OTTAWA — As Finance Minister Bill Morneau prepares to present his first budget — one that's estimated to carry a $30-billion deficit — opposition parties are sharpening their knives for a predictable political response.
The strategy, after all, is to remind Canadians how they would have done things differently if they were in power.
Rona Ambrose, Leader of the Official Opposition and interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, addresses the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on Monday, March 21, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said the Liberals will hurt the economy by sinking the country further into debt.
"We know at least three things in tomorrow's budget: the Liberals plan to borrow a lot of money, the Liberals have no real plan to create the jobs we need today and the Liberals will have to raise taxes because borrowed money has to be paid back," she said in question period.
"Will the prime minister confirm that because of his mismanagement, Canadians will be stuck with his bills, and not just us, but our kids and our grandkids?"
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his Liberal government's plans in response.
"In last year's election campaign, Canadians had an opportunity to listen to the various perspectives that political parties put forward and the plans for the future of this country," Trudeau said.
"We put forward a plan that focused on investing in our communities, helping the middle class and creating growth in a way that would help all Canadians. That is exactly what we campaigned on. That is exactly what we are going to be delivering in tomorrow's budget."
'Real question is not about a deficit': Mulcair
For NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, the release of the fiscal blueprint presents a challenge, because he has been criticized by rank-and-file members of his party for digging in his heels on a campaign pledge to balance the books.
Mulcair, who faces a leadership review early next month in Edmonton to determine if he will stay as leader, seems to have changed his tune.
"As I've gone across the country, I've listened to people," Mulcair said outside the Commons.
"I've heard that they're suffering a great deal, so we want to see the help there for people, but if the Liberals come in and continue with the corporate tax giveaways and don't roll back what they said they would roll back like the stock-option tax loopholes, then they'll have fallen short."
The real question is not about a deficit, it's about whether the government will help people who are in need now, he added.
Mulcair's balanced budget pledge was flagged in a party interim report which looked at the NDP's disastrous election outcome that dropped it to third-party status.
"Our balanced budget pledge was, in part, responsible for presenting us as cautious change."
The findings, unveiled by a working group led by NDP President Rebecca Blaikie, suggested this promise contributed to the party being presented as "cautious change" during the election.
"Our balanced budget pledge was, in part, responsible for presenting us as cautious change," Blaikie said in a February memo to supporters.
"It allowed the Liberals to contrast themselves from the Conservatives more clearly and overshadowed our strongly progressive economic platform which included higher taxes on corporations, crackdown on tax havens and a federal minimum wage."
With files from Terry Pedwell
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