the taxes he would have had to inflict on taxpayers to even begin to make a dent in it? Layton and Duceppe would have squeezed Dion for every last penny conceivable!

      Be assured, it would have made CPC deficits literally pale in comparison. Nobody with at least three functioning brain cells doubts this for a minute.

      • Mike says:

        Attempted coup. Apparently professor Al from Cranbrook has not studied the Westminister model of parliamentary democracy.

        • Al in Cranbrook says:

          I watched it all, play by greasy play. It was an attempted coup, full stop. None of the three parties involved came anywhere even close to Harper’s victory in that election.

          And the CPC and Harper’s polling numbers shot up to 54% over night. Obviously I’m wasn’t the only one who thought so.

          • davie says:

            What I your understanding of the way that a Westminster Parliament works?

          • Joe says:

            From my understanding a coalition of parties is fully acceptable after an election but before a PM has been called. Once the PM has been seated the only way to unseat him is by non-confidence vote at which time the PM can either call for another election of suggest to the GG that the other parties be asked to form government. The coupscam conspirators tried to unseat the duly called PM without a vote of non-confidence. That is getting close to sedition not Westminster Parliamentary Democracy.

          • doconnor says:

            “None of the three parties involved came anywhere even close to Harper’s victory in that election.”

            Your statement betrays your willful ignorance of our Westminster system. It doesn’t matter who gets the most votes or the most seats. It’s who can get a majority of the House of Commons to support them.

            Joe, they desperately wanted to have a non-confidence vote, but Harper won’t allow one to be held to the point of basically having the GG suspend democracy for a few months to prevent it. After a non-confidence vote the PM can ask for an election, but the GG can, and has in the past, refuse and asked someone to try and form a government.

          • Joe says:

            Disagree with you DC. The oppos didn’t want a non confidence vote because that would have triggered an election which they would have lost and given Harper an out and out majority. Jack Layton was terminally ill by this time and knew that his time to gain power was very short. He wanted power now.

          • doconnor says:

            “The oppos didn’t want a non confidence vote”

            Factually incorrect.

            “that would have triggered an election”

            Factually incorrect.

            “Jack Layton was terminally ill by this time and knew that his time to gain power was very short. He wanted power now.”

            Factually incorrect. This was a whole year before his cancer was even announced.

      • rww says:

        Ah yes the coup, when the majority of the House of Commons attempted to take over the government. You do understand that is how Parliamentary government is supposed to work.

  6. Joe says:

    It does appear as though Junior soiled the linen with his proposed deficits to stimulate the economy. Here`s a news flash for you Justin. Recessions are part of the business cycle and are vital to a healthy economy. Kinda like the trees losing their leaves for winter. As a rule the best way to recover from a recession is shrink the government so as to get the government out of the way of private investment.

    Put another way: “If socialists understood anything about economics, they would no longer be socialists.” Freidrich von Hayek

    • doconnor says:

      Like how the government go out of the economy in the earth 1940 to end the Depression?

      If economists understood anything about reality they would be socialists.

      • Joe says:

        Funny you should mention the Great Depression. A goodly number of economists say the the Depression was dragged out by government interference. There had been worse stock market crashes before that didn’t trigger a depression.

        • KainIIIC says:

          A goodly number of right-wing economists and hackjobs would say so, but remember it was FDR attempting to balance the budget in 1937-1938 that actually prolonged the Great Depression by leading it to another recession.

          http://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/01/02/fdr-prolonged-great-depression-really
          http://johnquiggin.com/2012/11/02/food-stamps-cause-global-depression/
          http://crookedtimber.org/2013/01/01/the-failed-state-of-macroeconomics/

          Basically taking that view is like saying Soup Kitchens and infrastructure programs caused the Great Depression.

          I’m really impressed with Trudeau on this, and disappointed that Mulcair is continuing with the “Balance the Budget” dogma that seems politically popular, which is certainly politically smart but economically unsound. It’s a shame too, because I like Mulcair a lot. It was after all, the stimulus package that got Canada quickly out of the 2008-09 recession and led to Stephen Harper to proudly claim himself a strong stewart of the economy.

          • terry quinn says:

            I think Mulcair is going to get decapitated over his balanced budget approach when he has promised tens of billions more in goodies than a balanced budget can take. If he announces he will make serious cutbacks during a recession he will be laughed out of town by both opponents and if he delays putting his famous day care charade into action he will piss off those who will see it as just more BS. Parents with day care aged kids want the benefits now not in three years or more. So far his economics package seems very weak and Harper no longer has economic credibility with a recession underfoot, no matter how he attempts to play it.

      • Michael Bluth says:

        If your argument favouring prolonged recessions is from 70 YEARS AGO then that message probably isn’t likely to resonate.

        • Joe says:

          Oh you mean that 70 year recession that was the Soviet Union? You know the one that PET supported by selling it CWB wheat with money borrowed from Canada that was never repaid.

  7. MississaugaPeter says:

    Momentum was building, but the We-Are-So-So-Smart crew because we got through the first debate, could not hold their arrogance in check and not first get advice from senior Liberals who would have told them it was a stupid decision to run with promises of deficits. What next, promise that more than 1 in 10 children will live in poverty until 2019?

    Of course the We-Are-So-So-Smart crew think they can outflank the NDP. But really, get real. Maybe if NDP folks collectively had amnesia and forgot C-51. But that is not going to happen, and Trudeau just lost more Red Tories than NDPers.

    Is Mulcair going to run a deficit in the first year, probably. But if he jacks up the GST a point or two, no. I remember an extremely wise campaign in 1993 which promised the end of the GST. Got elected first, and dealt with realty second. It’s a Canadian election, you give more people what they want than the other party does. And I assure you, NOT ONE VOTE is swayed by a promise of deficits, not one.

    I fear the We-Are-So-So-Smart crew in the PMO, I have no doubt that they after one term would end the federal Liberal Party for a generation or forever.

    • Shawn says:

      Peter it may be sound short term advice to run on an unrealistic lie as economic policy and deal with it later except the Liberals need to distinguish themselves somehow unless they simply want to finish a stronger third with the balance of power in a minority. Because even if this goes badly they will still be in third with the balance of power in a minority. If it goes well it at least gives them a puncher’s chance and the moral high ground as the one party who didn’t make an unrealistic pledge they were going to have to break.

    • terry quinn says:

      I would suggest that having Paul Martin stand beside JT twice now his economic credibility will be much higher.

      • Elisabeth Lindsay says:

        The same Paul Martin that devastated the provinces` ability to provide services like Health care and Education etc. by severely cutting back on transfers? That Paul Martin?

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Terry,

        The Martinites believe their former boss brings economic credibility. Only to a degree. Major cred comes when the guy at the top decides that’s the way to go. He’s called Chrétien. Maybe they need to spend a little more time with him — in front of the cameras.

    • Vancouverois says:

      “an extremely wise campaign”? The one where the party leader outright lied about his intention to scrap the GST? No.

      That may have been a successful campaign, but it wasn’t “wise”. The hit that the Liberal party took to its credibility over that promise is one of the reasons why it continues to be in the basement today.

  8. BlueGritr says:

    Trudeau Pup has just pulled a Hudak: Hudak made people uneasy with his pledge to fire a whole bunch of people (even though the over all plan was to be culminated eight to ten years down the road, if anyone paid attention to his statement). Nevertheless, the overriding sentiment was that he was heartless and now we have the youngster (JT) raising concerns that he will be reckless, managing the economy. Middle-of-the-road voters are going to hold their collective noses and votes for the Cons. The Cons are going to be dining out on JT’s comment for weeks to come.

  9. Mark says:

    Trudueau’s deficit statement had Harper literally laughing at him. It’s one thing when your position is open to attack, it’s another thing when your position opens you up to personal ridicule. Harpers comedic reaction will hurt Trudeau, but will not really help Harper (although he acts almost like a real human being when he’s trying to do his funny schtick). He still has Mulcair to deal with, and at this point there is no indication that the Harperites quite know what to do about Mulcair.

  10. lance mclean says:

    I think another problem with the deficit announcement is that, if he is predicting 10 billion a year most Canadians know it will be much higher, because that is how government works (plan on this amount then over run the budget by 50% or more to getit done).

    Didn’t we all get on the CPC for saying “leave it to Harpers grandkids to sort out”, well this is exactly what the Liberals are now asking us to do. I have small children and I do not them to grow up into a world where they are taxed to high heaven to pay for my parents and my own genmerations greed. Good lord are we not taxed enough? If I saw some minor amount of efficient spending at any level of government I may not feel so bad about paying more tax. But when I hear governments at all levels say they cannot find saving I call bullsh!t on that.

  11. lance mclean says:

    Another problem with his anouncement on deficits is that Trudeau /Liberal Party is now basically saying the same thing Oliver said (for which he got roasted – leave it to the grandkids to sort out). I do not want my grandkids to have to sort out our issues, just as I really do not like having to pay for my parents and grandparents generations greed.

    We all know if it is predicted to be 10 billion it will likely be much higher, it is the way government works. When did we last have a major government project that was completed on time and on budget. 10 billion in infrastructure spending will likely mean 13-15 billion to complete those projects.

    • davie says:

      I thought he said three yearly deficits…how old are yr grandkids?

    • Luke says:

      That is not what I am getting from this, at all.

      What I’m getting from it all is that Trudeau believes it is not necessarily a good idea to rush to balance the books when stimulus would do more good. Stimulus = fighting recession = improving infrastructure for people and the private sector = economic benefit over a longer term.

      Not to say I know whether it will work, but that’s what I’m understanding is the idea. And that idea is not at all to be confused with dumping today’s problems on the next generation or two. If it works as envisioned, it would pay for itself and end up being a good thing in the longer term. If.

  12. lance mclean says:

    sorry for the double post, the captcha code thing told me the first post was posted

  13. VH says:

    Warren, I don’t doubt your analysis of the current dynamics.

    But this move should have been a winning move if it had been preceded by months, if not years, of attacks on Harper’s budget records. The cumulative deficit for all the Harper years is well over $100B. The Cons have been the worst federal governing party on the economy in two generations.

    An easy ad would be a year by year shot of Harper saying “we will do X to improve the economy and balance the budget” followed by the deficit and unemployment record for that year. Followed at the end by something that refers to Charlie Brown and Lucy and a football.

    But he didn’t do that. Not sure why the NDP didn’t do that too. It’s almost as if the folks on the so-called left actually believe the phrase “fiscally conservative” is true and means something positive rather than the linguistic fraud that it really is.

    Seriously, how hard is an ad that says “$130B and counting…how many times are you going to believe Stephen Harper”?

    VH

  14. Leslieville Bill says:

    Great post Warren. I wonder why Trudeau is doing this with so much time left in the campaign?

    • JamesF says:

      From a purely electoral perspective I suspect it’s a combination of three things…

      1: A response to both the NDP’s current strength in the polls. More votes to be had running on the left.

      2: The Tories weakness in the polls. The Tories are at this point pretty close to their base (who’ll never vote for him regardless of the platform). Few soft Tories left to try and shake loose.

      3: A response to the shacky economic news coming out now.

      Will it work? Who knows… at one point I thought any government that plunged the country back into deficit would be turfed immediately, 10 years of CPC deficits later I stand corrected.

  15. MF says:

    Much like his father, Trudeau would be more at home leading the NDP. Mulcair would likely be more at home leading the Liberals. The two of them should switch.

  16. Ted H says:

    I mean, it’s not like the Conservatives have had deficits every year since coming into power, no, they know how to handle the economy, unlike Liberals who left power with a surplus.

    • Matt says:

      You mean the deficit forced on the Conservatives by the planned opposition takeover? The deficit the Conservatives ran that was HALF what the coalition planned to spend?

      You mean the Liberals surplus created by raiding EI and transferring the money to general revenue, cutting tens of thousands of public sector jobs, and transferring billions of dollars worth of services onto the provinces?

      • The Doctor says:

        Oh, stop it with your pesky facts.

      • ralphonso says:

        You would have been better off just responding with the Liberal mismanagement of the EI fund.

        But with the partisan baloney of deficits “forced” on the Conservatives by the “takeover” you show yourself to just be another partisan poster, and any impact your words would have had have evaporated. Sad.

        Partisans – figure this shit out please!

      • ralphonso says:

        You would have been better off just responding with the Liberal mismanagement of the EI fund.

        But with the partisan baloney of deficits “forced” on the Conservatives by the “takeover” you show yourself to just be another partisan poster, and any impact your words would have had have evaporated. Sad.

        Partisans – figure this out please!

    • Joe says:

      So what yer sayin’ Ted is that Conservative deficits are bad but Liberal deficits are good? Well I guess since the Conservative deficit of 2008 and on was forced by the Progressive parties the Conservative deficit must be good too.

      • Ted H says:

        What I’m saying is everybody’s shit stinks but the Conservatives have a lot of stupid people convinced that theirs doesn’t.

        • Joe says:

          So whose poop stinks most when, according to the CBC, the Conservative government ran a 5 billion dollar surplus in the months from April 2015 to June 2015?

  17. Shawn says:

    Can I suggest this isn’t necessarily a shift to the left. You can’t base your policy simply on what the other guy is doing. To me the history of Liberals has been to respond appropriately to the situation that presents itself. This is sound economic policy based on infrastructure needs, interest rates and stagnant growth. The NDP is still advocating for example raising corporate tax rates and a generally less supportive policy towards the energy sector. If the Liberals were saying hey we are running a deficit mainly because of new extensive social programs and raise taxes across the board that’s different. An influx of infrastructure spending to stimulate an economy in technical recession is not shifting from the centre. It’s common practice isn’t it? It’s risky because it’s honest and plays into attacks. We’ll see if people actually look at the record of the current government and the record of provincial NDP governments when they act so outraged by deficits.

    • Krago says:

      Should people look at the records of provincial Liberal governments too?

    • doconnor says:

      I believe that this deficit policy is based on the what the NDP is doing. If the NDP had announced that it expected to run a deficit, the Liberals would have announce that they wouldn’t.

      Why isn’t social spending just as stimulating as infrastructure spending? The construction industry is currently doing will with the housing boom. There is more room for growth in the child car sector where unemployed teachers can work.

  18. Matt says:

    Well, it now appears Kathleen Wynne is running Trudeau’s campaign.

    • fan590 says:

      Conservatives are running against Wynne anyways, so why not?

      Worked well in the last Ontario election.

      I remember all the Premier Andrea/Tim chatter last Spring.

    • SF Thomas says:

      A surplus or deficit is usually calculated for the whole fiscal year though, running a surplus for one fiscal quarter won’t count to most people. Harper also had to raid the contingency fund and make a few election promises which will kick in two or three years down the road to get there so Trudeau may very well have a point if they are pulling a couple of accounting tricks to make it seem like they balanced the books early. I would not put it past the Conservatives to do so.

      A new round of infrastructure funding might very well be a good thing when we bridges literally falling down in Montreal because they haven’t been properly repaired.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Mulcair starting to feel some heat…

      http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/tom-mulcair-admits-promise-to-restore-36b-in-health-transfer-cuts-wont-come-immediately

      Of course, the irony in this is that the $36 billion cut in the first place is a total fiction dreamed up by his union buddies.

      Everything that goes around, yada yada yada, eh?

      • Tired of it All says:

        Yeah, it’s not a straight cut, but the Flaherty formula of pinning increased funding to GDP growth *could* have the effect of cutting funding. I can’t remember what the actual figure was, but the general analysis was that, prior to ’07, funding increases were pegged at 6%/year. Any growth linked to GDP is automatically less (unless the provinces see historic levels of growth). So, while funding won’t get cut, per se, growthin in funding will be reduced over time. The absolute and relative amounts go down.

    • JH says:

      That and the improving markets kind of put a cramp in the media’s headline stories of recession etc. doesn’t it? Can’t wait to see Rosie try to twist this one on P &P tonight. Once again the press has let the gotcha! overcome good journalism. I’ll betcha that drama queen Robert Fife has some sour look on his face today.
      Trudeau’s gamble may still pay off, but good economic news makes it harder to pitch.

    • bobfrombob says:

      Wasn’t about $3.5 billion of that the sale of GM shares?

  19. Corey says:

    Not sure I agree with you Warren. This is similar to the strategy Wynne used to knock out both Hudak & Horwath. Mulcair has risked big by implying austerity – he’s placed his party in an extremely awkward position. Don’t forget this will be a long campaign. I think that increases the odds of the party with the right message winning. And that appears to be Trudeau on the economic file. He has the message Canadians want – growth & jobs – not austerity.

  20. Brad says:

    I think the statement to run a deficit means different things to a lot of people. personally I think he is the only honest person about deficits.

    If you look, you can find a youtube video of harper saying he will NEVER run a deficit.

  21. Rich says:

    It’s only August and already he’s grasping at other folks’ straws.

    On a few levels, IMHO the party’s over but it will take time for the consequences to show up.

  22. Lance says:

    Well, I ‘ll give him points for being honest about it. However, that predicates that he will get a majority, which will never happen, nor can he guarantee the he can keep a coalition going that long, which also will never happen. Another issue is what happens in the fourth year of a mandate. He doesn’t say what comes AFTER the deficits, which makes no sense.

    This is akin to Paul Martin promise to eliminate the Notwithstanding Clause. It is reckless desperation.

  23. Doug says:

    EKOS: NDP 34, CPC 28, LPC 27, Green 6, BQ 4.

    So Forum is completely insane, I wonder if the Star should have even published it’s poll since it was so obviously an outlier.

  24. BlueGritr says:

    By late-September, this election will boil down to Premier Wynne versus Harper: just the way SH hoped it will play out. Lost in the dust: TM + Junior.

  25. Ridiculosity says:

    I think it’s a brilliant strategic move.

    A deficit is, at its heart, an intangible.

    A thriving economy, new jobs, public transit, infrastructure, and affordable housing aren’t. Neither is a recession.

  26. DJ says:

    Ekos poll confirms NDP lead:

    NDP: 33.6
    CPC: 28.1
    LPC: 26.7

  27. Dork in East York says:

    I agree with you Warren that the Liberal plan to paint the NDP as right wing “shape shifters” probably won’t work. I also think Team Wynne gives themselves too much credit for painting Horwath as a Rob Ford-like populist in 2014 as she did most of the damage herself: the ill-timed vote against the budget, her folksy ‘bread and butter’ platform that did nothing to appeal to the Annex and Beaches crowd, and of course, the “Gang of 34” letter by NDP veterans painting her as a right wing turncoat. I don’t see any of this for Mulcair. He has momentum on his side, Bill C-51 has been a rallying cry for progressives, he speaks the same language as urbanites, and unlike Horwath, he has NDP vets like Stephen Lewis walking lock step.

    Trudeau is at his best when he talks unity and pragmatism. I apologize for sounding cliché, but he should be talking about “going foward,” not “left or (far) right.”

    • gyor says:

      I’ll add that those progressives who picked Wynne over Horwath got burned big time via the Hydro Privatization, so there is a ton of buyers remorse. Balanced Budgets go back to Tommy Douglas, they’re nothing new for the NDP, nor are they rightwing and a massive debt is not leftwing, as shown by Harper.

      This attack that Mulcair has shifted right is bogus.

  28. Leslieville Bill says:

    Good post Warren. Thank you.

    It’s not even post-Labour Day yet when Canadian’s might start to pay attention. What I’d like to know is why the Hail Mary from Trudeau with over 50 days left in the campaign?

  29. Dean says:

    He won me over with the deficit thing – and I would be classified as a disgruntled Liberal. That said I don’t know how the NDP could lose Toronto-Danforth (short of a Kinsella running).

    I also feel like they learned something from the Dion campaign. Harper pinned Dion on the deficit question and if memory holds, Dion waffled moving from accepting them to saying that he would not run one. JT got out ahead of this and the focus on infrastructure as stimulus is something many people have been wanting for a while.

    Hey – this could mean that Toronto would get infrastructure spending and not have to host the olympics to do so. All those anti-olympics folks should get on board the Trudeau train! 😛

  30. billg says:

    Out there somewhere is a tally of all debt, Municipal, Provincial and Federal. Its got to be a staggering number. But, does it even matter anymore?
    Seriously, does it really matter? JT says he’ll borrow 10B over the next 3 years…big friggin’ deal….Ontario does that in 10 months and we’re humming along.
    Why doesn’t someone just come out and say it…debt doesn’t matter.
    Its ironic how many elections are about the economy when so few people know anything about economics, including economists.
    I’m no JT supporter but at least the guy is honest.

  31. Vancouverois says:

    Offhand, my guess is that this will lose him Blue Liberal votes, and the votes of anyone else who cares about fiscal responsibility.

    It may, however, get some Red Dipper votes. If they get disillusioned enough with Mulcair to overlook Trudeau’s earlier support for C-51 but I’m not holding my breath for that.

  32. Scotty says:

    The Frontporches have always known that politicians are lying when they are claiming they will achieve “balanced” budgets. For once, we have a politician who is being honest about his intentions. Yea!

  33. bobfrombob says:

    It’s a brave move. Time will tell if it is a wise move or not.

    If this backfires, it could have the effect of making this a two party race. Which hurts the CPC the most. So Harper may want to moderate his criticism.

  34. Tiger says:

    “So, Trudeau is now significantly to the left of Mulcair on taxes, spending and deficits. Where does that leave the blue Liberals?”

    Voting for Harper or staying home?

    • ottlib says:

      I am a blue liberal and I have no problem with this announcement. I am not so dogmatic that I believe all deficits are bad. Sometimes they are necessary and considering the plunge in oil prices and the probable short to medium-term impact of the economic meltdown in China this might be one of those times.

      Further the need for improving and upgrading the physical infrastructure in this country has been known for sometime so a plan to do just that is not a bad idea and it would seem to be the time to do it as borrowing costs would be next to nothing and the extra money being pumped into the economy would increase inflationary pressures because of the current slack in the Canadian economy.

      And everybody should look at Greece as the case study of how austerity in the face of slow economic growth only makes things worse.

  35. fan590 says:

    It will play out just like Ontario last year.

    1. NDP will get exposed as weak and a leader once considered slightly charismatic will vanish when the real ads start.

    2. Steve vs. Justin, with Justin viewed as the choice against austerity and a breath of fresh air (which Wynne was compared to Dalton at the time).

    = surprise! Lib majority.

  36. JamesSmith says:

    Harper is the King of Defecits, and has a debt/spending addiction like a teenager with a credit card.
    In 2006-07, the Conservatives inherited a surplus of $13.8 billion — which they turned into a deficit of $5.8 billion within two years.
    They have zero balanced budgets in 9 years.
    Since Harper was elected, the federal debt has increased by over $150 billion, wiping out the reduction in federal debt achieved under Chretien and Martin.
    The worst part? They have NOTHING to show for it. Its not like we are left with highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge and a World War victory from all that spending.
    All we have is more debt and the a dollar that is headed to be equivalent to the Peso. Worst economic PM since RB Bennett.

  37. ottlib says:

    Smart policy and dumb politics? Maybe.

    However, Mr. Kinsella did point out a few posts back that the economy is the issue for this election and Mr. Trudeau just set himself apart.

    There is a general feeling that the economy is ailing at the moment and when that happens people tend to look to the government to do something about it.

    Further as the Campbell story points out this decision takes off the straight jacket that Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair have voluntarily put on their fiscal plans.

    As well, I do not think this was created on the back of a napkin a few days ago. I would suspect this has been in the works for awhile and that they might have test driven it first with focus groups and what have you before announcing it.

  38. ottlib says:

    Off topic but am I the only one that found the ECOS poll of today rather anti-climatic?

    The NDP went up but the increase is 0.1% above the margin of error. Statistical noise.

    The changes for the Conservatives and the Liberals were a little greater but still within 1% of the MOE. So really not that impressive and certainly not deserving the headline at the head of the analysis that came with the poll.

    Just my humble opinion.

  39. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    In my book, when people are fearful of the future and hurting badly economically, it’s almost a sacred trust to go into deficit to help them. Balanced books, my ass. No one is talking about a debt explosion.

  40. JJPD says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree Warren. On the contrary, I think it was a brilliant move.

    Look at this way:

    The biggest thing that the NDP and Mulcair struggle with is seeming too “left” or too extreme. As the narrative goes, they are tax and spend socialists. So Mulcair is doing everything in his ability to suppress NDP tendencies to deviate from the mainstream of Canadian politics; i.e. he’s all about the small businesses now, he refuses to go into deficit and he’s successfully silenced the anti-Israeli sentiments in his party. In fact, that thing about his infatuation with Thatcher becoming public probably came to his delight. For the most part, intelligent people understand that Tom Mulcair is not remotely a died in the wool Orange-Dipper. When he was elected leader this just so happened to be the biggest concern of his opponents. Lo-and-behold, he’s taken the party from its fundamental roots to a place quite awkward to its base of supporters.

    That said, Tom Mulcair is playing a very dangerous game by shifting the NDP away from its natural position on the far left. It’s already causing many inconstancies and issues for him with regards to his positions on pipelines or his attitude towards election debates. But most importantly, it only feeds into the “Tom is no different than Stephen” narrative. At a time when voters are evidently craving change, his push to the right is putting him in closer and closer proximity to Stephen Harper and he’s increasingly starting to resemble him (not in the composed pragmatic Prime-Ministerial way either, but in the cynical dictator way).

    Enter Trudeau and Liberal.

    Since Tom is trying to put the squeeze on the Liberals for that alternative-to-Conservatives spot, the Liberals are fighting back in a now closer range. So what the Liberals have quite brilliantly done is put themselves to the left (economically speaking) of the Mulcair and the NDP thus producing two very desirable effects for Trudeau:

    1. It puts Mulcair on the same side as Harper, which is way, too close and not where a guy that’s claiming to be the opposite of Harper wants to be at all.
    2. It has given the Liberals complete control of the economic discussion and the ability to talk about Canada’s infrastructure woes without being tied down to any “balanced-budgets” rhetoric.

    Frankly, since the Liberals are the only Federal party currently having balanced several budgets (yes yes, on the backs of provinces and whatnot), they have enough credibility and leeway to force this shift in the discussion. What this leaves us with is Harper and his one balanced budget for 9 years in one hand, and Mulcair with his myriad of promises and no legitimate way of paying for them except for repeating Tommy Douglas over and over again in the other hand.

    All in all, this was a very astute political move that puts the Liberals back in the limelight and in control of a very key component of this election.

    • Scotian says:

      JJPD:

      I think your second point is one that carries real weight to it. I also think your closing paragraph does as well. I just finished reading all the comments in this thread as well as our host’s original post, and one thing I find running rampant through this is the belief this was a tactical only decision, made either out of desperation or some other short term basis. While there have been a handful of comments that have considered that this is longer term than that, there has been very little discussion as to the strategic potentials of this move overall, and I think that is where he conversation on this point here is lacking.

      Not to mention that the need to spend on infrastructure significantly has been a part of the Trudeau message for a long time now, not just since the election was called. I tend to agree with Ottlib upthread, this is not the result of policy on a napkin short term thinking, this is something that has been long considered, tested and thought out, indeed I was expecting something like this all along, and having the horrible economic indicators that we have seen for the most part (and while yes there are some few indices that look positive, the overall picture in context still does not according to the business sector, which these days I find more credible on such than the feds) only makes this that much stronger an argument to make.

      There is also the way it differentiates Trudeau not just as an economic policy truthteller versus Mulcair and Harper (the former with the promise of a balanced budget within his first full year while making all these promises is simply not credible, not without something major he is not saying be it cuts or tax hikes, and the latter has his record of creating a structural deficit just before the worst financial crisis in 70 years hits in just 2 short years of economically stupid spending, the GST cut in particular while politically popular was economically idiotic, as nearly every economist in the nation outside the finance department went on record saying at the time) but also in having a real growth and jobs plan to offer. This is not a minor point IMHO, the jobs growth in this nation over the last decade has been the weakest in my lifetime, and the Harper government has said much yet accomplished little to nothing in dealing with it, and always it was on tax cuts, well we have seen that is not the way to grow jobs and the economy in the climate we are in at the very least, so that is out.

      With Mulcair we also have not seen a truly cohesive policy structure for the economy as a whole, and he is still fighting the baggage of the NDP as poor fiscal managers and stewards of the economy, which is clearly not all myth given that for some Provinces like mine and Ontario that bad record is there, even if in others it may not be, and there is some question as to how often those balances were because of high commodity prices at the time more than government planning, but that is another debate for another time. With this Trudeau has shown some real substance on the policy side, agree or disagree with it, or mock it as Harper did (although some of the memes showing up online using his imagery shows that mockery may not have been the long term plus he was looking to get out of it, time will of course have the final say there) Trudeau has shown he is a serious player and not just running on personality, a complaint we heard so much of since he became leader. You know, where’s the policy Justin and all that.

      Now I’m not saying this is a lock or a gimmie, but it also isn’t in my opinion a mere roll of the dice in desperation. I think this is a deliberate, thoughtful and thought out long term considered policy that recognizes that it is a risk to be this honest in an election campaign, but believes it worthwhile, and by doing so relatively early he has the freedom to talk about this and other policies to help Canadians that neither the CPC nor NDP can credibly because they have constrained themselves with this no deficit ever position. It also reinforces his message and image as being a straight talker instead of only in the polished professional poli-speak of Harper and Mulcair. For Harper I don’t see it making much difference, but for Mulcair, who needs to establish his and his party’s economic credibility, this could over the next several weeks prove to be a real problem. Essentially I agree this is a gamble, but I believe it to be a cold and calculated gamble, not the wild eyed roll of the dice so many appear to believe, and I believe this was long planned well before the election was called, and not on the fly. The announcement timing may have been, but that is far as I would say I believe you can go with that, and I am not even thinking that myself, but there I am open to the possibility.

      There is more to politics than tactics alone, you can only go so far that way before the electorate finally tires of it and wants more substance. It is much like eating sweets all the time without protein eventually, sooner or later they will fade in desirability and meat and potatoes will go from looking like Ick and Ugh to looking like Yum! The last decade of Harper style dominated politics has been much the same, and I think that Mulcair and the NDP could be making a strategic error by duplicating the Harper playbook where it has worked in past elections this time out, and this time there is starting to be a real desire for not just a positive vibe but also a true positive vision backed up with solid policy proposals to get there, and so far only Trudeau has been doing so.

      I’m not saying that the tactical aspect no longer matters, it does, I am just saying that I am not as convinced that it is the overwhelming dominant it has been in the past this time out, and that strategic thinking may be making a comeback, which includes serious policy conversations, something we have seen little of in the past decade. To fail to consider this side of things when looking at this proposal I believe may be similar to not seeing the forest because of the trees. Which is why I like this comment I am replying to, it is one of the few comments in this thread I see doing so.

      Oh yes, one final thought. This election clearly has the potential to be one of those realignment elections given the forces in play, so looking at everything through the traditional left/right/center lenses could be a serious error/blind spot. I’m not saying it is, just that I think serious political thinkers on all sides and no side need to consider that this may be one of those anomalous elections where typical alignments are not necessarily going to hold, and also consider the ‘what ifs’ in that light as well as in the more traditional and typical lenses.

      There is a lot of anger at Harper out there, and there is no truly locked in alternative, at the moment Mulcair appears to have the edge, but it is clearly not decisive yet, and his recent actions in things lie the debate issues have started to undercut his hero of democracy image from the C51 debate, and there are still 8 weeks left after all. The impact of the revelations of how this PM truly operates from the Duffy trial also has real potential impacts on his own base turning out, or even going elsewhere to punish just as Libs did a decade ago, and where those could end up is still unknown, be it another party or home. Mulcair is moving his party in directions some old time NDPers have having troubles supporting, and Trudeau despite his youthful look (as in too young to take seriously to govern) appears to be a fresh face and possibly truly on the progressive side more than any Lib leader in many many years. Combines, these add up to forces that clearly could make this on of those atypical elections, and we all need to look at things with that in mind too I believe.

      Check your assumptions at the door is always a wise policy in my view.

    • Marc says:

      1. It puts Mulcair on the same side as Harper, which is way, too close and not where a guy that’s claiming to be the opposite of Harper wants to be at all.
      2. It has given the Liberals complete control of the economic discussion and the ability to talk about Canada’s infrastructure woes without being tied down to any “balanced-budgets” rhetoric.

      This is it exactly. That’s why it is a great move. Them vs us. Mulcair is crapping himself now.

      I don’t think it will win him the election. It may not even get him second place. But it will open space for him in this campaign, secure him Toronto, and ensure the Liberals don’t get creamed.

  41. B. Taylor says:

    Trudeau’s goal is to short circuit all rational thought processes so the race is based solely on personality and pizazz. Think on some of the wildest contradictory notions here. The “democratic socialist” NDP are in fact staunch Friedmanite Tories who don’t believe in the welfare state? Stephen Harper’s record reveals a cabal of deficit-loving liberals? Orange is blue. Blue is red. Red is rainbow. There is no objective truth. Simply listen to the Dear Leader.

    The real Liberal economic plan is this: another punishing round of austerity – a mere 3 days ago “Paul “Scrooge” Martin was pressed into service” (NP) – with multi-billion dollar deficits, to install a CCP-friendly “basic dictatorship”, to maximize laissez-Maoism, e.g. FOC slave ships, TFW wage suppression, to liquidate the Canadian working class, whose welfare cheques will come from increased taxation on the middle classes. “It’s why former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s ship empire was based in Barbados, beyond taxation in Canada…” (HP). Canadians must become poorer, more indebted, so Trudeau and friends can become richer, more powerful. “To Get Rich Is Glorious!” baby. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others in the Care Bear economy. God Save Justin Trudeau! Note the Versailles vibe in the air.

    • Ridiculosity says:

      Wow. Are you off your meds? Most pharmacies have an after-hours number you can call if you need to have your prescription refilled.

  42. Sean says:

    Justin is Wynne’s lap dog and Wynne is premier of the bankrupt gas plant province. She needs money, to pay her unions, and to get the loan sharks off her case- enter the dunce. On exchange for Wynne’s election machine, Mr. Unethical will get Canada to bail out Ontario.

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