Neufeld: Growing the middle class, but at what cost?

The Senator's Report

Count them: that’s 10 zeros followed by the number three for a grand total of $30 billion. Welcome to “Trudeau Budgets 2.0,” where we break electoral promises and borrow massive amounts of money that will have lasting negative effects across the country for decades to come. Sure, with all that spending, some Canadians will benefit, but at what cost?

The Trudeau government had been in office for approximately 150 days when it dropped its 269-page budget on March 22. It took the new government about five months to break what I consider one of their most important election promises: “modest short-term deficits of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years.” It also promised to “return Canada to a balanced budget in 2019.”

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The government is borrowing $30 billion this year followed by a forecasted $29 billion, $23 billion and nearly $18 billion in the next three fiscal years. There seems to be no end in sight and who knows how and when they will actually return to balanced budgets?  When Canadians return to the polls in 2019, the Trudeau government is likely not going to be campaigning on balancing the books as promised.  But more alarming is the fact that an additional $100 billion will have been borrowed and added to our national debt. That’s billion with a “B,” not millions!  The interest alone on borrowing all those billions could have been invested elsewhere.

Now, who will pay for these massive deficits? The answer is pretty simple: Canadian taxpayers. But the answer is also most troubling when you realize that future taxpayers will have to tighten their belts for this generation’s spending and borrowing.  What concerns me the most is that, in the long run, my kids and grandkids will have to pay for borrowing such huge amounts of money since, as we all know, deficits almost inevitably lead to future spending cuts and tax hikes.

While the Trudeau government’s attempt to grow the middle class by investing major funds in infrastructure projects is admirable, I can’t help but question its short-term approach to managing our national finances.  I have no doubt that many Canadians will benefit from this spending spree in the near-term, but in the end Canadians will have to pay the price.

Is that really how you grow the middle class?


The Honourable Richard Neufeld is a Senator for British Columbia. He is Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources and a member of the National Finance Committee. Prior to his appointment to the Senate in 2009, he served in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly from 1991 to 2008 as MLA for Peace River North. He was Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources from 2001 to 2009.

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