A most Liberal budget is assailed from all sides

The federal Liberals have delivered their first budget since the last election and, given the reaction coming from the right and left of the Canadian political continuum, it seems they may just have hit a Goldilocks spot on the political spectrum.

The biggest disappointment for the Conservative official opposition, although the current Conservative leadership hopefuls would likely deny it to their last breath (while Tory pundits in the right-wing media are doing their very level best to hype the horror) is the uncharacteristic fiscal caution being expressed in this most centrist of documents. It is not quite that the Liberals have re-discovered their inner Paul Martin, but after weeks of the Tories screaming that the fiscal sky would fall the moment the 2022 budget was unveiled, peppering the media with predictions of dire economic despair on every evening news clip, the budget delivered by Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was decidedly anticlimactic.

Meanwhile, the most die-hard leftists to be found within the NDP ranks are loudly lamenting the paltry 30 pieces of silver garnered by their erstwhile leader Jagmeet Singh ($15 billion by Conservative count, inflation has taken its toll on the price of souls too, it seems) who, despite avowing the NDP will still fight like hell for workers, the poor and other downtrodden of our nation, has already signalled his party’s MPs will support this “terribly-flawed” budget.

Can you get more centrist than that? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may well have made some progress on righting the ship of state as our nation navigates into some of the choppiest waters to be seen in generations.

The budget does spend a great deal of money, some $64 billion more being added to the deficit, $32 billion of that being offered up in new spending (did we mention inflation is all Justin’s fault?), all the while providing insufficient funds aimed at a plethora of crises. Not enough is spent on the environment, too little is spent on defence, a drop in the bucket is offered up for housing, mental health is getting far less than is needed, health care in general (a provincial responsibility) needs far more federal transfers if we are to plug the holes revealed by the ongoing pandemic.

On the other side of the ledger, the deficit is projected to shrink in relation to our country’s gross national product—that’s the cake and eat it too territory that the Liberals hope will prove delicious to the electorate’s palate come the next poll. Sunny ways may yet prevail, stay tuned, more news in 2025—several political lifetimes away.

Yep, our current federal government has apparently managed to tick off all sides of the divide. Time will tell if that strategy will bridge the current American-style polarization afflicting our nation’s body politic.

Mr. Singh’s strategy seems clear. A remarkably pragmatic fellow for an NDP leader, his deal with the Liberal devil appears to bank on Canadians continuing to elect minority governments (most likely Liberal, unless the Conservatives can come to their centre-right senses in selecting a new leader). That is a canny, if not downright shrewd, assessment of where the polls are headed if one is gazing into any unbiased crystal ball, providing a situation where the NDP could be well-placed to nudge the centre over a smidgen into orange territory.

In the meantime, this budget seems to have provided a welcome breath of uninteresting times.