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Economy

Federal government’s fiscal plan raises red flags

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5 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Jason Clemens, Jake Fuss and Grady Munro

The Trudeau government recently released its fiscal update, which provides revised estimates of spending, taxing and borrowing. A careful examination of the update raises several red flags about the state of Canada’s national finances.

First, some analyses raised concerns about the state of federal borrowing, which are well founded. While the government downplays the level of potential borrowing over the six years covered in the fiscal update, the projected deficit—that is, the amount of spending in a specific year in excess of the amount of revenues—will reach $40.0 billion this year (2023-24) and $38.4 billion next year. However, the estimate for next year does not include the national pharmacare plan that the Trudeau government has agreed to as part of its governing agreement with the NDP.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) estimated that a national pharmacare plan modelled on the Quebec system would cost $11.2 billion in 2024-25 (the provinces would likely cover some of this). The 2019 report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, better known as the Hoskins Commission, estimated that a national pharmacare program would cost $15.3 billion in 2027.

Consequently, if the government introduces national pharmacare next year, without any offsetting reduction in other spending and/or meaningful tax increases, the deficit for 2024-25 would reach $49.6 billion, not the reported $38.4 billion. The higher borrowing needed to finance pharmacare continues each and every year, meaning that the overall level of federal debt would also increase.

A second red flag, which the fiscal update ignored, relates to Canada meeting its international commitment for defence spending. Canada is a party to the NATO agreement calling on member countries to spend 2.0 per cent of GDP on national defence. In 2022, Canada spent just 1.3 per cent of GDP on defence. According to the PBO, for the federal government to meet its NATO spending obligations next year (2024-25), it must spend an additional $14.5 billion. That means annual borrowing could be as high as $64.1 billion if both additional defence and pharmacare spending were financed entirely by new borrowing.

And there are legitimate reasons to believe the government would not raise taxes to finance a new pharmacare program. According to polling data in 2022, 79 per cent of survey respondents supported a new national pharmacare program—but support plummeted to just 40 per cent when the new hypothetical program was financed by higher taxes, specifically a higher GST.

That brings us to the third red flag. The total national debt will reach a projected $2.1 trillion next year (excluding the additional potential spending and borrowing noted on pharmacare and defence) and the interest costs on that debt are expected to reach $52.4 billion. For reference, the total national debt stood at $1.1 trillion in 2015-16 when the Trudeau Liberals took office.

By 2028-29, the last year included in the fiscal update, the federal government expects interest costs to reach $60.7 billion. That’s only slightly less than total planned health-care spending by Ottawa for the same year ($62.9 billion). And this is actually a conservative estimate since it excludes potential higher borrowing for programs such as pharmacare and thus higher debt levels. It also ignores any possibility of a downgrading in the ratings for Canada’s debt, which would result in higher interest costs. And it ignores the risk of an economic slowdown or recession that would further increase borrowing and ultimately debt interest costs.

While the federal government, particularly the prime minister and his finance minister, continue to describe their stewardship of federal finances as prudent and responsible, close examination of their fiscal update reveals that federal finances may soon deteriorate from their already worrying position.

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Economy

Taxpayer watchdog slams Trudeau gov’t for increasing debt ceiling: ‘Put down the credit card’

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland authorized an additional $73 billion in borrowing this fiscal year.

After Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland gave herself and the government the authority to borrow an additional $73 billion this fiscal year, the head of the nation’s leading taxpayer watchdog group said the federal government needs to “put down the credit card” and return to common-sense spending.

Freeland, as per a February 15 cabinet order made under the Financial Administration Act, allowed the extra borrowing to take place.

The government has set “$517 billion to be the maximum aggregate principal amount of money that may be borrowed” before April 1. Before this cabinet order, however, the maximum amount was $444 billion.

Despite Freeland claiming that the increase in borrowing is “in no way a blank cheque,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano said the borrowing needs to end.

“The Trudeau government needs to put down the credit card and pick up some scissors,” Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews.

“The government should be cutting spending and balancing the budget, not racking up more debt for years to come.”

In 2021, Canada’s Parliament raised the federal debt borrowing amount by a whopping 56% under the Borrowing Authority Act. The amount went from $1.168 trillion to $1.831 trillion.

“What it does is set a ceiling for how much the government can spend,” Freeland said at the time.

Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews that the Trudeau government should be cutting spending and balancing the budget, not racking up more debt for years to come.

Terrazzano observed that in the coming year the Trudeau government will be spending “more money on debt interest charges than it sends to the provinces in health transfers.”

“In a handful of years, every penny collected from the GST (Goods and Service Tax) will go toward paying interest on the debt,” he noted.

Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, due to excessive COVID money printing, inflation has skyrocketed.

Last month, LifeSiteNews reported that fast-rising food costs in Canada have led to many people feeling a sense of “hopelessness and desperation” with nowhere to turn for help, according to the Canadian government’s own National Advisory Council on Poverty.

Last year, the Bank of Canada acknowledged that Trudeau’s federal “climate change” programs, which have been deemed “extreme” by some provincial leaders, are indeed helping to fuel inflation.

Terrazzano told LifeSiteNews that Trudeau should “completely scrap his carbon tax,” which is making everything more expensive.

Conservatives blast increased debt

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MPs have been critical of the raised debt ceiling. “You’re simply saying, ‘Give me a blank cheque and then trust me,’” MP Ed Fast said.

Freeland claimed that the “characterization of the borrowing authority limit as a blank cheque is simply false.”

CPC leader Pierre Poilievre recently asked, “Is there a dollar figure to which she would limit the debt?”

She replied that the government is “mindful that limits exist.”

During a February 13 Senate national finance committee meeting, Budget Officer Yves Giroux noted how Trudeau’s cabinet plans in terms of spending are not clear.

“We don’t know exactly what the government plans on spending or doing in terms of new spending or potential spending,” he said when asked by Senator Elizabeth Marshall if the new borrowing limits are “still realistic.”

Marshall added, “As it stands now, do you think it looks reasonable?”

“It looks sufficient, but the government always wants to give itself some room to maneuver in case there are unforeseen events that require borrowing on short notice,” Giroux replied.

A report from September 5, 2023, by Statistics Canada shows food prices are rising faster than headline inflation at a rate of between 10% and 18% per year.

According to a recent Statistics Canada survey of supermarket prices, Canadians are paying 12% more for carrots, 14% more for hamburger (ground meat), and 27% more for baby formula.

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Inflation

Trudeau’s carbon tax rebrand lipstick on a pig

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Franco Terrazzano

the Liberals are now calling it the ‘Canada Carbon Rebate.’

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is criticizing the federal government for rebranding its carbon tax rebate instead of providing relief by scrapping the tax altogether.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax rebrand is just lipstick on a pig,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “Canadians need tax relief, not a snappy new slogan that won’t do anything to make life more affordable.”

“The federal government is rebranding the carbon tax rebate,” reported CTV News today. “Previously known as the Climate Action Incentive Payment, the Liberals are now calling it the ‘Canada Carbon Rebate.’

“The change does not come with any adjustments to how the federal fuel charge system and corresponding refund actually works.”

The carbon tax will cost the average family up to $710 this year even after the rebates, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The federal government is increasing the carbon tax again on April 1. After the hike, the carbon tax will cost 17 cents per litre of gasoline, 21 cents per litre of diesel and 15 cents per cubic metre of natural gas.

“Trudeau’s real problem isn’t that Canadians don’t know what his government is doing, Trudeau’s real problem is that Canadians know his carbon tax is making life more expensive,” Terrazzano said. “Instead of a rebrand, Trudeau should scrap the carbon tax to provide real relief.”

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