November 30, 2020

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Aaron Wudrick: Chrystia Freeland comes bearing good news

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If all that doesn’t worry you enough, consider Freeland citing journalist Kevin Carmichael’s line that “it’s unfair to saddle the next generation with our debt, but it would be worse to bequeath them a weak economy.”

The unstated assumption, of course, is that the government has either the capacity or wisdom to simply “make” a strong economy to bequeath.

Set aside for a moment whether this is possible in theory. What has the Trudeau government’s track record on this front been in practice? It can’t provide any paperwork for a staggering 20,000 infrastructure projects. Its billion-dollar “innovation superclusters” project is failing to hit every single one of its promised targets. The much-hyped Strategic Innovation Fund was supposed to create 56,000 jobs at a cost of $2.3 billion, but instead produced 11,300.

Which part of this terrible track record should inspire confidence?

Exactly which part of this terrible track record should inspire confidence that when it comes to reshaping an entire economy, they’re going to get it right?

Freeland asserts any and all spending is an unalloyed good, to which any objection can be safely framed as heretical. She suggests a binary choice between a debt-funded sunlit upland and a dystopian hellscape of “austerity.” And she seeks to pre-empt pressure to wind down spending after the pandemic ends by asserting that whatever the government continues to spend will, by definition, be critical to “laying a foundation” for the economy of tomorrow. It is a speech that pledges literally nothing but spending today and spending tomorrow with a vague shrug that someday, maybe, we’ll stop.

The finance minister, a keen student of history, noted that it is a poor general who fights the last war. But if government debt was the enemy in the last war, Freeland is betting on an immensely risky proposition that the former adversary is now a friend. If she’s wrong, Canada will be both weighted down with mounting debt and mired in a struggling economy.

Aaron Wudrick is federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Special to Financial Post


2020-10-31 06:00:47


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