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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Too bad the Liberal party isn’t playing by baseball rules

So, Justin Trudeau has apologized for his gaffe, belated though it was. It's time to move on. Or is it? This most recent incident reminds me this is the third leader in a row the Liberal Party of Canada has selected who is giving every indication he is unprepared to lead the our government.

Stéphane Dion was their great hope of 2006. During his run for the leadership, he promised to focus on social justice, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability. This was supposed to bring Canada into the 21st century, though he did not make clear what century he thought Canada was in at the time.

Canadians sensibly turned down Mr. Dion’s proposal, which he had dubbed,  The Green Shift. The Green Shift, as envisioned by Mr. Dion, would have sucked, via a tax on carbon, $15 billion per year out of the Canadian economy to, in part, finance expensive social programs. The Grits dumped him after they lost the 2008 election—they had won only 77 seats, down from 103 won in the 2006 election.

Mr. Dion’s unsuitability for the post of prime minister can perhaps be summed up by recalling that, during a 2008 campaign interview on CTV, he asked the host three times to restart the interview because Mr. Dion didn’t understand a question about the economy. Here’s the question: “If you were Prime Minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?” Dion had three tries and couldn’t make a coherent reply.

Next the Grits gave us Michael Ignatieff. He, apparently, represented the “new” Liberal party. Mr Ignatieff had been out of the country for decades before returning in 2005 and eventually heading up the Liberal party in 2008.

The Liberals ended their six-year experiment with the former professor when they dumped him following his loss of his own seat, and the humbling defeat of the party as a whole. Ignatieff’s Liberals lost 43 seats, winning only 34.

Before Mr. Ignatieff’s ignominious loss, he virtually walked on water according to Liberal pundits across the country. Once he was defeated, however, we learned those same pundits shared many of the misgivings about the man held by conservative observers.

So now the Liberals have a new saviour in the form of Justin Trudeau. And already Mr. Trudeau is showing signs he’s just another Liberal misfit pretender to the office of prime minister.

Aside from his several gaffes—from calling cabinet minister Peter Kent a “piece of shit” to seeming to admire the Chinese form of government to his anti-Albertan slur when he opined, “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda”—Mr. Trudeau seems to believe in his own version of voodoo economics. Here’s what I mean:

Case one: Mr. Trudeau places what he apparently sees as the dreadful finance plight of Canada’s middle class at the centre of his statements about our economy, but—like I’ve said before on this blog—he’s all wrong. Only this week, Statistics Canada released a study showing the opposite of Mr. Trudeau’s assessment is true. Here’s an excerpt:

The median net worth of Canadian family units was $243,800 in 2012, up 44.5% from 2005 and almost 80% more than the 1999 median of $137,000, adjusted for inflation.”

Is Mr. Trudeau lying or merely misinformed?

Case two: In recent speeches Mr. Trudeau has said that Canada’s government debt-to-GDP ratio is great and that there is room for the federal government to “step up” and spend more. This is far from the real situation.

Canada recorded a Government Debt-to-GDP of 84.6 per cent in 2012. The IMF’s forecast for 2013 puts Canada’s gross combined debt–to-GDP at an eye-popping 87 per cent. That’s 13th highest among the 30 most advanced economies. And, by the way, this does not account for the increasingly high debt levels of most of our 10 provinces. That’s not great folks; that’s only so-so.

Justin Trudeau is probably looking at net debt figures, which includes a reduction in debt for the surpluses we have in, for example, public pension funds. But does any one of us want to see our pension money spent on paying down the debt? On what will we retire?

Really! How is this fellow ready for prime time?

Canada is not—to be fair—in dire straights as far as government debt is concerned, but we need to recognize that another recession or financial crisis could emerge at any time and we need the fiscal room to handle it. Ontario’s Liberal government, for example, is running up debt at an alarming pace. What if the federal government has to step up and rescue Ontario at some future point? No, adding substantially more debt at this time is hardly prudent.

It’s a good thing for Grits that their party doesn’t have to play by baseball rules. You know, three strikes and you’re out.

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