Harper trumpets report on surplus, Liberals call claim 'phoney' - Macleans.ca

Harper trumpets report on surplus, Liberals call claim ‘phoney’

Nearly 40 per cent of the gain attributed to government’s one-time sale of General Motors shares in April


OTTAWA – Stephen Harper trumpeted a new economic report Friday that he said validates his government’s policies, but questions quickly emerged as to whether the Conservative leader was offering too rosy an interpretation.

The Department of Finance’s monthly Fiscal Monitor reported a $5-billion surplus for the April-to-June period this year, but nearly 40 per cent of the gain was attributed to the government’s one-time sale of General Motors shares in April.

Harper issued a written statement shortly after the monitor was released, saying it meant that his Conservative government was “ahead of the game” on its budget plan.

The Liberal campaign accused Harper of claiming a “phoney surplus,” saying he is actually running a deficit, despite his claims to the contrary.

Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, said he was surprised by the size of the reported surplus, given the weakness of the economy.

“We are still many months away from pronouncing on a budgetary balance for the year,” Page cautioned. Quarterly GDP numbers due next week are also expected to shed additional light on the economic situation.

The Conservative leader did no formal campaigning Friday, opting instead to address the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Canada’s largest national Islamic convention, which kicked off a three-day conference in Mississauga.

Officials on the Conservative campaign had indicated that Harper would make mention of the fiscal monitor report in his speech, but the prime minister apparently decided otherwise.

Harper also spent part of Friday in Toronto shooting new television commercials, on what was a rare down day in the Conservative campaign. He’s not expected to resurface before Monday.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were both in Montreal, arguing over which party has the best economic plan for the country.

Trudeau was joined by former prime minister and finance minister Paul Martin for the second time this week and the elder Liberal statesman stole the spotlight. Martin, who balanced the country’s books in the 1990s as the Liberal finance minister, called Harper “the king of deficits.”

Martin’s fiery speech was aimed at buttressing Trudeau, who staked out fresh ground this week by saying he would run modest deficits to 2019 in order to pay for new infrastructure investments that he said are essential to spurring long-term economic growth.

The NDP and Conservatives have promised balanced budgets, prompting Martin to say: “That Tom Mulcair is now a student of Stephen Harper’s economy makes absolutely no sense.”

Mulcair, himself a former Quebec cabinet minister, fired back at the Liberals, describing Martin as “the king of austerity.”

Mulcair accused Martin of trimming social and health transfers to the provinces by almost one-quarter, while cutting employment insurance and housing spending.

“Could you be a little more discrete before you criticize the NDP’s balanced, realistic approach to taking care of future generations?” Mulcair asked.

While this week marked a sharp shift in the federal campaign towards economic issues, the Mike Duffy trial, which knocked the Conservatives off message repeatedly during the early days of the campaign, again reared its head.

CTV News reporter Robert Fife doggedly pursued Ray Novak, Harper’s chief of staff, through the streets of Ottawa’s Byward Market early Friday, television camera in tow.

Last week, Benjamin Perrin, formerly a lawyer in Harper’s office, testified that Novak was present when Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, said he was going to cover Duffy’s $90,000 in dubious expense claims with a personal cheque.

Novak initially refused to discuss the matter, but under repeated questioning, he eventually said: “I did not know that Mr. Wright was going to cut that cheque.”

Novak also said he didn’t see an email from Wright informing him about the payment until “it was disclosed much, much later.”

Mulcair said he was less interested in the prime minister’s subordinates, once again urging Harper to “come clean to Canadians” and “start telling the truth” about the Duffy matter.

The Liberal campaign responded with a statement that posed a series of questions to Harper, urging him to “finally end the cover-up and come clean with Canadians.”

Harper has steadfastly refused to comment on evidence coming from the courtroom, calling it an ongoing legal proceeding, and saying only that Duffy and Wright are the only two people responsible for any wrongdoing.

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Harper trumpets report on surplus, Liberals call claim ‘phoney’

  1. The Chretien/Martin Lieberals balanced their budgets by slashing transfers to the provinces for Health, Education, Social Services, Raiding the pension surpluses from the federal public sector, armed forces and the RCMP and robbing the CPP of 54 Billion Dollars.

    Hey Paul Martin………why won’t you come clean re; the $162 Million Taxpayer Dollars in CSL federal government contracts, loans and grants that your company received while YOU WERE FINIANCE MINISTER?

    • Finance Minister?

    • Correction: upon review of my files, the theft of $54 billion Dollars was from the EI Fund and not CPP.

      Liberals: Liars, Cheats and Thieves.

      Dingwall, “I am entitled to my entitlements”

      • And it was not theft. The government was taken to court over that and it was totally legal. Who cares anyway because either that money was used on programs or it went towards the debt. So every one is benefiting. When the EI money was short, the government had to subsidize EI payments from the general account. It’s funny that nobody complained then. So what is stealing to one is balancing the books to others

        Re your comment about liberals being liars, cheats and thieves: have you looked at the other parties? I guess Bev Oda and all the conservatives (some in jail) were not entitled to their entitlements. Similarly, the NDP has not even been in power and they have already conducted what appeared to be totally illegitimate transactions. So stop spreading venom and generalizations.

        • Liberal appointed judges said it was not technically illegal for the Liberal government to have taken those EI funds, but that it was not entirely ethical to do so.

          None of those funds went to pay the national debt. Do you even know the difference between debt and deficit or do budgets just balance themselves?

          Programs like the HRDC jobs training set up by the Liberals where 2 Billion Dollars disappeared while Pierre Pettigrew was the Minister responsible, the hapless Jane Stewart eventually took over and it was she who resigned over Pettigrew’s fiasco.

          Or perhaps Alan Rock’s Billion Dollar Long Gun Registry that was initially to cost only some 12 Million?

          If clues were shoes you would be barefoot.

        • And the Liberal Party of Canada has never paid back the missing 40 Million Dollars from ADSCAM

        • Venom no, the truth yes.

          Generalizations no, specifics yes.

          There are more than enough examples of past Liberal graft and corruption, the same players are still pulling the strings from within the party, the Chretien and Martin factions continue their clashes, the Liberals are not fit to manage a manure pile.

          • Keep repeating falsehoods and con speaking points. you are not worth an intelligent answer.

          • Typical Leftard, when faced with facts brain implodes, sticks head in sand, covers ears and screams lalalalalalalala!

            You’ve got nothing.

  2. I guess calling the numbers phoney is a better headline than the increasingly inaccurate prognostications of economic doom and gloom that the other candidates have been wbasing their campaigns on, and which the MSM has been only too happy to echo. MSM is now left to fall back on the views of the discredited Kevin Page who out of office is even more clearly shown to be the Liberal-biased shill that we suspected him to be when he was in office. His appointment really should put paid to the paranoid claims of the PM stacking all decks with ideological fellow travellers. Page’s quote in this story is laughable, and clearly wishful thinking( a patriot, really, who hopes his country is in for a financial drubbing), but given his clear bias and historical misfires, it is all the more surprising that Macleans should choose to quote him. In any case, the data doesn’t lie no matter how you try to spin it. GM or no GM, right now we continue to be in surplus. Let’s move on.

    • Kevin Page had to make a comment, as last week he was all doom and gloom, and yes, he is always doom and gloom when it comes to Harper. He’s not worth listening to any more than is Paul Martin.

      What really bugs Kevin Page however, is that Stephen Harper’s predictions have always been more accurate than have his. That’s got to bug him.

      Mr. Page forgets that harper is ALSO an economist. Except Harper has been correct in most of his assessments; Page….not so much.

      And is anyone really surprised that the sale of GM stock would be mentioned? Take away the GM stock…and you still have a couple of billion in surplus; just as Harper said he would have. page was predecting a deficit….and he was wrong. Again.

      poor kevvy….he really resents being irrelevant. No wonder only the folks at CBC will have him on.

      By the way…the CBC reported this as “Conservative Government underspent by $5 Billion” and only changed it a few hours later when they realized their bias was to prominitently on display. The just couldn’t bring themselves to print “Government posts $5Billion dollar surplus”….


      the CBC and most other Canadian media is as predictable,. as they are pathetic. No wonder no one believes what they read in the paper any longer.