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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.”

Business

Federal budget fails to ‘break the glass’ on Canada’s economic growth crisis

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From the Fraser Institute

By Grady Munro and Jake Fuss

“You’ve seen those signs that say, ‘In emergency, break glass.’ Well, it’s time to break the glass,” said Carolyn Rogers, Bank of Canada senior deputy governor, in a speech last month while warning that Canadians may see living standards fall if nothing is done to promote economic growth.

In advance of the Trudeau government’s 2024 budget released on Tuesday, many called for the government to finally address Canada’s stagnant economic growth. But despite the growing consensus that this issue represents a national crisis, the Trudeau government simply continued with the same approach that helped get us to this point in the first place.

“You’ve seen those signs that say, ‘In emergency, break glass.’ Well, it’s time to break the glass,” said Carolyn Rogers, Bank of Canada senior deputy governor, in a speech last month while warning that Canadians may see living standards fall if nothing is done to promote economic growth.

Ten days later in a joint interview, former Quebec premier Jean Charest and former federal finance minister Bill Morneau urged the Trudeau government to focus on economic growth in the budget. Specifically, Morneau suggested Canada needs more business investment “from other sources than the government.”

These are just two examples of the growing consensus that Canada is suffering an economic and productivity growth crisis.

Economic growth generally refers to the increase in gross domestic product (GDP), which measures the total output of the economy and is driven by three factors—the labour supply, the capital stock and the efficiency in which labour and capital are used.

Canada’s GDP growth in recent years has been driven almost entirely by the labour supply, as the country has experienced historically high population growth. However, although GDP in aggregate has been growing, GDP per person (a common indicator of living standards) has been declining at an alarming rate. Since the second quarter of 2022 (when it peaked post-COVID), inflation-adjusted GDP per person has fallen from $60,178 to $58,111 in the fourth quarter of 2023—and has declined during five of those six quarters, and now sits below where it was at the end of 2014.

Labour productivity, which is the amount of output (GDP) produced per hour worked, has seen a similar decline. Statistics Canada recently reported that the fourth quarter of 2023 represented the first time productivity increased since the beginning of 2022, and that for the prior six quarters labour productivity had declined or remained stagnant.

The consequence of both declining GDP per person and lower productivity, as Carolyn Rogers warned, is a lower standard of living for Canadians. To reverse this crisis, the Trudeau government must address the cause of Canada’s weak economic growth—a severe lack of business investment.

Business investment provides the capital needed to equip workers with the technology and equipment to become more efficient and productive. Yet according to a recent study, from 2014 to 2021, inflation-adjusted business investment per worker in Canada fell from $18,363 to $14,687.

This decline in business investment is partly the result of the Trudeau government’s disinterest in encouraging entrepreneurship and private-sector business investment. Indeed, the government’s  approach of high spending, more regulation and significant involvement in the economy has done little to foster widespread economic growth.

And by raising capital gains taxes on individuals and businesses, which the Trudeau government did in this latest budget, in the words of former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, the government is doing “exactly the wrong thing” to boost productivity. Rather, these measures simply provide more reason for people and businesses to invest elsewhere.

This latest Trudeau budget doubles down on a failed approach. Spending is up, government involvement in the economy is increasing, and increased capital gains taxes will only make our investment challenges more difficult. We need a complete reversal in policy to solve our economic growth crisis.

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Economy

Federal budget’s scale of spending and debt reveal a government lacking self-control

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From the Fraser Institute

By Jake Fuss and Grady Munro

Had the government simply limited the growth in annual program spending to 0.3 per cent for two years, it could have balanced the budget by 2026/27 and avoided significant debt accumulation.

Instead, the government chose to increase annual program spending by an average of 4.4 per cent over the next two years and kick the debt problem down the road for another government to solve.

Time and time again, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland have emphasized the importance of being fiscally responsible with federal finances. Unfortunately, this year’s federal budget ensures once again their rhetoric rings hollow due to their ongoing mismanagement of federal finances.

This mismanagement is rooted in the government’s insatiable appetite for new and expanded programs or services, which has endured for nine years and will continue for the foreseeable future. The budget introduces billions of dollars in additional spending for a national school food program, housing initiatives and artificial intelligence. As such, program spending (total spending minus debt interest costs) is now expected to be $77.2 billion higher over the next four years than the government forecasted last spring.

In 2024/25 alone, federal program spending will reach a projected $483.6 billion—an increase of $16.1 billion compared to the previous budget’s estimates. On a per-person inflation-adjusted basis, federal program spending is forecasted to reach $11,901, which is approximately 28.0 per cent higher than during the final full year of Stephen Harper’s tenure as prime minister (2014/15). The Trudeau government has already recorded the five (2018 to 2022) highest levels of federal program spending per person in Canadian history (inflation-adjusted), and budget projections suggest it’s now on track to possess the eight highest levels of per-person spending by the end of its term next autumn.

This is despite recent polling data that shows the majority of Canadians (59 per cent) think the Trudeau government is spending too much. Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Canadians are also concerned about the size of the federal deficit.

As it has done nine times before, the Trudeau government will borrow to fund some of its spending spree, resulting in a projected budget deficit of $39.8 billion this year, which is $4.8 billion higher than previously forecasted. And it doesn’t intend to stop borrowing, with annual deficits exceeding $20 billion planned for the subsequent four years. This represents a notable increase in deficits compared to what was expected in the last year’s budget. Simply put, there’s no plan for a return to balanced budgets any time soon. As a result, federal debt (net debt minus non-financial assets) is expected to climb $156.2 billion from now until April 2029.

To make matters worse, the government is also increasing the capital gains inclusion tax rate from 50.0 per cent to 66.6 per cent for capital gains realized above $250,000. This will act as a huge disincentive for individuals and businesses to invest in Canada at a time when the country already struggles to attract the very investment we need to improve productivity, economic growth and living standards. Businesses and individuals will now simply invest their capital elsewhere.

There’s a large body of research that finds low or no capital gains taxes increase the supply and lower the cost of capital for new and growing firms, leading to higher levels of entrepreneurship, economic growth and job creation—precisely what Canada needs more of today and in the future.

While the government did boast about its ability to hold the 2023/24 deficit at $40.0 billion, this had little to do with responsible fiscal management. Instead, the government enjoyed higher-than-anticipated revenues of $8.3 billion, but repeated its all too frequent and ill-advised approach of spending that money and wiping out any chance to reduce the deficit.

Growing federal debt leads to higher debt interest costs, all else equal, which eat up taxpayer dollars that could otherwise have provided services or tax relief for Canadians. For context, the government now spends more ($54.1 billion) on debt interest as on health-care transfers to the provinces ($52.1 billion). Accumulating debt today also increases the tax burden on future generations of Canadians who are ultimately responsible for paying off this debt. Research suggests this effect could be disproportionate, with future generations needing to pay back a dollar borrowed today with more than one dollar in future taxes.

But again, it didn’t have to be this way. As we pointed out before the budget, had the government simply limited the growth in annual program spending to 0.3 per cent for two years, it could have balanced the budget by 2026/27 and avoided significant debt accumulation.

Instead, the government chose to increase annual program spending by an average of 4.4 per cent over the next two years and kick the debt problem down the road for another government to solve. Simply put, the government’s fiscal strategy is not all that different from an overzealous child that eats all their Halloween candy in one night even though they fully understand it won’t end well.

Yet for all this spending and debt, living standards have not improved for Canadians. In fact, inflation-adjusted GDP per person was actually lower at the end of 2023 than it was nine years prior in 2014. And going forward, the OECD predicts Canada will record the lowest growth rates in per-person GDP up to 2060 of any industrialized country—meaning countries such as New Zealand, Italy, Korea, Turkey and Estonia would all surpass Canada with higher living standards.

The combination of tax hikes and scale of spending and debt in this year’s federal budget demonstrate the Trudeau government has no interest in being fiscally responsible or improving living standards for Canadians. Instead of showing restraint, the government chose to repeat its mistakes and lead federal finances down an increasingly perilous path.

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