NDP Leader Tom Mulcair apparently couldn’t think of a verb for the sort of tight-spending policy he perceived in the 2013 federal budget, so he redeployed an adjective, saying, “You cannot austere your way out of a crisis.”
Beyond that novel phrasing, Mulcair’s reaction to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s latest fiscal plan combined criticism of the Tories for being unreliable economic forecasters and some pointed objections to particular budget moves.
On Flaherty’s pledge to balance the books by 2015, the NDP leader noted that the budget assumes 2.5 per cent growth in gross domestic product next year, up from just 1.6 per cent this year, which is, in turn, well below the 2.4 per cent GDP growth projected in last year’s budget.
“His predictions are constantly wrong,” Mulcair said, adding, “”They are making a very high prediction for [GDP growth] next year to come up with their under $20 billion deficit. That will, of course, also be proven to be wrong.”
On one of Flaherty’s main new programs—a $300-million-a-year federal pool for job-training grants, which would have to be matched by provincial and employer contributions—Mulcair accused him of playing “a shell game” by funding the grant program with money that used to be transferred to provinces with fewer strings attached.
He found a few things to like. For instance, he praised the decision to give the regional development agency for Northern Ontario, known as FedNor, more autonomy as a stand-alone agency.
On his main point—the fact that the budget is misguided in trying to “austere” Canada to prosperity—Mulcair was evasive on how long a presumably more free-spending NDP budget would keep the federal books in the read. Asked how long he would run a deficit if he were prime minister, Mulcair said only, “We’re going to be responsible public administrators.”