Looking back, it’s reasonable to call Justin Trudeau’s campaign pledge to run “modest” deficits as a desperation, Hail Mary pass.The Liberals were the third party when the 2015 campaign began and stayed there for the first half of the long election campaign.The momentum was with NDP leader Tom Mulcair, and early on Trudeau had failed to differentiate himself.Then something strange happened. As Stephen Harper and Mulcair nodded in agreement at the merits of balancing the books — and to this day we believe the NDP leader made the right commitment — Trudeau decided to try something different.The then Liberal leader promised to run three years of modest deficits, no more than $10 billion per year, to jump-start the economy. These would help pay for what he was selling as a historic investment in infrastructure across the country.That helped turn Trudeau’s prospects around, and his numbers started to climb.Not so much because of pledging red ink, but because the idea of giving the economy a boost appealed to Canadians worried about their economic future. Nice idea, we suppose, but the numbers are now in and it looks like Trudeau’s original commitment to Canadians has failed to deliver.His promise resulted in few infrastructure projects of note, even though Trudeau’s Liberal government vastly increased the deficits they originally promised — a projected $19 billion in 2018-19, not the $5.7 billion Trudeau predicted. There were similar, massive misses in previous years.As worrisome, there isn’t a complete tally of how infrastructure money was spent or what it accomplished.And the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the actual stimulus these tens of billions in borrowed cash generated amounts to just 0.16-per-cent growth in GDP, or just under $2 billion annually.Our economy would have been better off leaving the money in Canadians’ pockets and letting them use it for savings or consumer goods. Now there are reports Infrastructure Minister Francois-philippe Champagne is rushing to spend billions more on projects this year, just before the election, to have something to show for Liberal deficits.Maybe instead they should reassess their long-standing misguided notions that we can spend our way into prosperity and let budgets balance themselves.It wasn’t true in 2015 and it’s not true now.
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