Living on ice cream dreams
There may be no treat Trudeau is unwilling to give
Less than 24 hours after his government announced $143 billion in new spending, Justin Trudeau was asked about provincial demands for more health-care transfers.
“We have committed that we will increase transfers to the provinces — recurring and long-term .... We look forward to discussions about how we can make more investments in the long-term,” he told reporters.
Those comments should prompt concerned Canadians to question the compulsive nature of the prime minister's urge to spend other people's money.
I'm not a doctor but, having spent 20 minutes researching on the Internet, I feel confident in my diagnosis: political oniomania — the uncontrollable desire to improve your self-esteem, your status and your prospects of re-election by offering voters cake and ice cream, then allowing them to come back for ice cream and cake.
How else to explain setting the nation on a course for a federal net debt of $1.5 trillion one day and deciding that's not enough the next?
We can imagine the prime minister's mindset; the boost to his serotonin and dopamine levels as he exploded all the assumptions on which the 724-page document is based by committing to health care transfers, which the provinces would like to see amount to an additional $28 billion a year.
We can imagine tabling a budget that achieves record deficits brought him temporary relief. At Liberal caucus on Wednesday, MPS cheered him, basking in the happiness afforded by access to cheap credit.
We can conclude that nothing improves his mood like telling Canadians that his government has their back, even if he has been advised that, technically speaking, because all the money is borrowed, it is the next generation that has their backs.
We can be assured that he resents the criticism that his government is unable to make hard choices. What his critics don't appreciate is that, when he was presented with the choice between increasing Old Age Security for seniors 75 plus by 10 per cent and giving those same seniors a $500 one-time payment the month before a likely election, he DID make a choice: he chose to give them both. After all, they belong to the silent generation that survived the long postwar boom years and now sit on net worth quadruple that of the under-35s taxpayers, who will never own their own homes.
We can surmise that blowing the budget doesn't give him the same satisfaction that it did before. There was immediate personal gratification in his announcement in 2015 that a Liberal government would record “modest, short-term” deficits of less than $10 billion over two fiscal years, after which the budget would be balanced in year four and the debt-togdp ratio would be 27 per cent. Even a deficit of $354 billion and a debt to GDP ratio double that level is unlikely to yield the same sense of euphoria. And how do you top that window of opportunity?
Fortunately for the prime minister, the NDP has a few projects that could get his neurotransmitters buzzing — a guaranteed basic income could cost about $84 billion a year for the basic model, or $197 billion to do it properly. Or how about national pharmacare, a snip at around $32 billion? At that price, we can't afford not to.
Sources suggest Trudeau has told close advisers that they are getting anxious over nothing because he just read about something called “inflation” that shrinks the debt over time like the movie about the scientist who accidentally shrinks his kids.
He told friends that Britain has only just paid off the 1720 South Sea Bubble and the Napoleonic wars, as part of payments on a four per cent consolidated loan. “My great-grandson will be prime minister before we have to pay any of it back,” he may have said.
When it was explained to him that Britain has been paying four per cent in “interest” to investors for the past 100 years, the prime minister is said to have turned white and convened a meeting of cabinet's special spending committee.