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EDITORIAL: Election treats for all

Talk is cheap.

Bulking up spending in an election year, however, is not.

No, wooing federal voters with their own money this year is going to cost all of us $22.8 billion in new spending in 2019, with the federal Liberals trusting in the old adage of Canadian governments everywhere that a bird in the hand is more important than a burden on the future.

Last election, the Liberals talked about the need to limit annual budget deficits; they argued they would be the government that would live within its means, pulling back the reins and shrinking annual deficits to the point that 2019 was supposed to mark a balanced budget. This will be the fourth successive year of spending increases by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

This year, faced with higher-than expected revenues, the Liberals limited nothing, spending nearly the entire windfall in Wednesday’s budget. And the new money heading out the door will all be essentially borrowed money; the expected deficit for this fiscal year will be $19.8 billion.

The same old promises of fiscal responsibility, the same old shaking of the bag of election treats, the same old expecting voters to run gleefully to the ballot box to support whatever it looks like will benefit them personally.

To be blunt about it, the Liberals put the money where they think the votes are; much of the new spending is being earmarked for areas the government hopes will be popular with Indigenous and younger voters. There’s assistance for young home buyers, commitments for clean water on the scores of Canadian reserves that are under boil water orders, an easing of student debt interest rates, and a panel to take one more step towards a national pharmacare program.

A national drug agency will also be set up to use nationwide bargaining power to negotiate better drug prices.

In this province, there’s the promise of a new ferry for the Marine Atlantic service.

Oh, just so you don’t think we’re glossing over a carrot that might affect us, the budget provides more explanation about the federal government’s plan to support Canadian journalism; the plan would let qualified Canadian outlets issue tax receipts for donations and take advantage of a 25 per cent labour tax credit for newsroom employees. (All are promises that wouldn’t come into effect until 2020.)

In other words, the Liberals have come to the election party with an armload of presents brought on credit, and they’re daring the opposition parties to condemn their largesse.

Where does it all end? Well, perhaps with an old saying: everything old is new again.

The same old promises of fiscal responsibility, the same old shaking of the bag of election treats, the same old expecting voters to run gleefully to the ballot box to support whatever it looks like will benefit them personally.

You could say it’s a fraudulent little trick, along the lines of three card monte.

But the truth is, there’s only one card in this game, federal parties in government play it again and again and again, and we seem to fall for it every single time.

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