The Conservatives want to talk about how a budget is balanced

Many questions about five words Justin Trudeau said

Last month, shortly after the budget was tabled, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau appeared in a pair of television interviews in which he made the same basic comment on balancing the budget.

On CPAC, he was asked about how committed he would be to a balanced budget right now in the “current climate.” “The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy and the budget will balance itself,” Mr. Trudeau responded. “This way they’re artificially fixing a target of a balanced budget in an election year and they’re going through all sorts of twists and turns and bends to try and get it just right and the timing just right and the announcement. And that’s irresponsible. What you need to do is create an economy that works for Canadians, works for middle class Canadians, allows young people to find jobs, allows seniors to feel secure in their retirement.”

On CTV, he was asked whether Liberals would be willing to put off a balancing the budget for the purposes of aiming to stimulate the economy. “If you grow the economy, the deficit will—the budget will balance itself. And that is the approach that they haven’t taken, because they’re working on an artificial timeline of wanting to balance the budget at all costs on an election year. And they’re going through some very difficult calisthenics and stretches to try to get there and that’s not in the interests of helping Canadians who are concerned.”

The Conservatives took particular interest in five of those words—”the budget will balance itself.” And now that phrase is the focus of a Conservative TV ad.

Mr. Trudeau’s sentence in its entirety—”grow the economy and the budget will balance itself”—is somewhat unnuanced, but if you cut it in half it can be made to seem particularly silly. And it just so happens that making Mr. Trudeau seem silly is a priority for the Conservative side.

But how silly was this statement?

If you take Mr. Trudeau’s statement as a suggestion that he believes no effort is ever required to manage the nation’s finances, then that statement seems pretty silly. On the other hand, if you take Mr. Trudeau’s statement as a suggestion that with normal economic growth the budget will return to balance—that, essentially, there is not currently a structural deficit—the statement seems slightly less than ridiculous.

If you wanted to be serious about this matter, you could ask various questions of each side.

Why has the government chosen to return the budget to surplus by 2015? How exactly is it planning to do so? Why are billions of dollars in spending cuts being made? Would the budget have eventually returned to balance with economic growth or are some of those cuts necessary to return the budget to balance? Does the government agree that it created a structural deficit? Are the cuts that are being made sustainable? Has Parliament been able to sufficiently scrutinize those cuts?

As for the opposition parties, are they committed to maintaining the government’s austerity plans? As Stephen Gordon has noted, the surpluses disappear if the government’s plans for restraint and savings aren’t implemented. Would they reverse any of the government’s cuts? In the long-term, does the federal government need more revenue to do what it should be doing? In the short-term, should the federal government be spending more at the risk of not balancing the budget by 2015?

Those are the questions you might ask if you want to have a conversation that lasts longer than 15 seconds.




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The Conservatives want to talk about how a budget is balanced

  1. the surpluses disappear if the government’s plans for restraint and savings aren’t implemented.

    Doesn’t that imply that the budget doesn’t in fact balance itself, regardless of what the economy does? That no matter what the economy does, it requires discipline on the part of a government not to spend beyond your means?

    Of course it does. That’s why the Conservatives jumped on his statement Aaron.

    But you know that, of course. However, by all means Aaron…don’t let me ruin your defense.

    • So what you are saying is that the Conservatives are opening an honest and constructive dialogue here……..

      • No less honest or constructive than our host.

    • Sigh – I guess the new comment system could not stop you from signing up and whining about how mean Wherry is for not seeing things your way.

      That said, what Wherry is doing here is presenting both sides of this particular argument, and, m ore to the point, noting that this particular debate has to include more than the 15 second soundbites the conservatives, and, apparently, you, rely on to mount their/your attacks on, well, anything.

      But don’t let reality get in the way of your whining John – no point in starting now…

      • I believe Mr. Wherry pointed out that both sides used “15 second soundbites” and attacked each other. Mr. Trudeau called the government’s plan to “artificially balance the budget” in an election year “irresponsible”; they countered and made his statement that the budget will balance itself look silly. As Mr. Wherry pointed out, journalists did not ask either side to expand on how they proposed to accomplish their plans to achieve a balanced budget.
        As for allowing dissenting opinions to be voiced, did you really believe Macleans online in its new design was going to suppress free speech?

        • “I believe Mr. Wherry pointed out that both sides used “15 second soundbites” and attacked each other.”

          Fair enough.

          “As for allowing dissenting opinions to be voiced, did you really believe Macleans online in its new design was going to suppress free speech?”

          Don’t think I said anything about not allowing dissenting opinions. I was just expressing my wishful thinking that, since I have not seen John over here since the new format, maybe he has given up his need to express his paranoid conspiracy theory about media bias and his tendency to cherry pick quotes from Wherry’s articles in order to attack him.

          A girl can dream…

    • If that’s what they were critiquing the would quote his statement. Taking a subset of a sentence to change the meaning is inherently dishonest.

  2. Cons still fighting the obvious I see. LOL

    • You just described all federal parties, spinning everything and anything in attempt to make them or their party appear better than their opponent. This borders on sociopathic behaviour!

  3. The Cons,on the other hand, are so duplicitous, secretive, and underhanded in their fiscal machinations (treating the Parliamentary Budget Office as well as Parliament, itself, as “enemy” threats), that it’s virtually impossible to assess the merits of their approach. If they bleat, ceaselessly, that they’re “focused on jobs and the economy”, we’re supposed take that as “analysis, shut up and move along…oh, and pay the bill for the endless propaganda about their much-vaunted Economic Action Plan

  4. “The Conservatives want to talk about how a budget is balanced”

    No they don’t. They want to tell you a fabrication about what JT said (by taking a snippet of is full statement out of context and pretending it means something completely different than what he said) and hope it sticks. There is a significant difference between lying to the electorate and talking about something.

    • Do you like his hair?

      • Wow, what an addition to the conversation. You must have really been thinking about this. Do you like harper’s? We pay enough for it…maybe you should start a blog on the hair styles of fed MPs?

        You fashionista you.

  5. Pingback: Stephen Harper presents the case for Stephen Harper

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