It is an unthinkable move for a conservative. And a brilliant piece of political strategy.
Canadian Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer has announced that if his party wins this year’s federal election, they will not balance the budget.
Fiscal responsibility is one of the cornerstones of conservative policy. Putting the nation in debt, with future generations required to pay the bill, just isn’t done. This time though, things are different.
In 2015 the Liberal Party leader campaigned on a promise not of balanced budgets but modest deficits, around $10 billion annually. On election day his party vaulted from third place to victory, passing the two parties that promised fiscal sanity.
Of course, the man who claimed “budgets will balance themselves” soon found out they don’t. His “modest” deficit was triple what he promised. Also forgotten was his promise to balance the budget by the end of his term. The country has sunk deeper in debt under his watch – with no plan to pay the money back.
The Liberals were planning to campaign against balanced budgets. They were going to tell Canadians that living within your means is bad for you. They were going to promise more spending. Essentially they were going to try and bribe voters with their own money.
They were also hoping to convince the people that the Conservatives, to balance the budget, would have to make drastic costs to social programs such as health care and education.
Canadians are proud of our social safety net. Prime Minister Selfie was hoping he could paint Andrew Scheer an an evil man who cares more about numbers than about Canadians. He really can’t do that now, though I imagine he will still try.
Furthermore, he has handed Scheer a potent political weapon. Not balancing the budget immediately, Scheer will say, is a prudent choice because the Liberals have so badly mismanaged the nation’s finances. It will take time to fix them, especially without hurting Canadians. What a reminder to offer the voters!
The election is now a little more than four months away. Canadians don’t usually toss out first term majority governments. We haven’t done so federally since 1935. Odds-makers would therefore expect Prime Minister Selfie and his government to return to power.
This time though, things may be different. The Prime Minister and his government have been dogged by ethical scandals. Voters will certainly be reminded of those before they cast their ballot.
The PM may be hoping his personal brand, once so very strong, is still enough to win the election, that voters will forget his ethics and concentrate on his smile. He forgets that even mud will stick to Teflon if there is enough of it. And there sure is a lot of mud surrounding his Liberals.