POLITICS

Did Joe Oliver Just Have His Own 'The Budget Will Balance Itself' Moment?

04/22/2015 06:05 EDT | Updated 04/23/2015 07:59 EDT

Before he tabled his spending plan, Finance Minister Joe Oliver popped online to cheekily remind Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau that the budget did not balance itself.

The jab referenced a now-infamous remark the Liberal leader made on live TV after the 2014 budget, and a soundbite featured in Conservative ads arguing Trudeau cannot be trusted to run the economy.

In his speech to the House of Commons Tuesday announcing a return to balance, Oliver doubled-down with a thinly veiled reference to the Liberal leader.

"Some underestimate the discipline involved, suggesting that budgets 'balance themselves,'" the finance minister said. "They do not understand what it takes, or why it matters so much."

Yet hours later, Oliver appeared live on TV and his comments — not about budgets balancing themselves, but about granddaughters not yet born — are now drawing fire from rivals

On "The Exchange with Amanda Lang" Tuesday, Oliver was pressed on his plans to nearly double the contribution limit for tax-free savings accounts (TSFA) from $5,500 to $10,000.

Some economists say the move will cost future governments billions in lost revenue. The budget watchdog estimates the new limit will cost federal and provincial governments $70 million in 2016 and grow to nearly $40 billion by 2080. New Democrats and Liberals believe that, much like income-splitting, the plan benefits only the wealthy.

Oliver conceded to Lang that Canada may indeed have a problem with the program in 2080.

"Well, why don't we leave that to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's granddaughter to solve that problem," he said.


On Wednesday, Oliver's off-the-cuff remark was seized upon by New Democrats and Liberals eager to paint Tories as uninterested in the concerns of future generations.

"I have a granddaughter and I don't want her to be responsible for picking up the mess that the Conservatives are intentionally leaving," NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters after his party's caucus meeting.

New Democrats also fired off a shot on Twitter that was a sign of things to come.


When question period rolled around, Oliver was not there to defend himself.

A spokesperson later told The Huffington Post Canada that the finance minister was in Toronto promoting the spending plan and will do the same across the country in the coming weeks, as has become common in recent years.

Mulcair's first question pounced on Oliver's "granddaughter" quip, with the NDP leader again accusing Tories of wanting to leave behind a fiscal mess for the next generation.

"Will the prime minister stand in his place and reject those unacceptable statements by his finance minister?" Mulcair wondered.

Harper responded that Oliver was merely dismissing a "clearly preposterous argument" and defended TSFAs.

"Those billions of dollars that middle class people are putting away will create tens of billions of dollars of long-terms savings in our economy, which will drive jobs and growth," he said.

Trudeau also led things off for the Liberals with a reference to Oliver's remarks.

"Since when does Canada burden our grandchildren instead of building for them?" the Liberal leader asked.

Again, Harper said Oliver was casting aside an absurd argument because "balancing the budget is good for future generations."

The prime minister also rhymed off other measures he thinks will benefit Canadians in the future.

"Cutting taxes and allowing people to save, keep money in their own pocket, is good for future generations," he said to applause from Tory MPs. "Giving money to Canadian families so they can raise their children is good for future generations."

NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen and Liberal finance critic both made points of including references to Oliver's remarks in their questions Wednesday.


NDP MP Murray Rankin also said Oliver "openly admitted the budget puts a burden on future generations." He noted the budget did not contain a single reference to climate change, another issue that will impact Canadians well into the future.

It remains to be seen if opposition MPs will be able to get as much mileage from Oliver's post-budget remarks as Tories have from Trudeau's quip last year.

But if Wednesday is any indication, Canadians can expect to hear more about "Harper's granddaughter" before Canadians head to the polls in October.

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