Jesse Kline: Chrystia Freeland's Canada is no place for the ambitious or hard working

Canada’s budget 2024: This is not your father’s Liberal party, this is the spirit of Jack Layton coming to exact his revenge.

Despite the Trudeau Liberals spending 8½ years throwing large sums of money at every problem that comes our way, a majority of Canadians think the country is fundamentally broken. Now, the Grits are trying to convince us that the answer to the problems they either helped create or failed to fix is … spending large sums of money.

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s budget, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland deviated from her tradition in recent years of spending the weeks leading up to budget day trying to convince Canadians that the government was planning on showing fiscal restraint.

Perhaps a sign that the Liberals have come to accept their unholy alliance with the socialist New Democrats, this year, Freeland didn’t even bother pretending that fiscal responsibility would factor into her calculations at all. This is not your father’s Liberal party — the party of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin — this is the spirit of Jack Layton coming to exact his revenge.

The 2024 budget is intended to address two major problems — not for the country, but for its “natural governing party”: recent polls show that a majority of Canadians think the country is broken, and that nearly twice as many young voters are planning to cast a ballot for the Conservatives, as opposed to the Liberals, in the next election.

Thus, Freeland has spent the last three weeks attempting to bribe millennials and Gen Z with their own money: $500 million for youth mental health, $2.4 billion for AI (because the robots that are going to take our jobs need subsidies, too), $1 billion for school lunches, $1 billion in loans for daycare centers. The list goes on.

In the forward to her budget, Freeland assured young Canadians that the Liberals “have a plan to build a Canada that works better for you, where you can get ahead, where your hard work pays off, where you can buy a home.” They’ll do this by “building more affordable homes,” “making life cost less” and “growing the economy in a way that’s shared by all.”

Some of their housing ideas — like incentivizing provinces and municipalities to reduce red tape and ease zoning restrictions, and building housing on federal lands — are good.

But billions in taxpayer dollars will also be spent in the coming years directly funding “affordable” (read: government) housing, the state will assume the risk for billions in new loans for apartment buildings, and hundreds of millions more will be spent on everything from municipal infrastructure to training tradespeople.

Likewise, rather than making life less costly by reducing taxes, getting rid of the carbon tax, and ending supply management, policies that would quickly lower prices and spur economic activity, the Liberals will be spending more on subsidized child care, picking up the cafeteria tab for schoolchildren and funding their new socialized dentistry and pharma care programs.

As for their plan to grow the economy, well, I’ll spare you the details, but it will cost you $7.6 billion. Starting to see the pattern?

In total, budget 2024 introduced $53 billion in new spending over the next five years. In order to pay for all this while keeping the deficit at around $40 billion per year until the next federal election at the end of 2025, budget 2024 intends to pilfer an additional $21.9 billion from the pockets of hard-working Canadians, this year alone.

But don’t worry, Freeland assured us during her budget address in the House of Commons on Tuesday, because that money won’t be taken from you middle-class Canadians. It will be seized from the most unsavory elements of our society: successful corporations and the rich, through an increase in the capital gains tax, and anyone who happens to be addicted to nicotine, through yet another tax hike on tobacco and life-saving electronic cigarettes.

The government hopes the capital-gains changes will raise an additional $19.4 billion in the 2024-25 fiscal year. Freeland tried to downplay the effects of this by saying that the tax increase would only apply to the top 0.13 percent of earners. But it will also affect the over 300,000 companies that pay capital gains, making them less likely to invest in the economy and create new jobs.

Freeland says she wants to build a country where “hard work pays off,” but the message she’s sending is quite the opposite: There’s no need to work hard and improve your lot in life because the government is going to pay to care for your children, fix your teeth and buy your birth control and diabetes meds, so you can maintain your lifestyle. And if you do happen to go that extra mile and strike it rich, you’ll be severely punished.

Addressing the captains of industry who will be penalized by these measures, Freeland asked, “What kind of country do you want to live in? … Do you want to live in a country where the only young Canadians who can buy their own homes are those with parents who can help with the down payment?

“Do you want to live in a country where we make the investments we need — in health care, in housing, in old-age pensions — but we lack the political will to pay for them and choose instead to pass a ballooning debt on to our children?”

Well, no, I don’t. But perhaps the finance minister needs to be reminded that it was the Liberals who sat idly by while house prices increased 60 percent under their watch; and it was her government that more than doubled the national debt in a decade — increasing it to an estimated $1.44 trillion in 2024-25, from $649 billion in 2014-15.

And it’s only going to get worse. The government plans to run a $39.8-billion deficit this year — $4.8 billion more than it forecast in budget 2023. If anyone thinks Freeland has a hope in hell of reaching her deficit target of $38.9 billion next year or the $20 billion projected for 2028-29, I have some beachfront property in Nunavut that I think you’ll be extremely interested in.

Indeed, despite this government’s assurances that it doesn’t want to saddle the young people it is supposedly trying to help with an enormous pile of debt, the numbers tell a different story. This year, Canadians will pay $54 billion just to service the existing debt. That will increase to $64.3 billion by 2028-29.

That’s money that could be going to fund all manner of Liberal pet programs but is instead paid as a penalty for years of fiscal mismanagement. And it’s a burden that will be shouldered by future generations, who will be forced to learn a hard lesson in the high long-term cost of buying short-term votes.

National Post

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