Trudeau by the num­bers: There’s no trust­ing him

The Welland Tribune - - OPINION - LOR­RIE GOLD­STEIN lgo­ld­stein@post­media.com

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.

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