Trudeau has a short memory when it comes to Ontario politics

Author : Aaron Wudrick 09/10/2019

by Aaron Wudrick, Federal Director & Jasmine Pickel, Ontario Director

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

It’s strange to watch Liberal leader Justin Trudeau focus his campaign attacks on Ontario Premier Doug Ford, instead of his true electoral opponent, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.

Despite Ford increasing spending to the highest level in Ontario’s history, and Scheer promising four more years of deficit spending, it seems the Liberals will continue to fearmonger about nebulous cuts.

But the Liberals ought to be careful. If Trudeau wants to compare Scheer to Ford, he’s inviting comparisons between his government and its provincial counterpart in Ontario.

Let’s consider the Ontario Liberal legacy.

During the 15-year reign of the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals, Ontario’s spending skyrocketed by 57%, far outpacing inflation and population growth. The former Ontario government paid lip service to the importance of balanced budgets, but ran deficits over 80% of the time. Public debt more than doubled, earning Ontario the infamous distinction as the most indebted sub-sovereign jurisdiction on earth.

And the outcome?

In the 2018 election, the number of Liberals at Queen’s Park was reduced from 55 to just seven and it lost official party status in the Ontario Legislature. The five remaining Liberal MPPs (two have since resigned) can carpool to work in a sedan.

Instead of criticizing Ford’s attempts to save money, Trudeau should consider how badly Ontario voters have punished Liberals for disastrous fiscal management. Will he learn from others’ mistakes?

During the last campaign, the federal Liberals followed their Ontario counterparts’ lead with a deficit-based platform, but it came with an important caveat.

“What Canadians need are leaders who will tell them the truth and that’s exactly what I’m going to do: we are committed to balancing the budget in 2019,” promised Trudeau during the 2015 election. Trudeau broke that promise with a deficit in 2019 and provided no realistic plan to return to balance.

The recently released federal Liberal election platform is astounding in its brazen and unapologetic abandonment of any attempt to balance the budget in the next five years, or ever. Even excluding their obviously expensive, yet un-costed, plan for universal pharmacare, the Liberals will add a minimum of $114 billion in deficit spending to the debt over the next five years from the start of this fiscal year.

The federal debt is already nearing $700 billion and the government currently spends $54 million more than it brings in every day. It’s spending $26 billion just to cover interest charges on the debt, which will only grow larger as the debt balloons.

It’s astonishing to see the federal Liberal platform copying the Ontario Liberals’ record. It’s a record that ultimately resulted in electoral ruin. Much worse, it left a crushing debt for future generations.

There is, however, one important point of divergence to highlight between Wynne and Trudeau: Wynne at least pretended to have a plan to balance the budget eventually. Trudeau’s plan is large deficit spending in perpetuity.

It’s worth noting that this generation of big-spending Liberals marks a stark departure from former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who valued responsible fiscal management.

Ford is premier today because Ontarians were fed up with big-spending, scandal-plagued Liberals. Given Trudeau’s track record, the last thing he should be doing is reminding voters that the best way to avoid fiscal hangovers is to stop the spending binges in the first place.