Whether you think good or ill of the first budget of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, it emphatically busts the myth created by the ridiculous Conservative Party election ads proclaiming that “Justin Just Isn’t Ready.” This budget makes it absolutely clear that Trudeau and the Liberals were very prepared to assume the responsibilities of a majority Canadian government. Whether you like it or not the past four months culminating in this budget are profoundly about leadership—leadership that has a different vision of Canada from that of the Harper Conservatives and has a clear vision of how to go about generating—or more appropriately reinventing—a Canada that reflects the needs, desires and vision of the majority of Canadians. I have already heard people likening the new Trudeau government and its bold agenda for change to that of the depression slaying US President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt and his grand vision “The New Deal.”
With all the right wing crying about a deficit aimed at making life better for average Canadians –instead of more tax cuts to the wealthy few—it is interesting to remember that after The New Deal pushed back the great depression it was said of Roosevelt that “Hoover (the previous president who thought he could save the country from a desperate depression by pandering after corporate interests) tried to save the banks and even the banks failed. Roosevelt tried to save the people and even the banks succeeded.”
The Harper government delivered a deficit of $5.8 billion in 2008-09 and went on posting shortfalls of $55.6 billion in 2009-10; $33.4 billion in 2010-11; $26.3 billion in 2011-12; $18.4 billion for 2012-13; and $5.2 billion for 2013-14. But you didn’t hear the Fraser Institute nor the National Post running around proclaiming that the sky is falling then. H… No! Those deficits were wasted on corporate give aways and tax cuts for the wealthy. The Liberal budget, which leaves the Canadian deficit at a debt to GDP ratio that is low relative to other OECD economies, is aimed at the middle class, at actually addressing affordable housing and encouraging a low-carbon, innovative “clean growth” economy, at meeting our obligations to First Nations, at extending our hand up to the unemployed, at providing a progressive, tax-free benefit that will move approximately 300,000 children above the poverty line. It Funds a $112-million homelessness strategy, and reinvents Canada’s commitment to the arts and the CBC. Reversing the budgetary blind sightedness of the Conservatives, the new Liberal budget ensures that the Coast Guard will be able to make a timely response to marine disasters from the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the odious insult of closing veterans offices will be reversed.
The budget is classical Keynesian economics that calls on governments to play and active role in the economic well being of the nation. While it may seem unfortunate that the Liberals have taken office just as revenues from oil and mineral extraction are tanking, that very fact also has an upside in that it underscores the need to redefine, diversify and green our economy so that we no longer need pander after the economic crumbs left by an industry hell bent on cooking our atmosphere. And while the budget relies on Keynesian assumptions about balancing the budget on a growing GDP, the Liberals are going after $10-billion in revenue from more aggressive action on corporate tax havens .
Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the very unprogressive Conservative Party and its associated right-wing think tanks about the size of the deficit, they know the important statistic is the relative size of the budget deficit compared to the overall GDP which is healthy. Their real concern is not the size of the deficit but with the fact that the Trudeau Liberals really were ready to govern in the interests of all Canadians rather than just a few. These right wing ideologues just haven’t been able to get their heads around the fact that Canadians went to the polls Oct 19 to reject the Conservative Party and its warped efforts to fan xenophobic hatred into what would have become a decisive mandate for remaking Canada in the image of a petro state.
I am deeply concerned with the seeming lack of provision for renewing the Canada Health Act, but—given such a broad commitment to the well being of Canadians generally, I am willing to withhold judgement for now and trust that the Liberals who have lived up to so many promises will not abandon this centre piece of our identity as a good and just nation. For now I am content to know that Canada—our Canada—stands on guard for us!