Experts weigh in on Liberal Budget

A Conservative MP has published a compilation of quotes regarding the inaugural Liberal Budget.  Ed Fast is MP for Abbotsford, former Minister of International Trade, and critic for Environment and Climate Change. Follow him on Twitter via @HonEdFast 

List is below.

ed fast on facebook
Via MP Ed Fast’s Facebook page

“For those of you who are interested in the general reaction to the 2016 Budget released on Tuesday, below you will find dozens upon dozens of Canadian stakeholders, experts and journalists who have panned the Budget.”

Jack Mintz, National Post:
Canada’s debt bomb has just gotten a lot bigger, with Tuesday’s budget projecting a deficit of $29.4 billion in 2016-17 and lowering the eligibility for old age security from 67 years of age to 65 again. Once we add on other big-ticket liabilities that we have failed to sock away money to pay for – particularly health care, long-term care and other age-related expenditures – Canada is nearly exploding in debt. (NationalPost.com, March 22, 2016)

David Reevely, Ottawa Citzen:
“Canada under Justin Trudeau is going to look a lot like Ontario under Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.” (OttawaCitizen.com, March 22, 2016; http://ottawacitizen.com/…/reevely-trudeau-takes-ontario-li…)

Canadian Federation of Independent Business
“In its platform, in a written letter to CFIB members, and in campaign stops across the country, the new government promised to reduce the small business corporate tax rate to nine per cent by 2019. That promise was broken today as it announced the rate will remain at 10.5 per cent after 2016,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB president. This decision will cost small firms over $900 million more per year as of 2019.

Canadian Press:
“Losers: Small businesses. The government will not proceed with reductions in the small business tax rate promised in the last Conservative budget. They would have dropped the rate from 11 per cent to nine per cent on the first $500,000 of qualifying income as of Jan. 1, 2019. Instead, the rate will fall to 10.5 per cent, and future cuts are being deferred.
Losers: National Defence. Billions in planned equipment spending is pushed off past the next election.
Losers: Tax breaks. The budget undoes some of the former Conservative government’s targeted tax breaks, including tax credits for tuition and textbooks and children’s fitness and arts costs and income-splitting for families with children.” (March 22, 2016; https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/…/winners-losers-emerge-first-…)

Mary Webb, senior economist at Scotiabank
Over the last three years, federal spending was held to an average 0.4 per cent increase per year, said Mary Webb, senior economist at Scotiabank. The next three years show average increases of 6.3 per cent. “How do you close this gap here?” Webb wondered, short of tax increases or sharp cuts down the road. (Canadian Press, March 22, 2016)

Dan Kelly, CFIB:
“Brutal ‪#‎Budget2016‬ for small biz. Election promises to cut small biz rate & Youth Hiring Credit broken.” (Twitter.com, March 22, 2016; https://twitter.com/CFIB/status/712372260137349120)

Canadian Federation of Independent Business
“Small business owners across the country are deeply troubled by the ballooning deficit. What was proposed to Canadians as a short-term $10-billion deficit plan to invest in critical infrastructure is now $29 billion with no plan to get back to balance,” Kelly said. Most of the deficit is to cover a massive 7.6 per cent increase in program spending, which will do next to nothing to grow the economy. “Small business owners know that today’s deficits are tomorrow’s taxes,” added Kelly.

Rob Roach, ATB Financial:
“The federal deficit for 2016/17 translates into roughly $840 for every Canadian – ouch. #Budget2016” (Twitter.com, March 22, 2016; https://twitter.com/Roachonomics/status/712386537439100928)

Canadian Federation of Independent Business
It appears the government has broken a promise to introduce an Employment Insurance holiday for employers hiring youth between ages 18 and 24 in 2016, 2017 and 2018. “CFIB applauded the Liberals when they announced this measure, and we are deeply disappointed that they have abandoned this commitment,” Kelly said.

Lindsay Tedds, University of Victoria:
“So @CanRevAgency seems to be getting more money for business as usual and nothing seemingly innovative or game changing #budget2016” (Twitter.com, March 22, 2016; https://twitter.com/LindsayTedds/status/712374515792084992)

Andrew Coyne:
“This is a budget from the 1970s to address the problems of the 1980s.” (CBC News Network, March 22, 2016)

Dan Kelly, CFIB:
“Most of the $29.4 B deficit in #Budget2016 has nothing to do w infrastructure. It covers a massive 7.6% increase in program spending.” (Twitter.com, March 22, 2016; https://twitter.com/CFIB/status/712375114847879172)

Paul Wells, Macleans:
“Never mind the $29.4-billion deficit Bill Morneau predicts for this year; what’s daunting is the $17.8-billion deficit he projects for 2019-20, the next election year. No wonder the word “deficit” does not appear at any point in Morneau’s budget speech. It’s hard to know how to say some things.” (Macleans.ca, March 22, 2016; http://www.macleans.ca/pol…/ottawa/sunny-ways-half-measures/)

David Perry, Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
“I think if I was National Defence, I would hope you’d already have the money in the bank, instead of having to rely on a promise of some year, some time in the future they’ll be able to acquire this stuff.” (Canadian Press, March 22, 2016; http://www.nationalnewswatch.com/…/military-equipment-pur…/…)

John Ivison, National Post:
“What we are seeing is the creation of a long-term structural deficit, not temporary cyclical investments.” (NationalPost.com, March 22, 2016)

John Geddes, Macleans:
“If Canadians who voted Liberal last fall expected to feel more prosperous fast, they are liable to be disappointed.” (Macleans.ca, March 22, 2016; http://www.macleans.ca/…/is-trudeaus-honeymoon-over-the-bu…/)

Paul Wells, Macleans:
“I believe this budget paves the way for an eventual GST increase.” (Macleans.ca, March 22, 2016; http://www.macleans.ca/pol…/ottawa/sunny-ways-half-measures/)

John Ivison, National Post:
“But overall this budget is a broken pipeline of federal tax dollars, gushing money to numerous pet Liberal causes.” (NationalPost.com, March 22, 2016)

Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail:
“The first pages of the Liberals’ first federal budget are about hope and the “promise of progress.” The next 20 are pretty grim.” (Globeandmail.com, March 22, 2016)

Dan Kelly, CFIB:
“The Liberal government has frozen the small business tax rate, despite an election promise to reduce it over the next three years. In the budget Tuesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau indicated the tax rate on businesses earning less than $500,000 a year will remain at 10.5 per cent. That’s still lower than the 11-per-cent general corporate rate but Ottawa will cancel a legislated reduction to 9 per cent, adopted by the former Conservative government. “It’s a big fat broken promise,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. “It’s quite shocking this happened; I had no sense it was at risk.” (Globeandmail.com, March 22, 2016)

Tim Harper, Toronto Star:
“Welcome to the era of deficits and dreams. Some of the dreams are deferred, but the deficits seem cast in stone.” (TheStar.com, March 22, 2016; http://www.thestar.com/…/the-liberals-have-a-lot-of-politic…)

Halifax Chamber of Commerce:
“Bad: no tax relief for small biz beyond new rate at 10.5%, not what Canadians were promised; 80% of our members small businesses #Budget2016” (Twitter.com, March 22, 2016; https://twitter.com/halifaxchamber/status/712389178236006400)

Halifax Chamber of Commerce:
“And the ugly: running chronic deficits with no plan to balance the budget has proven to be bad news for Canada’s economy #Budget2016” (Twitter.com, March 22, 2016; https://twitter.com/halifaxchamber/status/712389565210877954)

Ottawa Citizen Editorial:
“It is also, perhaps, what comes of being prepared to run a deficit of almost $30 billion: You believe that government is so wise it can not only kick-start the economy, but also micromanage it. The Liberals, committed as they are to greenhouse gas reductions, are picking “winners” rather than simply providing broad incentives for change to industry and consumers (such as cap-and-trade regimes or carbon taxes). We doubt the wisdom of their approach, particularly in light of the overall numbers. After all, the budget projects a shortfall for the coming fiscal year at $29.4 billion. (The fact that the finance minister telegraphed it weeks ago doesn’t make it any smaller.) The year after, the deficit will be another $29 billion. Things improve only slowly, even though Finance Minister Bill Morneau assured Canadians on Tuesday that “The government remains committed to returning to balanced budgets, and will do so in a responsible, realistic and transparent way.” (OttawaCitizen.com, March 22, 2016)

Kevin Page, former Parliamentary Budget Officer
Beyond the missing definitions and plans, there is also no roadmap to get back to balance. It is never a good idea to give governments an unlimited long leash to run deficits. Without fiscal rules or targets on spending or debt, there is little to hold them back. Furthermore, presenting a fiscal plan with lots of new ongoing spending makes these deficits look more structural (i.e. lasting) than cyclical (i.e. short-lived) over the medium term. This raises concerns that the new, higher federal deficits will create sustainability issues, reflected in rising debt-to-GDP over the long term, as Canada undergoes an aging demographic adjustment over the next two decades.
Budgets are fiscal plans. A fiscal plan without a strategy to get back to balance and without sustainability analysis is not responsible or prudent. In this budget, we are deficit-financing tax cuts, spending increases for families, First Nations and veterans. We are passing higher debt onto future generations. Persistent deficits over the medium term highlight the need for tax increases. Stay tuned. (http://ipolitics.ca/…/the-big-short-big-policy-initiatives…/)

Jean-Francois Perrault, Scotiabank:
Experts, however, were skeptical that Ottawa’s plan to stimulate the economy will have the desired effect. “It looks like a bit of a stretch,” said Jean-Francois Perrault, Scotiabank’s chief economist and a former senior Finance Department official under Morneau. (Canadian Press, March 22, 2016; http://www.montrealgazette.com/…/expert…/11802068/story.html)

Craig Alexander, C.D. Howe Institute:
Craig Alexander of the C.D. Howe Institute think tank, said he believes the government investments in areas like infrastructure will help the economy — but probably not as much as Ottawa expects. He expects the investments to only boost real GDP growth over the next two years by about 0.2 or 0.3 per cent. “The real problem is the fact that the government doesn’t have the money to pay for all the new initiatives, so they’re actually projecting a significant deficit and a deficit that’s going to persist through their entire term in office,” said Alexander. (Canadian Press, March 22, 2016; http://www.montrealgazette.com/…/expert…/11802068/story.html)

Alexandre Laurin , Director of Research, C.D. Howe Institute
If interest rates rise substantially, debt charges would escalate rapidly, making the debt situation worse. We’ve seen this story before in the mid-1990s, when out-of-control deficits and an impending sovereign debt crisis led to painful spending cuts and tax increases. The government is wrong to make the return to budget balance conditional on strong economic growth. Population aging is already taking its toll on long-term projections, and too many unforeseen events can derail the fiscal path. Only tight fiscal discipline can balance the budget within a reasonable timeframe, protecting Canadians’ standards of living from future large tax increases and cuts to government services. (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/ale…/budget-2016_b_9525366.html)

Alan Freeman, iPolitics:
But as a document meant to set out a clear roadmap for the federal government’s spending plans over the next five years — and the country’s future economic prospects — it gets a failing grade. (iPolitics.ca, March 22, 2016; http://ipolitics.ca/…/the-budgets-politically-bulletproof-…/)

Jason Kirby, Macleans:
The move toward a government-led economy was evident in Morneau’s speech in another interesting way. The word “government” warranted nearly 40 mentions in the 13-page speech, compared to just six mentions of “business”—an almost complete reversal from former finance minister Joe Oliver’s final budget speech. (Macleans.ca, March 22, 2016; http://www.macleans.ca/…/welcome-back-to-the-age-of-big-go…/)

Jason Kirby, Macleans:
In fact, the only area where the Liberals are reeling in the size of government is in the realm of defence. The budget revealed the government is pushing back spending on new defence hardware to save themselves a whopping $1.32 billion in savings in 2017-18. (Macleans.ca, March 22, 2016; http://www.macleans.ca/…/welcome-back-to-the-age-of-big-go…/)

Fraser Institute:
The consequence of this fiscal plan will be heightened uncertainty for entrepreneurs, investors and businesses. Sustained government borrowing increases the risk of tax hikes in the future, dampening the viability of current investment while endangering our future prosperity. Under these conditions, business and entrepreneurs will increasingly stay on the sideline or decide to invest in other jurisdictions with more predictable business environments. (Fraser Institute, March 22, 2016; https://www.fraserinstitute.org/…/budget-2016-liberals-high…)

Fraser Institute:
In advance of the budget, the Liberals were right to emphasize the need for policies that promote long-term economic growth. Unfortunately, today’s budget shows a clear gap between the policies they are pursuing and their rhetoric about fostering long-term economic growth. (Fraser Institute, March 22, 2016; https://www.fraserinstitute.org/…/budget-2016-liberals-high…)

Aaron Gunn, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
There can be no equivocation. Trudeau’s first budget is an absolute disaster for future generations & thus for Canada. ‪#‎cdnpoli‬ #Budget2016 (Twitter, https://twitter.com/AaronGunn/status/712381343200583680)

Kevin Libin, National Post:
“But at this rate of deficit and debt accumulation, it can only be a matter of time before the Liberals tax and spend all of us, the rich and middle class inclusively, into equal levels of misery.” (Financial Post, March 23, 2016)

Mike Bradshaw, NWT Chamber of Commerce:
“Our biggest concern is who the hell’s going to pay the bill? $29 billion [deficit] this year, and $100 billion [deficit] over the term of this government’s office. That’s a lot. In this day and age when we’re all belt-tightening, I think we could have taken a sharper focus on where to put our investments in order to improve the economy for the long term, not just for today or tomorrow.” (CBC.ca, March 23, 2016)

Sahir Khan, ex-PBO:
Truth be told, says Sahir Khan, a budget specialist formerly with the watchdog Parliamentary Budget Office, the government is not giving money to people based on the economic quintile they occupy. The Liberals are giving money to people who vote for the Liberals. (CBC.ca, March 23, 2016; http://www.cbc.ca/…/budget-middle-class-neil-macdonald-1.35…)

Winnipeg Free Press Editorial:
Most notably, this budget means repeat, sizable deficits, a real turn in the road for Canada. (Winnipeg Free Press, March 23, 2016)

Doug Porter, BMO:
“Red is the new black,” quipped Doug Porter, BMO Capital Markets chief economist. (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2016)

Ottawa Sun editorial
But after looking at the numbers, we think they should have named it “A Bad Day for Taxpayers”. Indeed, “a nightmare scenario for taxpayers,” as Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said Tuesday following the budget’s release. We’ll second that. During last year’s election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’d grow the economy “from the heart outwards”. (Ottawa Sun, March 23, 2016)

David Perry, Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
“This budget reminds me of that episode of Oprah where everybody in the audience got a car,” said David Perry, senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “Everyone got a car here except the Department of Defence and the money it was supposed to get to buy a car has been shifted out to 2020 and beyond.” (Globe and Mail, March 23, 2016)

Calgary Herald Editorial
It was one thing to argue during the election that there is a need to stimulate the economy; it’s quite another thing to brush common sense aside and disregard the fact this money will have to be paid back by tomorrow’s taxpayers – “our children’s children,” in the words of the spendthrift finance minister. (Calgary Herald, March 23, 2016)

John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail:
“Bill Morneau’s polarizing first budget launches the federal government on a bold new social-engineering experiment financed by deficits that stretch beyond the far horizon.” (Globe and Mail, March 23, 2016)

Lorne Gunter
So, in effect, the Trudeau government is paying for most of the goodies it is doling out to the middle class, not with taxes on the One Percent (there simply aren’t enough “rich” in Canada to cover Liberal largesse), but with borrowed money. And that borrowed money is going to have to be paid back in the future with taxes on the middle class – or more likely the children of today’s middle class. (Edmonton Sun, March 23, 2016)

Stephen Gordon, Universite Laval:
Kind of surprised and perhaps disappointed that there’s no time line to get out of deficit. We knew they were going to go in and the platform said go in, spend, spend a little bit and we stop spending and we go back out again. Here we have go in, pretty darn deep, and now the way of getting out is, when growth comes back to what we think is good, they don’t specify that and we’ll see, I guess. (CBC Power and Politics, March 22, 2016)

Canadian Chamber of Commerce:
“We are disappointed with the government’s decision to push back the small business tax reduction and questions the idea of contemplating increases to CPP at this point. As businesses struggle, this added pressure could slow down job creation and investment.” (http://www.chamber.ca/…/bl…/160322-a-budget-spread-too-thin/)

Bill Curry and Bob Fife, Globe and Mail:
“But the Finance Minister now faces concern that he’s plunging Ottawa into deep deficits – $29.4-billion in the first full year – without a clear plan to return to surplus.” (Globe and Mail, March 23, 2016)

Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail:
“Long gone was the Liberal promise to balance the budget in four years.” (Globe and Mail, March 23, 2016)

Toronto Sun Editorial:
During last year’s election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’d grow the economy “from the heart outwards”. It now’s clear he meant he was going to try to grow it by turning our pockets inside out. Because we know full well where the money to pay for his staggering deficits is going to come from – our wallets in the near future and those of our children in years to come. (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2016)

David Akin:
Canada’s back all right. Back into the red. (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2016)

Chuck Davidson, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce:
“It’s a bit of a concern there doesn’t seem to be a long-term plan in terms of getting us back to a balanced budget,” he said.” (CBC.ca, March 22, 2016; http://www.cbc.ca/…/manitoba-stakeholders-react-to-liberal-…)

Anthony Furey
Here’s another major pledge they’ve broken: “After the next two fiscal years,” the Liberal platform reads, “the deficit will decline and our investment plan will return Canada to a balanced budget in 2019.” They actually said they’d ring in a $1 billion surplus that year. Instead the budget puts us a further $17.7 billion in the hole. (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2016)

Anthony Furey, Toronto Sun:
Two years ago Trudeau notoriously said that if you commit to growing the economy “the budget will balance itself.” Well Tuesday’s budget was his first shot at turning this theory into practice. And he failed. (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2016)

Kevin Page:
“No fiscal targets. No plan for fiscal consolidation,” Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, said shaking his head. (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2016)

Mike Moffatt, Western University:
It wasn’t clear to me how they were going to balance within four years. And it turns out the answer is they’re not. They’re not going to. (CBC Power and Politics, March 22, 2016)

Anthony Furey, Toronto Sun:
You call this sunny ways? Multiple broken promises and a whopping increase to the debt? Yikes. If what was released Tuesday is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s happy feel-good budget, I really hope he never subjects us to the dark-skies version. (Toronto Sun, March 23, 2016)

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An indefinite deficit: federal Budget ignores Pontiac, QC

The recently issued federal Budget promises an excessive amount of new spending, with very little to show for Pontiac, QC.

Liberals have confirmed that they are borrowing $30 billion dollars in this year alone, with the majority of funds not to be spent right away on roads, highways or public transportation. Rather, we are being given long-term structural deficits through massive hikes in program spending that will not grow the economy.

Borrowed money has to be paid back. Tax credits are already being scrapped, with more increases to come as debt interest payments pile up. Over 5 years, the Liberal deficit total will hit $100 billion, and there is no timeline whatsoever in the Budget document for us to be back in a surplus position. Essentially, we are facing an indefinite deficit, after Finance Canada showed a budgetary surplus of $4.3 billion from April 2015 to January 2016.

2016FedBud-01-Deficits_projected
No timeline is offered for a return to a balanced budget – image obtained here

Concerning Pontiac families, the Liberals are ending the Children`s Fitness Tax Credit (hockey is now more expensive); the Children`s Art Tax Credit (artistic/music classes are now more expensive) and also eliminated are tax credits for post-secondary education & textbooks. Income splitting for parents is also gone.

Pontiac small businesses were forgotten as well, as the Liberals are keeping the small businesses tax rate at 10.5% instead of lowering it to the scheduled 9% – a scheduled policy that had near unanimous support from all political parties. The Liberals are also ending the small business hiring credit. These items entail that the largest group of employers in the region are going to have less money to generate growth here, and that is a travesty for jobs.

Few, if any, pre-budget consultations were done by the local Liberal MP for Budget 2016, and that is clearly reflected with what we ended up with. Disappointingly, Pontiac is paying far too much for what we’re getting, and we’ll be paying for it for a long time.

Dithering amongst the NDP, and the Liberals couldn’t be happier

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The media storm these days is predicting a rough time ahead for NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Mulcair is facing a leadership review next month, from a party that for a time under his tenure was considered the front-runner to form Government in the 2015 federal election.

The NDP fell far short of that mark, dropping a substantial amount of seats, and finding themselves with a substantially smaller budget as the third party in the House of Commons.

These days nobody seems to remember Mulcair’s rapier-like wit on display in the House of Commons during Question Period, or his bravado and success in making the NDP one of the strongest official oppositions in years. The NDP as a whole, being regulated to third party status, has had a difficult time obtaining any media spotlight that isn’t focused on Mulcair’s slowly eroding power. Mulcair does appear committed to continuing on as the NDP’s top dog, and earning the extra $56 800 he receives as leader, on top of his MP salary.

Given the fall of the NDP in the last election, most supporters would be forgiven about wondering if Mulcair will be the right man for the NDP in October of 2019. Mulcair helped take the traditionally leftist NDP, and move it to the center of the political spectrum, speaking to the merits of balanced budgets and lowered taxes for small businesses. If the NDP are to about-face and return to their leftist roots (as it seems they are doing), the Mulcair sell is a difficult one.

However, the Mulcair leadership quagmire is bizarre in that no other credible alternative appears to exist to replace him. There are no names put forward from within the NDP to challenge Mulcair’s position, and even most of the pundit circuit has been slow to offer any alternatives.

Several members of his caucus have come out to support him, while others have only gone so negative as to not offer an outright endorsement of him staying on. Those taking the most issue with Mulcair remaining leader appear to be the grassroots of the NDP; some of whom argue that the NDP’s turn to the center in the last election betrayed the party’s raison d’être.

The recent election was a disappointing turn for the NDP, but this dithering form of infighting is going to be just as detrimental for the party’s future. My prediction? Mulcair will almost certainly survive his leadership test, but enough damage has already been done to take the lustre off of his reign. Between a disappointing election result, and a lack of enthusiasm amongst the grassroots, the NDP almost appears to be in a position of stasis; poised to make no progress until somebody credible presents themselves that can take them in a different (traditional?) direction.

If Mulcair stays on as leader until the next election, it’s likely he will continue pushing many of his supporters to the Liberal Party until the NDP is able to reset itself. Indeed, some opinion polls still have the Liberals dominating public support mainly at the expense of the NDP.  The NDP have potentially created a storm that will set their party back 4 years; a depressing concept given that they still remain reasonably competitive even after the last election. The Liberal Party now has additional time to tighten their stranglehold on the NDP votes they scooped up in the last election, and are also buoyed by the fact that the rest of the opposition parties are also facing some leadership questions of their own.

The Green Party is beginning to murmur about the leadership of Elizabeth May, though it appears that a discussion on replacing her hasn’t gotten very far. The Bloc Québécois is minus Gilles Duceppe after his defeat in last October’s election. MP Rhéal Fortin is the Bloc’s interim leader, but information is scant on what the party intends to do for the future.

The Conservatives are currently well-served by an interim leader in Rona Ambrose, and have a leadership race ongoing with no “officially” declared candidates. However, the Conservative’s push to win government once again won’t be given serious consideration by the Canadian population until a permanent leader is in place – whomever that might be. That’s not to say that Ambrose isn’t up to the job – in fact, some commentators are reporting that a draft Rona movement might be in the best interest of the party given he performance thus far. Until the leadership is finalized, the Liberals have mor eleeway than they normally would.

Stable leadership from all parties will be a factor in blunting the Liberal ascent, but prior to that the Opposition parties all have an ace in the hole – Budget Day is just around the corner, and budgets are a feast for ravenous politicos.  All signs indicate that massive deficits will be on the menu, and this could be a meal that turns the stomachs of many, away from Resto Liberal. Stay tuned.

 

 

Veterans react to Liberal funding cuts – UPDATED

The Liberal Government has cancelled a program that helps communities build monuments to Canadian Veterans. Administered by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), the Community War Memorial Program (CWMP) provided up to $50 000 dollars for local cenotaphs or monuments, and now appears to be no more.

Journalist Lee Berthiaume originally reported on this last week.

I decided to contact several groups and people in the Veteran community for their reactions to the revelations in Berthiaume’s article. With TD Bank recently forecasting Liberal deficits of up to 150 billion dollars, and recent revelations that the Government has significantly increased funding for MP offices, many I spoke to questioned why this program to commemorate Veterans didn’t measure up to other spending planned by the Liberals.

I asked the good folks at VAC for some clarity surrounding the fate of this program, and it’s uptake over the past 5 years. but haven’t received a response as of yet. I’ll update this piece when I do receive.

VAC provided me with the following info on the amount of yearly applications received:

2010/11 - 13
 
2011/12 - 48
 
2012-13 - 24
 
2013/14 - 26
 
2014/15 - 0 *
 
2015/16 - 17
 
* Given that the program was originally scheduled to sunset in March 
2015, it was closed to applications in October 2013 to ensure the 
Department could disperse all remaining funds to projects already 
committed.

As you can see, well over a hundred applications have been received for the program over the years; an indicator that there is consistent interest from our communities in commemoration. While there is healthy interest in the program, its footnote is fairly small, prompting questions as to why it’s not being renewed or taking precedence over other Liberal spending decisions.

VAC’s website states: “With help from the Community War Memorial Program, communities and organizations across Canada built cenotaphs/monuments or major additions to existing ones, that promote and preserve the memory of all those who have served Canada since 1867.” VAC also confirmed to me in their email that the program is “due to close March 31, 2016″and no mention was made of its renewal. The end result is that communities will now be required to look elsewhere for funding for their monuments.

cwmp

During Question Period yesterday on March 7, the Conservative Party highlighted the importance of the VAC file to their caucus, by kicking off leader’s round with Rona Ambrose taking Liberal Veteran Affairs Minister Kent Hehr to task over the cutting of the program.

But that’s not all. In addition to community memorials, several national monuments to Canadian soldiers are also rumoured to be on the Liberal chopping block – these include a monument to soldiers who served in Afghanistan, and a monument to commemorate Canadian soldiers who have received the Victoria Cross. Ambrose also highlighted the mystery status of these monuments in QP.

She was joined in her efforts by Conservative MP (and VAC critic) Alupa Clarke, MP James Bezan, and MP Pierre Paul-Hus – all three peppered Hehr with questions in the House over the status of the Afghanistan and Victoria Cross memorials. Both monuments were given the go-ahead by the previous Conservative government.

Former VAC Minister Erin O’Toole also spoke out on these issues, along with his former cabinet colleague Pierre Poilievre.

In the face of mounting pressure, Hehr appears to be backing away from the alleged cancelling of the Afghanistan Monument, stating in Question Period Monday that “Veterans Affairs is working closely with Canadian Heritage to advance this initiative. More information regarding the project will be available in the coming months.” No mention was made by Hehr as to the possibility of re-instating the CWMP, or if a monument to Victoria Cross recipients is still a possibility.

Several in the Veteran community appear to be behind the creation of an Afghanistan memorial. Deanna Fimrite, Dominion Secretary-Treasurer of Canada’s oldest Veteran group, the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans Association (ANAVETS) provided me with a detailed response to my questions concerning the current situation.

“In regards to the Afghanistan Memorial, ANAVETS strongly supports its creation. Afghanistan was the longest war in our country’s history albeit with our fewest casualties and should be commemorated with its own memorial.” ANAVETS also indicated their support of a limited Victoria Cross memorial.

The group took a firm line on the loss of the CWMP. “We are disappointed in the non-renewal of the Community War Memorials Program (CWMP). The amount of money that has been spent on it to date is minimal but it has great significance to the communities that have identified the need to commemorate the sacrifice of their citizens where no monument currently exists.”

While supportive of all three commemorative items, Fimrite was also quick to point out that they would like to see additional funds “channeled directly to fund the necessary enhancements to Veterans benefits, services and transitional support”.

Bruce Poulin, comms contact with the The Royal Canadian Legion (Canada’s largest Veterans group) stated with regards to the Afghanistan and Memorial Cross monuments that “Dominion Command continues to work with other Veterans organizations and (the) federal Government on various initiatives related to commemoration.”

A colleague of mine, Canadian Armed Forces Veteran Ron Cundell, pulled no punches when questioned about the revelations of the Berthiaume article. “Guess when it comes to veterans it’s not “sunny ways” it’s “cloudy with a chance of rain.” Though it’s early I’m very interested to see how the vet community reacts to this disrespect. ”

With a Liberal Budget tabled for March 22nd, it’s very likely Cundell will see an ever growing reaction from the Vet community. The Budget should bring additional clarity to the muddy waters of the commemoration file, likely prompting a stronger response (positive or negative)  towards Hehr and co.

If you’d like to tell the Minister Hehr how you feel about the loss of the CWMP, or about the uncertainty of other memorials, his contact information is below.

In Writing

The Honourable Kent Hehr
Veterans Affairs Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P4

Email

 minister_ministre@vac-acc.gc.ca

 

 

 

The Ontario PC hospitality notebook

For the second weekend in a row Ottawa has been descended upon by conservative-minded individuals discussing policy and election tactics. This time Ottawa is hosting those who make up the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario for their annual general meeting.

Even though the 42nd Ontario election isn’t set to kickoff until 2018, the PC machine is already revving its engine. The amount of candidates vying for elected positions within the party, combined with an impressive member turnout (1500 or so), are clear indicators that the PCs are in a healthy place. This party will be the one to watch in the upcoming campaign, which will feature open nominations for PC candidates starting next year.

At first glance, the party appears to have gotten much younger. Perhaps inspired by the energy of newly minted leader Patrick Brown, a youth movement was on full display yesterday with an impressive amount of event patrons (seemingly) under the age of 30.

As part of a re-branding process, the PC party also unveiled a new logo.

pcpo-logo.jpg.size_.xxlarge.letterbox

As the party is openly looking to expand to voting blocks that may not normally vote conservative, the green leaf we see in the center is no accident. Given the difficulties plaguing the Ontario Liberal government, all votes may be on the table in Ontario’s next election if Brown can make even small inroads into traditional Liberal voting demographics. Inclusiveness is going to be necessary for the PCs as they compete with a provincial Liberal government marred by scandal, but well entrenched organizationally.

Political advocacy was also on display last night at the many hospitality events held across the city. A campaign has been launched to encourage the Ontario PC Party to adopt policies in favour of an open retail market for wine, beer and spirits.  The “Free My Booze” campaign ultimately seeks to end retail monopolies on all alcohol in Ontario. In a media release issued prior to the AGM, spokesman Grant Dingwall stated “This isn’t about moving from one special interest group – the big brewers – and moving it to another, like the big grocers or the convenience store association. This is about an open market.” You can check out the campaign at http://www.FreeMyBooze.ca

IMG_20160305_154716

On the federal side, (potential) CPC leadership candidate Maxime Bernier was also making round at the events of last night. This marks the second weekend in a row that Bernier has been present at a major gathering of conservative minded voters.

The Ontario PC convention continues today through to Sunday.

 

 

 

The Deficit Rag

Here’s a classic tune from The Simpsons, in honour of the reported $150 billion in Trudeau deficits projected by TD Bank:

“The Deficit Rag”

deficit

Singer: Harry Shearer
Writer(s): Alf Clausen & George Meyer
Appearance: “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington”

Lyrics: “The deficit rag, oh yes the deficit rag! Those budget gaps can be a 12-digit drag! I’m telling you, that’s the deficit, they really made a mess of it, that’s the deficit ra-a-ag!”

Deficit woes: Ahoy Liberals, that sinking feeling is the Canadian economy taking on water

TD Bank forecast today that Trudeau deficits could hit hit a whopping 150 billion dollars over 5 years, causing a double-take reaction from the financial community. In the 2015 election campaign the Trudeau Liberals had originally promised “modest” deficits of 10 billion dollars a year over 3 years. This promise, like so many others, appears to now be a mere afterthought.

In the face of criticism over increased spending with slowing economic growth, the Liberal argument spun by Finance Minister Bill Morneau et al. is that “a less ambitious government might see these conditions as a reason to hide, to make cuts or to be overly cautious.”

In reality, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister seemingly appear to be unable to say “no” to any interest group with their hand out.

The Canadian economy is not growing as quickly as we would like it to, and there are many challenges facing our resource sector. There is a case to be made for spending money as a means to stimulate the economy – the previous administration took on significant amounts of debt as a means to combat the global economic crisis we faced in 2008. However, this is 2016 and global conditions are not what they were in 2008, and Liberal spending is not expected to generate enough growth to pay for itself.

Journalist David Akin reported that the spending done by the Trudeau Liberals in their first 100 days in office was not only greater than what was spent by the previous Government, but that the bulk of Liberal checks handed out were for projects outside of Canada.

akin

It remains to be seen how this outside spending will assist Canadians trying to make ends meet. Excessive spending that doesn’t help stimulate our economy will only snowball our ever increasing national debt – interest rates are at a low point today, but these rates will eventually increase, making the debt mountain grow ever higher and more expensive. The Government needs to show some restraint and realize that spending money for the sake of spending money doesn’t always generate growth in the economy. Excessive spending points to eventual Liberal tax increases as a means to increase revenue – a death sentence for Canadian wallets everywhere.

Even future spending within Canada appears as if it will be disproportionate beneficial to some and not others. Much of the infrastructure spending chatter touted by the Liberals seems to have a focus on Canada’s urban centers. Little has been mentioned for rural Canada, and areas like Pontiac (QC) appear to be left out in the cold for now.

The Liberal decision to continue moving forward with unrestrained spending in the face of shrinking revenue has already made many Canadians uneasy. Patience and restraint are virtues that are often in short supply when Governments are flying high in the polls, as this one is. With financial challenges mounting, these virtues are needed more than ever. Otherwise, taxpayers are apt to be swept overboard for a generation.

Morneau quote obtained here:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/morneau-deficit-wherry-1.3459194