Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dion Would "Plunge" Canada Into Debt

I'm not sure if anyone formally told you, but the 2008 election campaign began today on Question Period. Jim Prentice arrived in the studio, armed with a glossy booklet that "independently" costed out all of the Liberal promises, and concluded Dion's proposals would translate to 62.5 billion of new debt, in just four years. According to Prentice, this is a conservative estimate, because there are dozens more promises that have yet to be costed out, due to lack of information from the Liberals. The figure could actually grow, once we get the details from the Liberals.

Clearly, the Conservatives plan to paint Dion as a big spending Liberal, themselves the prudent fiscal hawks. Here is what Liberal Finance Minister John McCallum said in response:
"That's a 62.5 billion dollar lie. Interestingly enough they tried to pull the same stunt in the 1993 election and I have the ad here (pulls out ad). They said Chretien would plunge the country into a 100 billion dollar debt in four years. What are the facts, the Liberals inherited a 43 billion dollar Conservative deficit and within four years balanced the books."

In the last two years, government spending has increased by 15% under the Conservatives. Let's do some quick math with the Conservatives unsubstantiated claims. Dion would raise spending by 62.5 billion over four years, around 16.5 billion per year. If we take total government spending, which is estimated to be 240.5 billion this fiscal year, we are left with the following. Under Dion, using the Conservatives obviously biased estimates, spending would increase 6.8% per year. So let's see, Conservatives 15% increase in two years, Dion 13.6% every two years. You don't want to give the Conservative propaganda any validity, but pretty hilarious that you can present the naked numbers to show Dion would actually reign in spending, compared to the Conservative record.

I find it hard to judge the Liberal platform, before it has been released. I also find it hard to believe that the party which demonstrated tremendous fiscal disipline in the past, has now morphed into a reckless spender, that will harm Canada's fiscal position. As a matter of fact, I suspect Canadians may well look with scepticism at the Conservatives outlandish claims. Say what you want, one thing is clear, Canadians never had a problem with the Liberals economic record, while in office.

I'm certain that the Liberals will cost out everything in their platform, which is probably why we have this pre-emptive strike from the Conservatives. Develop the election theme now, force the Liberals to defend a disinformation campaign.


Gayle said...

Did Prentice say anything about the billions of dollars that will be spent to pay for the tough on crime package?

They have increased the custodial sentences, and they have added to court costs because more people will go to trial rather than plead guilty. They are going to need new prisons (which they have already made part of their tough on crime package) to accomodate all the additional prisoners and staff.

So I am just wondering if Prentice said anything about where the money for that will come from.

Anonymous said...

You are bang on. That is exactly what they are attempting to do (which they are pretty good at btw) - define your opponent before they do and lie while you are at it.

To add to your substance though, I have also heard McCallum state that historically it is Conservatives and Republicans that spend wildly and run up deficits and Liberals and Democrats that have to pick up the pieces...even recent history illustrates that. Mulroney (deficits and increased debt)/Chretien (surplus and decreased debt); Chretien (Martin)(surpluses, investments and debt repayment)/Harper (massive increases in spending including debt, no investment, diminishing surpluses). Reagan/Bush (deficits and debt); Clinton (surpluses); Bush (the biggest debt in the history of the world.)

Anonymous said...

Based on actual track records we are being fair to brand them "tax and spend conservatives".
And it would serve them right for dumbing down the dialog in the first place. Say it with me now:
"tax and spend conservatives"
"tax and spend conservatives"
"tax and spend conservatives"

Raphael Alexander said...

Difficult to disagree with you there, Steve. In fact I would say that the fears of fiscal mismanagement don't stand up to scrutiny. It might also be interesting to note that Mr.McCallum called for marginal cuts to taxes and $3 billion to pay down the federal debt. It seems odd to me that the Liberals are offering tax cuts and the Conservatives are only offering to pay down the debt. This budget should get defeated in a few weeks...

Raphael Alexander said...

Anonymous said @ 2:44 PM, February 17, 2008:

"tax and spend conservatives"

And yet the government has reduced the federal debt by 6 billion while managing to cut taxes, so that's certainly something. Still, it had not gone unnoticed in my eyes that expenditures increased since 2006. And recently the government has given money to more liberal domains like the SOW and Immigrant services. That battle for the centrist vote is in full swing!

Steve V said...


Fife asked Prentice about the Conservative expenditures, but he ignored the question and simply repeated the talking point.

You can view the interview here and there is another segment with McCallum's rebuttal.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Liberals crying foul. I saw with my own eyes the promises that Dion made. Either he is going to cut spending on social programs or it is he who is lying to the Canadian people. All of Dion's promises cannot be met and he knows it.
I suspect when the ads start hitting the airwaves Canadians will be asking themselves the same thing; where is all the money coming from?
Having McCallum defending the Liberal position is a laugh. The mans credbility is existed by his buffoonery.

Anonymous said...

The last paragraph of my previous post should read:

Having McCallum defending the Liberal position is a laugh. The mans credbility is exceeded by his buffoonery.

Sorry for the repeat

Steve V said...


Say what you want, but the more I think about it, the Cons may err in making fiscal prudence a centerpiece of the campaign. Dion loves to talk about the Liberal record, which makes me cringe from time to time, for obvious reasons. However, if the Cons allow the Liberals to remind Canadians about their ACTUAL record, as opposed to these wild claims, it could work to their advantage, at the very least, hardly something that can cause real harm. Canadians are well aware of the mess the Libs inherited, and nobody denies that on the fiscal side, they did a good job.

Raphael Alexander said...

Let's just get this election going, so we can see the party platforms and make an educated opinion instead of pointless speculation.

anonymous you had two attempts to spell credibility correctly and did not. Maybe download Firefox?

Anonymous said...


I'm not about to say anything nice about the Harper Government's drunken-sailor-style spending - nor am I happy about it.

I would just like to point out that in your post, you pointed to what you thought was an excellent track record for Liberal governments. You left out Trudeau, a leader who spent the cupboard bare. Mulroney ended up in deficits primarily to pay the interest on the Trudeau years, because he wasn't willing to slash program spending to close the gap. Chr├ętien, too, took two years to finally realise that there was no other reasonable "out" to take. Pity you hadn't included him in your history, but, of course, it would have gone against the point you were trying to establish, eh?

That we have a government today that, like the Martin government before it, thinks that money can slosh around all over hell's half acre as long as the total remains in the black is dispiriting in the extreme. That this next election has a good possibility of turning on who can bribe the most of us with our own money sickens me. I'd be far more pleased with a politician (of any stripe) who stood for doing a very few things, but well and with enough effort to make them happen, than for this programme-for-this-and-that approach we suffer with, which as far as I'm concerned makes anything said by McCallum, Prentice, or their leaders worth far less than what we'll pay for it.

Steve V said...


Agreed, let's get on with it.

bigcitylib said...

Conservatives think they "own" the fiscal discipline issue. But I think they lost it after Mulroney, and here in Ontario after Harris hacked programs like a madman and still left us in a deficit position. They seem to want it back without doing anything to earn it.

I still think the Libs should hold their nose until autumn (unless they go on Afgh.), but I seem to be increasingly in the minority.

Steve V said...


I don't think any party should be held to the record of governments 30 years ago. Yes, I suppose, I could have mentioned Trudeau, but that era isn't representative of the modern Liberal philosophy. Should I have mentioned Pearson too, John A? Mulroney is relevant, because that is where the last government started, that was the fiscal house. If we want to use Trudeau as the starting point, then we can say, a Conservative government failed to tackle the debt, maintained and expanded deficits, while only a Liberal government was able to turn things around. Either way, the last government's record is above partisanship, the numbers speak for themselves.

Steve V said...


McCallum also referenced Ontario, pointing out that Flaherty lied and left the Liberals with a 6 billion dollar deficit. The idea of Cons "owning" fiscal discipline doesn't hunt in Ontario, simply because it shows no relationship to reality. The Conservatives apparently "owned" the issue of government spending control, but Harper has shown that to be fantasy too.

Raphael Alexander said...

Bruce, I noticed you deleted your website! Do you still blog? Are you still interested in blogging?

Tomm said...


Chretien is telling Dion to go. The CPC through whatever sources they have, seem to have gotten a jump on this and know its the budget.

We are in campaign mode right now with the Liberal's planning to vote down a budget that the conservative's are saying will be "prudent" and "fiscally responsible". Not code words for Liberal support.

Prentice very neatly has painted a picture for the electorate of M. Dion and his Liberal Party.

If Dion ignores the book, it sits on the table looking bigger and bigger until he is forced to address it.

By addressing the book, he gives it credibility. Once again the Liberal's have been out flanked.

Rather than positioning themselves, pointing out the CPC warts, and hammering at Mulroney, they should have been having policy conventions resulting in solid policy positions and giving them to the media so that this sort of chess move wasn't available to the CPC. But they didn't.

The campaign is clearly on.


Steve V said...

"If Dion ignores the book, it sits on the table looking bigger and bigger until he is forced to address it.

By addressing the book, he gives it credibility. Once again the Liberal's have been out flanked."

Tomm, I disagree. All Dion has to say is wait for the red book, it will all be costed out. When the book is released, the Cons will have little time to make a forceful argument, they have already shown their hand with this fancy book. I see this as the first salvo, hardly out-flanking anyone. The platform is still the unknown, Dion has the counter, sitting there and you better believe it will come with solid economic backing. These people aren't stupid, nor are they naive to potential attack lines. At the very least, Dion will have the spin necessary to look responsible, and that's all that matter is a he said/he said argument, as the Cons well know.

Gayle said...

"Once again the Liberal's have been out flanked."

Oh please.

The cons are getting caught in their own trap. You think they want the electorate to look at the actual liberal record? Something tells me it will not help their cause when the electorate remember the last time the cons said this they were proven to be lying.

They know there are people out there like you who will swallow each and every talking point like it is the truth, but they already have your vote. They are not going to win more votes by lying.

Tomm said...

Steve & Gayle,

True, my vote is not in question, however, neither is yours. We're discussing campaign strategy.

Since the LPC is the only party that can ever know whether the government will fall or not, they are the only ones that can be perfectly ready for the writ to be dropped.

So what do they do?

They have allowed Harper to dictate the terms and timing of the next election.

Yes, they have been outflanked, unless of course they don't defeat the government; which is also a good outcome for Harper, therefore they are outflanked again.

You don't need to like the man to admire his chess instincts.

Somebody said they should say that unless the government does something egregious, that they intend to support Parliament until 2009. It may be too late now to do that, but it sure would have saved Dion some credibility with Joe Lunchbucket if they would have gone there soon after the Montreal Convention.

The LPC has to put out some concrete party positions. Waiting until after the CPC has already worked at defining the LPC for the media to flip through, and their spokes people to parrot, is being outflanked.


Anonymous said...

Please bring it on...

Like Mr. Harper or not...

His positions will be well-defined and credible.

Don't be scared Steffi...

MarkCh said...

If Dion comes out with a platform that says "we will spend more on this and this and this" and doesn't also say "we will spend less on that and that", then these Conservative attacks will look vindicated. The Conservatives are trying to push Dion into campaigning on tax increases. I think Dion could well fall into the trap.

Gayle said...

"it sure would have saved Dion some credibility with Joe Lunchbucket..."

You presume Mr. Lunchbucket is paying the same attention we are. He isn't.

Your stuff and nonsense about "outflanking" is meaningless to Mr. Lunchbucket who is simply living his life day to day. He will start paying attention once there is an election.

"True, my vote is not in question, however, neither is yours."

Here is the difference. Steve is willing to review liberal policy with a critical eye. He calls them out when he believes they are wrong. You swallow each and every lie the cons give you. It is meaningless to hear that you think he is some master strategist when you have demonstrated, again and again, that you are incapable of being objective.

The problem Harper has is that he needs more than his base to swallow his lies in order to win an election. So if you want to discuss strategy, then I would suggest hoping there are enough stupid people in the country who will accept the conservative line without question is not a particularly good one.

MarkCh said...

It may be challenging for Dion to associate himself with Chretien's economic record, while dissociating himself from Chretien's environmental record. However, he has no real choice but to try.

Tomm said...


I don't agree with every policy of the CPC government. I'm not a blogger. I don't need to comment on everything that comes out. I respect Steve's openness of thought, which is why I come here.

I thought Steve made some excellent points.

Some things I disagree with the CPC on:

-importance of aggressive climate change leadership. We can't change anything globally but we can be front and centre in cutting edge technologies and options.
-importance of aggressive First Nations policies (e.g. settling land claims, re-creating a new Act)

There are many more of them. I also disagree with the communications strategy.


Karen said...

Tomm, outflanked? This ridiculous document that the Con's just put out can be shown to be the lie that it is, line by, sorry line.

It's one thing to lie into the ether then deny it. It's quite another to put it black and white to be shot down.

Convincing Canadians that the Lib's are not good steward's of the economy is a losing battle.

Personally, I think the Con's outflanked themselves. They chose a theme that will expose their dearth of credibility.

Who mentioned Trudeau? Are you nuts? It's bad enough that the current government still blames the Lib's, 2 years later. You actually think that Trudeau gives you a foundation for this specious argument? Hilarious.

bigcitylib said...

Steve, it works especially nice since Flaherty was the Ont. Finance Minister towards the end of the Harris/Eves regime there. He concealed more than one deficit.

Oxford County Liberals said...

Flaherty has no credibility on Budgets - both because of Ontario and the income trusts reversal. Why do you think they sent Prentice out instead?

If the Cons want to harp on the economy, by all means, bring it on. Tomm and the Conservative automatons on here might parrot the talking points, but that line of attack will be credible to no one else.

bigcitylib said...

By the way, Kinsella is saying "consider the source" re the Chretien story. CTV has moved several times from "slanted news" to bullshit re the Lib Party in the past six months or so.

If they were just trying to stir up shit and highlight splits in the party by getting everyone worked up over a non-called election, it would not surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Important Points:

- The Conservatives have No Credibility when it comes to sound management of the economy. We can see this when we look at the Manufacturing sector, the Forestry Sector, Research and Development in Universities, or innovation in the New Industrial Economy.

- McCallum mentioned Ontario, where the present Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, did quite the book fixing under Harris.

- The promises that are being made are in line with the economy. Putting funds into cities, into universities, into green energy and conservation programs, into child care, can all be framed as investments into a modern and much more competitive economy.

Take child care as just one example, there are numerous studies which show that a nations best economic investment is in it's children and the quality of it's human resources.

Steve V said...

The Liberals haven't been outflanked here, let's just wait for the other shoe to drop. I'll say it again, the people crafting this platform know the pitfalls of not costing out the programs, everyone is well aware of the Con angle. If the Libs are smart, they will just laugh off the attacks, remind everyone of the record and say STAY TUNED. Canadians will support initiatives like tackling child poverty, so long as they feel the spending can be justified. These aren't amateurs here, reckless liberals with no sense of fiscal management (except Rae ;)), it will be credible.

Anonymous said...

Just as I feared, they have started their "We are the financially responsible one" campaign. When I saw Harper Christmas interview and his anniversary speech, I know he is going to use that to neutralize the fact that he has nothing to offer.

Fear and doubt campaign sometimes work but I hope Canadian are politically smarter now and won't fall for this.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

This is just hilarous. Which government was it that cleaned up the last mess left by the Tories and balanced the budget. The reality is when it comes to balancing budgets and avoiding deficits, the Liberals have more credibility than anyone else. It is one thing to run a large surplus because your predecessor left the government finances in great shape, while quite another to make the tough decisions to turn things around.

susansmith said...

They said Chretien would plunge the country into a 100 billion dollar debt in four years. What are the facts, the Liberals inherited a 43 billion dollar Conservative deficit and within four years balanced the books."

Right, and they ran on jobs, jobs, jobs, and than turned around, having campaigning on the left, and ruling on the right. So they tricked the public into voting for them. In turn, they did massive cuts to prov transfer payments, massive cuts in social spending (that Mulroney Cons only dreamed of), and sure they balanced the budget, but on the backs of the middle and lower classes - poverty increased, homelessness increased, child poverty increased, wages stagnated.
Of course, they could have done the same thing, if they had let inflation grow a tad, bringing Canada out of recession alot sooner, but alas, they chose not to use this economic tool for the best interests of the majority.
Of course, if one is part of the global restructuring, and your main finance guy is a millionaire, than who do you really represent - surely not main straight and never day joe and mary.
Oh yes, that 1993 campaign - national childcare - LOL

Anonymous said...

I love whenever the discussion gets around to balancing budgets and history.

If you are a Tory supporter, than the Tories are the best at it, and Trudeau caused the big problem to start with.

If you are a Liberal supporter, than the Liberals fixed everything and the Tories caused the mess in the Mulroney years.

If anyone can actually point to single events from either side that caused the current fiscal situation (large debt with no yearly deficit), than great. Otherwise, than all of this is partisan crap.

I have supported both Liberals and Tories over the years. Voted for Chretian, got tired of Chretian's arrogance, was excited for Martin, then was very disappointed by Martin as PM. I was excited for a new way of doing things, and was hoping for a lot with Harper. I have not been 100% impressed by the Tories.

I am currently stuck with an imperfect choice between 2 parties, both of which are nowhere near perfect, and I am looking forward to a campaign of ideas. The Tories and Liberals will be earning my vote with the next campaign.

So with that said, let's examine a few things:

1) The Mulroney Tories did not slay the deficit as they said they would, and the debt grew in their years. However they did get their operating budget in order, and the resulting deficit was caused by interest payment on the debt.
2)Chretian (with Martin as his Minister of Finance) did slay the yearly deficit, making cuts that Mulroney was not willing to make. There was suffering as a result of this, but it was necessary.
3) The Tories have had big surpluses.

These 3 things have something in common - none of them have been in isolation - the all were affected by what happended before them:

1)Mulroney was affected by the increase in spending and debt before him.
2)Chretian was affected by the intro of GST and Free Trade by Mulroney.
3) Harper has been affected by Chretian and Martin's stewardship of the economy in the 90s and early 00s.

So neither side is the devil or a saint.

What does it all mean? the campiagn will matter a lot.

Steve V said...

"Fear and doubt campaign sometimes work"

Didn't work for Martin ;)


Thanks for reminding us all why the NDP should never hold power. Goodness. Hey, why don't you go the bank, borrow 30 grand every year, spend it all on any pet project, good cause, whatever you fancy. Don't worry about paying it back, just pay some interest, keep borrowing more. Do that for ten years, fifteen years, then get back to me, let me know how things are going for ya.

Steve V said...


Points taken. I'm being partisan here, I didn't even vote for Martin last election. That said, you have to give some credit for getting our financial house in order, to my mind that brings you to the Liberals. Maybe not in isolation, but certainly center-stage.

Raphael Alexander said...

Lol, Steve, you don't hold back for anyone, do you?

MarkCh said...

"Didn't work for Martin" - well. it didn't in 2006. 2004 was a different matter.

Anonymous said...


I don't want to talk about the past.

None of this public infrastructure, back to 1993 thing. Run on something more interesting. Why not Agenda 2013? 30/50 goal to end poverty. Social enterprise and community development. Expansion of the distribution of prescription heroin. I am sounding like Koby of Maple Three. Where is he anyway?

Dame said...

Coby fell in Love with Obama ..can't take his eyes of Obama...lolololo Springtime.

Justin Socie said...

Cons: Mulroney spent more than that socialist Trudeau (gasp!). So did Chretien, though he spent less than Mulroney. Harper has outspent them all.