OTTAWA — Conservative MPs lost a vote in the House of Commons Tuesday but won the right to brag the Liberals are unwilling to pledge to never raise taxes again.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been testing a new attack line on the Liberals. In a speech to MPs and 2019 election candidates Sunday, Scheer claimed if voters gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau another four-year mandate, their taxes would go up.
On Tuesday, the Tories tabled an opposition day motion which noted Trudeau had broken his 2015 pledge bring the country back into the black by 2019. The motion called on MPs to vote to ensure the prime minister tables a plan in the next budget to quickly eliminate the deficit, as well as to provide a "written commitment [that] he will never raise taxes of any kind" again.
The Liberals had initially pledged to run only three years of deficits not exceeding $10 billion. The yearly deficits have been closer to $20 billion and the department of finance now projects that based on current trends the federal books won't balance before 2040.
The Tories' motion was easily defeated: 212 to 82. More than a dozen Tory MPs did not show up to vote. MPs from the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, voted with the Liberals.
Though the Liberals have criticized the Tories for claiming they'll raise taxes, so far, the party has not ruled out any tax increases.
Their price on carbon, for example, is set to rise yearly in the short term. The government says that money will be returned to the pockets of taxpayers who reside in provinces, such as Ontario and Saskatchewan, who'll be using the federal pricing scheme. The Conservatives, however, view it as a tax and call it a cash grab.
'The worst is yet to come'
During the debate on the motion, Ontario Conservative MP Peter Kent suggested it was abundantly clear that the "misguided" prime minister with "chronic deficits" would continue to borrow money, not just from people's children but also their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"As much as taxes have been raised by the Liberal government, and continue to be raised, based on its past, current and future spending plans, the worst is yet to come," he said.
Ontario Grit MP Mark Gerretsen said he found it perplexing to hear the Tories lecture the Liberals on fiscal responsibility when most of prime minister Stephen Harper's budgets posted deficits.
"Of the three that ran surpluses, two of them came on the heels of [prime minister] Paul Martin's $13 billion surplus. The other one happened in 2015 when the former Conservative government slashed veteran services and sold off shares of GM at a bargain price just so that it could produce a "phony budget" to take into the 2015 election," Gerretsen said.
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If the Tories were given the keys to power they'd slash their way to balance, the Liberal MP suggested.
"What would the Conservatives cut in order to do what they are proposing?" he asked.
NDP finance critic Peter Julian said both the Liberals and the Conservatives had run the tax system into the ground.
"What they have created is a monster, the most unequal, inequitable tax system in the industrialized world," he said. What was needed, he added, was a fairer tax system that made sure "everybody pays."
By taxing the rich, the federal government would have the means to more make meaningful investments in the lives of "regular Canadians," he said.
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