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There was a brief, shining moment when the Liberals were preaching a new era of fiscal discipline† The COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in the largest single peacetime increase to the debt in Canadian history, and it was now time to think about getting the books back into the black. Just before Christmas, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was calculating that the budget was on track to be balanced as early as 2026.
but the new NDP/Liberal agreement effectively blows all of that out of the water† NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh obtained a laundry list of demands in exchange for his party’s support, and virtually all of them come with a multi-billion dollar price tag. A means-tested dental care program – the agreement’s signature plank – has been estimated by the Parliamentary Budget Officer to cost at least $4.3 billion in its first year.
It’s why, according to analysts, one of the most immediate results of the NDP/Liberal deal will be a federal government that is rather comfortable continuing to max out the fiscal credit card† Business leaders contacted by the Financial Post welcomed the prospect of three years without an election, but in the words of one, the agreement “will potentially add billions of dollars to an already unhealthy structural deficit.”
The NDP/Liberal agreement expires in 2025, when federal debt servicing costs were already projected to be as high as $40 billion per year. Not only is that likely to go higher, but Canada is rapidly losing what experts call “fiscal room” should another COVID-like shock hit the economy.
THE LIBERAL/NDP DEAL
Brian Topp was Jack Layton’s right-hand man in 2008, when the NDP had flirted with plans to replace the minority government of Stephen Harper with a coalition. In an op-ed for the Globe and Mail, Topp acknowledged that the junior partners in these types of accords usually get “killed” in the next election. But he hinted that it might be worth the gamble to show Canadians that the federal NDP can actually do stuffrather than just sit in opposition forever.
The Supply and Confidence (the official name of the NDP/Liberal deal) effectively strips power away from all the other opposition parties. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now effectively governing with a majority, he suddenly doesn’t have to worry about whether the Conservatives or the Bloc Québécois vote for his bills† So, naturally, they’re both pretty angry about this. But at least the Green Party is happy; they said the deal exemplifies the “spirit of cooperation.”
And there’s a really cynical theory making the rounds as to why Jagmeet Singh seemed so eager to hitch his party to the Trudeau cart: Parliamentary pensions only kick in after six years of service, so holding up the government until 2025 guarantees that a few NDPers (including Singh) are now set for life even if they lose their seats at the next election† Although, as a high-priced criminal defense lawyer who owns two Rolexes, here’s a guess that Singh isn’t making major political calculations based on whether it will allow him to retire in his 40s.
CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE
The Conservative leadership race is rapidly shaping into an inter-generational battle between Millennial and Baby Boomer, according to Sean Speer, a former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. On the Millennial side, you’ve got a cohort of Conservatives marinated in Milton Friedman YouTube videos and increasingly pissed off by the rising cost of living. On the Boomer side, you’ve got a group much more inclined to just focus on the traditional battles such as the size of government and stopping Quebec from separating (they’re also less likely to swear on social media).
Patrick Brown’s opening salvo in his Conservative leadership bid was to declare that frontrunner Pierre Poilievre once championed a ban on niqabs at citizenship ceremonies, and was thus toxic to immigrant voters. so it’s somewhat awkward that someone found a 2012 newsletter printed by Brown, then a Conservative MP, seeming to tout the anti-niqab measure† Brown said the newsletter was “purely informational.”
Speaking of Brown, huh now has prominent Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner on his team† Aged 42, Garner is just barely a Millennial, and has appeared on more than a few lists of likely Conservative leadership candidates.
IN OTHER NEWS
In the midst of Freedom Convoy’s occupation of Ottawa, one of the most damning accusations leveled at the truckers was that they had tried to burn down a residential building. At the time, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said the arson attempt highlighted “the malicious intent of these protesters occupying our city.” One of the building’s residents told Postmedia at the time that the fire was an act of “terror.” So it’s notable that Ottawa Police have just charged the man allegedly responsible for the attempted arson, and he had nothing to do with the convoy whatsoever†
This isn’t the only accusation leveled at Freedom Convoy that would subsequently turn out to be mere blarney. In recent weeks, CBC has retracted two claims about the protest that originally appeared in its reporting. The first was that it was a likely product of Russian disinformation. The second was that Freedom Convoy’s donations were primarily the product of foreign money. As GoFundMe’s CEO recently told a parliamentary public safety committee, more than 90 per cent of the more than $10 million raised for Freedom Convoy came from Canada.
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