Balanced Budget Hopes Meet Toronto Maple Leaf Frustrations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) accepting a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey from former Mayor of Toronto John Tory (right). Photo Credit: Reddit/the-one-who_knocks


Sometimes a little meme can say so much.

Take the one where Justin Trudeau becomes the new coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Alas, the team ended their season with disappointment again this year, leaving fans wondering why the team can’t ever get things right. That won’t be Sheldon Keefe’s problem anymore, as he was fired May 10.

And heeeeeeeere’s Justin Trudeau to the rescue!

“With my unique coaching style, the cup will win itself,” the spoof quoted Trudeau as saying, sporting a Maple Leafs jacket and an NHL playoffs backdrop.

The parallels between the Leafs and Canada are numerous, and the spoofed quote is a good place to start. On February 11, 2014, Trudeau was asked how committed he would be to a balanced budget.

“The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy, and the budget will balance itself,” Trudeau said.

Apparently the fiscal prudence of Team Blue’s 2014 (Conservative) budget was wrong.

“They’re artificially fixing a target of a balanced budget in an election year and they’re going through all kinds of twists and bends to get it just right, and the timing just right in the announcement. And that’s irresponsible,” Trudeau explained.

“What you need to do is create an economy that works for Canadians, works for middle class Canadians, allows young people to find a job, allows seniors to feel secure in their retirement.”

The Conservatives indeed held the course. The budget had a $7.5 billion surplus in the 2015-16 fiscal year when the Trudeau Liberals were sworn into power on November 4, 2016. However, new management drove it down to a $5.4 billion deficit by the end of March.

In the campaign that brought him to power, Trudeau did what he condemned the Conservatives of doing. He pledged to run modest deficits and a return to balance in the final year of his majority term.

We’re still waiting for that, despite two elections since, and the pandemic is only a partial excuse. After all, the Conservative government managed adjusted to the 2007-08 financial crisis with only one-third the relative size of deficit as most developed countries, such as the U.S.

Prior to taking power, Trudeau argued that historically low interest rates were a good reason to borrow and spend on nation-building infrastructure. If the debt-to-GDP ratio kept dropping, good enough. The budget wouldn’t be balancing itself, it would just be less unbalanced than before.

That excuse of low interest rates is gone, yet the deficits remain. When this fiscal year ends next March, the federal debt will be double what it was when the Trudeau Liberals took power. Thanks to deficits and higher lending rates, federal government interest debt has nearly doubled in the past two years alone.

Has Trudeau taxed-and-spent us into prosperity? No, he has not. The hole in federal finances has only made the good ship Maple Leaf take on more and more water until it threatens to capsize entirely.

Among the 38 nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Canada’s growth in real GDP per capita was the fifth-weakest over 2019-22. Last November, Canada was named as one of only eight advanced countries where real incomes were lower than before the pandemic, as inflation outpaces growth.

Worse, the OECD projects Canada will be the worst performing economy among the 38 advanced economies over both 2020-30 and 2030-60.

Even before capital gains taxes were hiked in the recent budget, investors knew Canada wasn’t a good place to grow wealth. The country lost $225 billion in captial investment from 2016 through 2022.

When it comes to budgets, you have to make the numbers work. In real life, in business, indefinite deficits are not an option. Businesspeople know that. Even the NHL knows that. That’s why the NHL has a salary cap for its players, so teams limit their pay to what they can reasonably afford.

Getting back to the Maple Leafs, malhandling the salary cap is a reason they’re failing. The cap is $83.5 million, and a hockey team dresses 20 players any given night. Last year, the Leafs had four players paid $11 million each. This left less than half the total pay for the other 16 players.

Trudeau’s economic plan has relied on a burgeoning, high-paid public sector, almost limitless immigration, carbon taxes, and green spending.

Canada was altogether different in 1967, the last time the Leafs won a cup. Since then, the first and second prime ministers Trudeau have eroded this country’s social and fiscal moorings, leaving us conflicted and financially burdened instead of celebrating our success.

A turnaround is possible, but it won’t happen by itself. Team Maple Leaf needs a leader that understands that. The hockey team has figured out a coaching change is necessary, and so have most voters. When will they finally get a chance?

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