Canada’s new finance minister tells it like it is (just after National Review attacks “Disgraceful Endgame” down south)

Dec 2nd, 2020 | By | Category: In Brief
“Out of Nowhere” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, November 2020 (after the US election).

FROM THE COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS, GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. WED 2 DEC 2020 : The main focus of our November 30 gathering was federal finance minister Chrystia Freeland’s economic and fiscal update for the Government of Canada – on cable news TV at or about 4 PM, direct from the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa.

The Government at the moment of course is struggling to serve the unusual global pandemic and other aspirations, needs, and plain wants of the Canadian people, to whom it ultimately reports.

(In the “free and democratic society” invoked in Article 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in the Constitution Act, 1982. And especially in increasingly democratic elections under the earlier Constitution Act, 1867. Right now the smart money is also talking about an unscheduled snap federal election this coming spring or even earlier … )

While we waited this past Monday for 4PM to arrive some tweeted news from the American side of the great lake prompted a brief surprised continental celebration as well …

National Review attacks Trump’s “Flawed and dishonest assertions” … at last

At 6:30 AM ET Monday morning (we later learned) the National Review – illustrious and notorious US conservative magazine founded by William Buckley in 1955 – published an editorial called “Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame.” And this at last happily suggests that there are some conservative democrats in the USA today who do not already work for MSNBC.

As many have urged, it is important for American democratic political culture that especially conservative voices of this sort be raised. Our view is that, however much they may be wrong about most other things, the editors of the National Review in 2020 are just telling the plain truth at last when they say, eg : “The chief driver of the post-election contention of the past several weeks is the petulant refusal of one man to accept the verdict of the American people.”

Similarly : “Almost nothing that the Trump team has alleged [in their massive voter fraud con-campaign] has withstood the slightest scrutiny … Flawed and dishonest assertions … pollute the public discourse and mislead good people who make the mistake of believing things said by the president of the United States.”

Finally, the National Review editors succinctly explain : “Trump’s most reprehensible tactic has been to attempt, somewhat shamefacedly, to get local Republican officials to block the certification of votes and state legislatures to appoint Trump electors in clear violation of the public will. This has gone nowhere, thanks to the honesty and sense of duty of most of the Republicans involved, but it’s a profoundly undemocratic move that we hope no losing presidential candidate ever even thinks of again.”

Canada’s minister of finance tells it like it is

“Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland receives a fist-bump from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after unveiling her first fiscal update, the Fall Economic Statement 2020, in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Nov. 30, 2020. PHOTO BY BLAIR GABLE /Reuters.”

We hope in turn that this does not prove yet another vain hope in a harsh new political climate. Meanwhile, for the moment at least all we worry about up here in Canada is just how much money we are sensibly spending on fighting COVID-19 and its broader economic damage?

The inside view beforehand seemed to be that new finance minister Chrystia Freeland was unlikely to give away much on the current financial depths – beyond the reassurances already spelled out in her recent Toronto Global Forum talk, about how current public spending has limits, and traditional financial truths still hold.

When the minister concluded her Monday 30 Nov 2020 address to parliament this view was largely borne out – as presented at length in a 237-page document called “SUPPORTING CANADIANS AND FIGHTING COVID-19 – FALL ECONOMIC STATEMENT 2020” …

Althia Raj offers a tidy mainstream media outline (well, Huffington Post Canada) in “Politics And Ideology Push Freeland To Open Spending Taps.” Beyond this we’d just underline two particular passages in the 237-page document.

The first is section “4.7 Preserving Canada’s Fiscal Advantage.” Note in particular : “The government will continue to provide fiscal support until the economy is firmly back on track. To guide this work, the government will track progress against several related indicators … These include the overall employment rate … The government’s expansive approach to fighting the coronavirus and getting the economy back on track is not infinite. Canadians should rest assured that once the need for support in the economy has passed, it will be withdrawn.”

The second is “Fiscal Projections … Changes to the Fiscal Outlook since the Economic and Fiscal Snapshot 2020 (EFS 2020), Table A1.3” : Note that the Department of Finance is currently projecting the government’s 2020-2021 deficit at a whopping $381.6 billion. Looking out over the subsequent five fiscal years ahead, however, the Department is anticipating that the deficit will progressively decline to $121.2 billion (2021-2022), $50.7 billion (2022-2023), $43.3 billion (2023-2024), $30.9 billion (2023-2024), and $24.9 billion (2024-2025).

We’d conclude with four further broad allusions to other commentary :

(1) On the Canadian economy generally see : “Moody’s affirms Canada’s Aaa rating, citing economic strength” ; “Canada’s economy bounced back at record 40% pace in third quarter.”

From Abacus Data, November 16-24, 2020.

(2) There have been two recent polls about popular satisfaction with the way the Canadian federal government has handled COVID-19 so far. Research Co. finds 63% Satisfied Canada-wide, and 30% Dissatisfied. Léger finds 65% Satisfied and 30% Dissatisfied.

(3) Party standings in the polls : According to the latest Abacus poll, “Liberals lead by 6 nationally, as COVID-19 gains as top issue … and with leads in BC, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada that would give them potential to win a majority if an election were held today.” Eric Grenier’s latest (December 1) update of his CBC Poll Tracker reports : “Since the beginning of September, the Liberals have held a lead of about five or six percentage points over the Conservatives in national polling. That hasn’t shifted, despite the Conservatives naming a new leader at the end of August and the number of COVID-19 cases rising across the country throughout the fall. The Liberals would very likely win the most seats if an election were held today and are just within range of a majority government. Support for the New Democrats, Bloc Québécois and Greens has not shifted much since the October 2019 federal election.”

(4) Don Martin, dean of conservative or right-wing commentators in Ottawa today, had this reaction to Chrystia Freeland’s November 30 document : “Fiscal update shows a revamp, like spring and an election, is coming … in raw political terms, it was mission accomplished for Freeland as she watched the Official Opposition flailing to get traction by attacking her plans as too generous while, incredibly, the NDP warned there was too much austerity ahead … She is in a particularly warm and fuzzy place for Liberal governance where deficits are in fashion, budgets can be deferred indefinitely and uncertainty is the only certainty.”

With assessments like this it is no surprise that the current Trudeau Liberal minority government has decided to put its fall economic statement to a vote of confidence in the House. If it loses the vote the stage could of course be set for another Canadian federal election soon enough …

And if M. Grenier’s analysis is on the money, probably the worst the Trudeau Liberals could do in a fresh election would be to win another minority government like the one they have now. Or, like provincial governments in New Brunswick and BC lately, they could turn their current minority into a new majority in the House, ready to take on COVID-19 and all other comers … ????

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