KINSELLA: Liberal Party of Canada no longer a liberal party


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Oh memories.

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Remember the Jean Chretien years? I sure do. I was Chretien’s special assistant, and then a chief of staff in his government. Those were the days.

Justin Bieber was born in London, Ontario. The Rangers won the Stanley Cup. NAFTA went into effect. Celine Dion and Bryan Adams had top ten hits.

And, back when le petit gars de Shawinigan was running things, circa 1994 or so, the Liberal Party of Canada was still truly that: a liberal party. We weren’t conservatives, we weren’t socialists.

We were in the center, which is where most Canadians are: in the ideological middle. In that year, Chretien’s finance minister Paul Martin released a budget and it was — and remains — the most important Canadian federal budget to date.

Generally speaking, it makes this year’s federal budget look like it was cooked up in a Trotskyite backroom, which it kind of was. In particular, the 1994 Chretien-Martin budget makes the Singh-Trudeau Axis of Weasels™ budget resemble a tombstone for the old Liberal Party of Canada.

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Which it kind of is. Which is sad.

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Let’s contrast and compare the 1994 and 2022 budgets, shall we?

Before Chretien won a massive Parliamentary majority, reducing the Conservative government to two seats, Canada’s debt rating was downgraded from AAA to AA+ — something the then-Liberal leader felt was an international embarrassment. So he did something about it, and restored us to a triple-A rating.

In 2020, meanwhile, in the Justin Trudeau era, Fitch again downgraded Canada’s credit rating. But Trudeau has done nothing about it.

In 1993, when we Chretien Grits took office, we inherited a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 67%. By the time Chretien left office, Canada had the best economic record in the G7.

In his first term, Chretien dramatically turned around Canada’s fiscal situation. He would go on to run budgetary surpluses for seven of the ten budgets his government presented. Trudeau, meanwhile — he who once famously remarked that “budgets balance themselves Canadians” — hasn’t offered a balanced budget once. Not eleven.

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2015 was the last year we arguably had a balanced budget. After he became Prime Minister, Trudeau solemnly vowed to balance the budget by 2019, which he said was “very” cast in stone. Well, I didn’t.

When real Liberals ran things, there were very few programs and departments that were exempt from cuts. The exception was the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, because Chretien never forgot our collective obligation to Indigenous people. Overall, program spending fell by 12% between 1994 and 1999.

Jean Chretien liked to tell us he was fiscally cautious, and socially concerned. He practiced kitchen-table economics: he knew we wouldn’t be able to afford the social programs we need if we didn’t get our fiscal house in order.

And, so he did. As he said at the time about the cuts: “I will do it. I might be Prime Minister for only one term, but I will do it.”

And he did. Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, hasn’t, and won’t.

Because Justin Trudeau isn’t a real Liberal, and likely never was.

— Kinsella was a special assistant to Jean Chretien

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