Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the government has the fiscal wiggle room to help businesses through any challenges posed by the new coronavirus, in a March 8, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservatives call for spending cuts, waste reduction in federal budget

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives are calling for spending cuts and waste reduction in the coming budget to unleash the economy and create jobs.

Tory MPs told a Sunday news conference that reckless Liberal spending has left the cupboard bare as national upheavals place new demands on the treasury.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the economy was sputtering even before the novel coronavirus and rail blockades began threatening growth.

The prime minister’s free-spending ways have left Canada with a “weak and vulnerable” economy amid uncertainty, he said.

“Justin Trudeau squandered the good times. When the world was stable and prosperous he should have paid down debt. He should have prepared for a rainy day. Instead he spent the cupboards bare,” Poilievre said.

“We warned the government during the good global economic times to pay off debt, run surpluses and prepare for the inevitable crises that would come.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the government has the fiscal wiggle room to help businesses through any challenges posed by the new coronavirus.

Morneau said last Friday the next budget will help with immediate health issues while trying to decrease the federal debt as a percentage of the national economy, or gross domestic product.

The Liberal election platform projected four years of deficits of more than $20 billion. The red ink is pegged at $28.1 billion for the fiscal year that begins in April, before accounting for any new promises.

Based on current policies and programs, the government could permanently increase spending or reduce taxes by around $41 billion and maintain its current debt-to-GDP ratio over the long term, parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux said late last month.

However, Poilievre said Sunday the Liberals have already spent their fiscal cushion, running up tens of billions of dollars in debt since coming to power in 2015.

“Conservatives are putting forward plans to eliminate waste, to restrain government spending and to unleash our economy so that Canadians and our economy can get working again.”

The Tories advocate a reasonable plan to phase out the deficit, tax cuts for workers and entrepreneurs, and an end to “corporate welfare” for companies such as Bombardier, Loblaws and Mastercard.

Poilievre said a Conservative government would adopt a “pay-as-you-go principle,” meaning each new dollar of spending would entail finding a dollar of savings. The government would have to “look within its own wallet for money, rather than just assuming it can pass new costs on to taxpayers and future generations,” he said.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper, the party’s deputy finance critic, accused the Liberals of rewarding their friends while declaring war on the energy sector by creating regulatory uncertainty.

Among the Conservative proposals:

— Legislation requiring removal of two regulatory measures for every new one imposed on businesses;

— Exempt homeowners from the lender “stress test” upon renewing a mortgage;

— A capital-gains exemption on proceeds donated to a charity;

— Cancel a planned 10-per-cent luxury tax on boats, cars and planes costing over $100,000.

Poilievre said expensive federal initiatives such as the government’s signature infrastructure program are not delivering the intended results.

“The money’s being gobbled up by interest groups, bureaucracy and corporate insiders rather than building projects that improve people’s lives.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2020.

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