OTTAWA — The Conservative war room is pointing to news that the Liberals plan to scrap the Tories’ balanced budget law as proof that Justin Trudeau has no plan to ever stop running deficits.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Toronto Liberal candidate John McCallum, a former bank economist, said the Tories’ law was not a serious piece of legislation and it wouldn’t prevent the Grits from implementing their $60-billion infrastructure plan.
“If we have to get rid of a gimmick to do what is right, then it’s what we would have to do,” McCallum reportedly told the Globe.
Conservative party spokesman Stephen Lecce jumped on the comment, sending an email to the media highlighting the story, which he said, “further demonstrates what we knew all along: Justin plans to run endless, long-term, multi-billion dollar structural deficits.”
Trudeau announced last week that, if elected, the Liberals would spend an additional $60 billion in infrastructure money over 10 years and would run deficits for three years, including two of up to $10 billion, before balancing the books in 2019-2020.
Lecce noted that the Federal Balanced Budget Act — passed this June after Stephen Harper’s government had racked up seven deficit budgets in a row — requires the government to present Parliament with a plan to return to surplus if it dips into the red.
“Justin is clearly unwilling to meet the requirements of the law because he has no plan nor intention of ever running balanced budgets,” Leece wrote.
Harper’s own law actually allows the government to run deficits as long as a recession or an extraordinary situation has occurred, is occurring or is forecast, and until two quarters of positive GDP growth have been reported by Statistics Canada.
In the cases when a deficit is permissible, the law states, operating budgets can’t be used to fund salary increases, and cabinet ministers and senior officials can’t give themselves raises until balance is restored.
On Tuesday, Statistics Canada reported that Canada was in recession during the first six months of the year.
The Tories have pledged to run a surplus budget this year, 2015-2016, and have promised more balanced budgets in future. The NDP has said it will post a balanced budget next year, in 2016-2017.
NDP finance critic and B.C. candidate Nathan Cullen told The Globe and Mail’s Bill Curry that his party didn’t think the law was necessary but has no plans to get rid of it.
“We haven’t planned for repealing [the law]. We just want to run a balanced budget, and we think that’s what Canadians are looking for,” he told The Globe.
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