Residents in a number of targeted communities had something extra to chew on over the Thanksgiving weekend. They apparently received flyers distributed by the Conservatives claiming that the Liberals will (a) legalize marijuana to make it more easily accessible for kids, (b) set up illegal drug injection sites in neighbourhoods, and (c) put brothels in neighbourhoods.
These allegations are so absurd that they would be laughable if they were not so abhorrent. The Liberals have advocated legalizing marijuana so that it can be better regulated and kept out of the hands of children. They have not, to my knowledge, advocated the establishment of drug injection sites and – if any ever were established anywhere – such sites would not be illegal, since their use has been upheld by the courts on more than one occasion. Even less understandable is the ludicrous claim that the Liberals plan to establish a string of neighbourhood brothels.
This latest attack on the Liberals is disgraceful and should be unacceptable in any civilized society. But other less odious Conservative ads also fail to hold up under close examination, as illustrated below.
Attack of the Killer Deficits
There have been a series of Conservative attack ads in recent weeks attempting to persuade voters that electing the Liberals would be very risky for the economy and the country because of the party’s plan to run deficits for the first two or three years, whereas returning the Conservatives to power would mean balanced budgets and economic growth.
Unfortunately for the Conservatives, saying this repeatedly doesn’t make it true. To the contrary, a recent article from a Professor of Economics contends that a few small deficits, wisely invested, may be just what the Canadian economy needs. What makes this assertion so striking is that the academic in question (Christopher Regan) is a research fellow at the C. D. Howe Institute, a business-backed right wing think tank known for promoting tax cuts, smaller government, and greater scope for businesses to operate.
Liberals, not Conservatives, have been effective in managing deficits
To put this subject in perspective, Regan takes us back to 1985 when the federal deficit was $40 billion and represented 8.1% of Canada’s GDP, the largest in our postwar history. The accumulated net debt was 42.9% of GDP and rising rapidly. Over the next decade, the Conservative Government of Brian Mulroney strove unsuccessfully to reduce the deficit. The Liberal Government of Jean Chretien found itself with an annual deficit that was still over $40 billion and an accumulated debt (thanks to a decade of deficits) that had reached 70% of GDP, the highest in postwar Canada. Led by Finance Minister Paul Martin (who famously pledged to get rid of the deficit “come hell or high water”) the Liberals reversed the fiscal picture and brought in a series of budget surpluses. Thanks largely to the groundwork done in the Chretien/Martin decade, Canada now has a balanced budget (or close to it) and a total debt that is only 34.5% of GDP.
That low debt gives the federal government the fiscal room to take advantage of today’s low interest rates and make investments in infrastructure that will pay off over many years ahead. Taking such a step is good economic policy, claims Professor Regan. He also contends that such a fiscal policy will help to stimulate our sluggish economy at a time when our monetary policy (of keeping low interest rates) has reached its limit.
Since it was the sound fiscal management of the preceding Liberal Government that has put Canada into a position where it can (and should) undertake some stimulus spending to get our economy going again, Conservative attack ads claiming that their balanced budget approach is the only way to protect our economy do not hold up to any kind of serious examination.