Clarifying Candice Malcolm’s rant about reckless Liberal spending

Earlier this week, Candice Malcolm, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, published an article criticizing the federal budget. Here’s my response.

Earlier this week, Candice Malcolm, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, published an article criticizing the federal budget.

I thought I’d address a few of the points she raised.

Trudeau plans to add a jaw-dropping $154 billion to the debt this year, skyrocketing our net debt projections up to $1.5 trillion in the next five years. Perhaps worst of all is the type of spending that Trudeau is embarking on.

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Okay. Here’s the first problem.

Too often when talking about deficit, the right focuses on spending, or expenses. Except deficit (just to be clear, the $154 billion Malcolm cites is a deficit amount) isn’t calculated exclusively by spending amounts.

Surplus and deficit involve the same calculation: revenue minus expenses. That’s the case in your household budget, in a corporation’s budget, and in a federal government budget. If the answer to that calculation is positive, then you have a surplus. If it’s negative, then it’s a deficit.

But the right only focuses on one half of the equation.

It’s a $154-billion deficit only because there’s a difference of $154 billion between what comes in as revenue and what goes out as expenses. Focusing on just expenses is misguided.

Trudeau is fundamentally increasing the size and scope of the federal government, with big ticket items including his version of the Green New Deal and a National Daycare Program. The latter was thoroughly rejected at the polls by Canadians back in 2006, when they chose instead the Conservative alternative which was a direct monthly stipend for parents of young children.

The national childcare programme isn’t really a programme per se and will have very little in the way of federal infrastructure. It will be administered by the provinces—if it gets off the ground at all—and the feds will provide some of the funding. Hardly increasing the size of the federal government.

Also, the childcare programme wasn’t “thoroughly rejected at the polls” in 2006: Harper won a minority government in 2006.

That means that most of the seats won didn’t go to his party. Plus, he got only 36.27% of the popular vote. In other words, roughly 2 out of every 3 people who voted that year didn’t vote for his party.

If you want to use voting results to gauge support for childcare programmes, then I guess we could argue that the majority of voters rejected the Conservatives’ plan to cancel the Liberal programme.

The Liberals beefed up the Conservative program, renaming it the Canada Child Benefit and offering even more cash to parents. But now we learn that they will also be offering subsidized daycare to those same parents — even though the very purpose of the cash payments was to put the parents in the driver’s seat and give them more choice.

The Canada Child Benefit isn’t meant for just childcare expenses. It’s meant for child raising costs in general. From the federal government website:

The Canada child benefit (CCB) is a non‑taxable amount paid monthly to help eligible families with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age.

Also, I’m not sure I’d call the CCB a beefed up version of the universal child care benefit.

For example, the UCCB was a set amount paid out to every parent, regardless of income. The CCB is based on income: the higher your income, the less the federal government sends you. So hardly “offering more cash to parents”; under the Conservative’s UCCB, some families received more money than they do now.

Plus, the CCB replaced not only the UCCB but also the National Child Benefit Supplement and the Canada Child Tax Benefit, streamlining 3 programmes into one.

And to be clear, the Liberals weren’t so much beefing up a Conservative programme as much as they were restoring a previous programme that the Conservative axed: the Canada Child Tax Benefit.

This complete lack of restraint is the essence of Trudeau’s borrowing plan. Say yes to everyone and everything, leveraging future generations for the chance to get re-elected today.

Lack of restraint? Is that why the Liberals sided with the Conservatives to vote down a universal basic income, a universal dental plan, and a national pharmacare programme?

But I applauded Harper for his tactics surrounding recession spending, which was to create temporary spending programs rather than permanently growing the bureaucracy. When the economy improved, Harper was gradually able to roll back most of these programs and achieve a balanced budget by 2014.

Harper’s so-called balanced budget came about because he sold off shares the government held in GM from the 2009 bailout package it gave the automaker. Plus, having low public debt levels (as a result of successive budget surpluses under the Liberals) and low interest rates sure helped, too—neither of those were Harper’s doing though.

Same goes for the extra $20 billion in additional revenue generated from increased personal income tax as a result of the economy recovering from the 2008–2009 recession. Not really Harper’s doing. Also, that balanced budget was in 2015, not 2014.

Harper’s recovery strategy was based on a commitment to free market principles and an understanding of the laws of economics.

This isn’t true at all. His recovery strategy was luck and succeeded as a result of being in the right place at the right time.

At the height of Harper’s deficit spending, in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Canada borrowed a staggering $56.4 billion. Well, it was staggering at the time. It pales, however, in comparison to the great Trudeau spending bonanza of the early 2020s.

And there’s a really easy way to address the deficit under the Trudeau government: a wealth tax. But the Liberals and Conservatives keep voting against it for some reason.

If deficit spending is such a concern, then why not eliminate the deficit by increasing revenue? It’s almost as if getting rid of the deficit isn’t the end goal.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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