Last week, the Conservative government released its third budget, leaving Canadians with a strange feeling: a sense of déja-vu.
If many of the initiatives in Budget, 2008 seem familiar to you, that’s because you’ve seen them before—in the form of Liberal policies and fiscal commitments.
For instance, making the gas tax transfer permanent. Liberals called for it a year ago because we recognize the need for sustainable financial support for municipalities.
As for providing funding to hire more police, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion committed to it in March, 2007.
Direct support to Canada’s auto sector, improvements in public transit, improving cash-flow support for livestock producers, extending the flow through share program?
Liberals have been championing these policies for months.
What’s more, it seems the Harper government has seen the error of its ways and decided to reinstate some of the funding for Canada’s students and universities that mercilessly was cut in the name of “Canada’s New Government.”
Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and as longtime advocates of these initiatives (albeit re-packaged and watered down), the Liberal Party will not defeat this budget and give Prime Minister Stephen Harper the election he so desperately wants.
There is nothing in this budget that warrants an election—particularly at a time when so much remains to be done in this Parliament, including the debate of the motion on Canada’s Afghan mission and coming up with a real plan to fight climate change.
These are critical issues where Canadians are looking to parliamentarians for leadership.
Unfortunately for Canadians, the Harper government’s recent conversion to partial Liberalism comes late in the game—after the Conservatives already have spent the cupboard bare, leaving virtually no room to maneuver should Canada’s economy continue to falter.
The projected surplus for 2008-09 is a mere $2.3 billion and only $1.3 billion for the next year—well below the $3-billion contingency fund Liberals consider the bare minimum to cushion against unanticipated economic shocks.
As the party that conquered the $42-billion deficit created by the last Conservative government, and the party that set Canada on track for a decade of unprecedented economic growth and sound fiscal management, Liberals will be vigilant in ensuring the Harper government does not repeat the patterns of their Conservative predecessors and drive Canada into deficit.