Trudeau by the numbers: There’s no trusting him
Canadians cannot rely on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for even remotely accurate information about the state of federal finances.
His wildly inconsistent and contradictory statements about government deficits before, during and after the 2015 election illustrate the point.
In 2014, Trudeau made his infamous observation that budgets balance themselves, before repeatedly assuring Canadians in the run-up to the 2015 election his government would run balanced budgets.
(A hat tip here to my former Postmedia colleague, David Akin, who kept track of them.)
In April 2015, Trudeau said: “Our platform will be fully costed, fiscally responsible and a balanced budget.” In July 2015, Trudeau said: “I’ve committed to continuing to run balanced budgets . . . Liberals balance budgets. That’s what history has shown.”
On Aug. 6, 2015, during the first televised leaders’ debate of the campaign, Trudeau hammered then prime minister Stephen Harper for, he said, turning Jean Chretien/Paul Martin budget surpluses into Conservative deficits.
On Aug. 27, 2015, Trudeau — astoundingly — flip-flopped, coming out in favour of “modest” annual deficits.
He projected them at $9.9 billion in his first year in office in 2016-17, $9.5 billion in 2017-18, $5.7 billion in 2018-19, with a $1 billion surplus in 2019-20 in the fourth and final year of his election mandate.
On Sept. 20, 2015, during an interview with CTV Atlantic Bureau Chief Steve Murphy in which Trudeau repeatedly ducked questions about the cost of his election platform, Trudeau said reporters could use a calculator to figure it out. So I did. Here’s what I found: Post-election, in December 2015, Trudeau, now prime minister, assured Canadians his election commitment to balance the budget by 2019-20, the fourth and final year of his election mandate, was “very” cast in stone.
Then came Trudeau’s March 2017 budget.
It projected Liberal deficits of $23 billion in 2016-17 (not $9.9 billion, as Trudeau predicted in 2015); $28.5 billion in 2017-18 (not $9.5 billion) and $27.4 billion in 20182019 (not $5.7 billion).
For 2019-20 — the year Trudeau committed to a $1-billion surplus during the 2015 election campaign, a commitment he declared post election was “very” cast in stone — Trudeau’s 2017 budget now projected a $23.4-billion deficit.
It also projected continuing deficits if Trudeau wins the next election, of $21.7 billion in 2020-21 and $18.8 billion in 2021-22, with no end of annual deficits in sight.
Next, let’s examine the one budget year where we now have actual numbers, as proposed to projections.
As noted above, Trudeau’s 2017 budget projected a federal deficit of $23 billion in 2016-17, compared to his 2015 election commitment of $9.9 billion.
That means Trudeau’s deficit projection in the 2017 budget was $13.1 billion (132 per cent) higher than his commitment during the 2015 campaign.
Last month, Trudeau’s fall economic statement lowered the 2016-17 deficit to $17.8 billion, still $7.9 billion (80 per cent) higher, than his 2015 election commitment.
So in Trudeau’s world, coming in 80 per cent higher on the deficit in your first year in office, as opposed to an earlier projection of 132 per cent higher, is good enough for government work.
Heaven only knows what a mess the books will be in by the time Trudeau’s electoral mandate runs out in 2019.
Or what will happen if he’s re-elected.