Friday morning press conferences are pretty unusual when the House isn’t sitting, but fresh from a flight from Colombia, Scott Brison was in the National Press Theatre, denouncing Jim Flaherty on his plans to talk to American legislators about fiscal prudence.
“Next week, quite incredibly, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will lecture an audience in Washington on controlling government spending,” Brison began. “He will also try to take credit for Canada’s sound financial and banking system.”
Brison said that Flaherty had no lessons to teach anyone about sound financial management. “Let’s look at the real record of this Conservative government – not the revisionist history that Jim Flaherty will try to present next week. No matter how many times Stephen Harper repeats the word ‘economy’ or how many millions of dollars of taxpayers' money he spends on Conservative-blue advertising, the facts remain the same. This Conservative government wrecked Canada’s finances after inheriting a $13 billion budget surplus from the previous Liberal government and then created a record $56 billion deficit. Furthermore, it was the Liberal government that ensured our banking system was well-regulated, and it was this strong financial prudence and regulatory prudence that protected Canada from the worst of the global financial crisis.”
He went on to talk about how Harper, in his days with the National Citizenship Coalition, wanted the Liberals to follow the Americans on the road to deregulation, and how Flaherty would conveniently forget to mention that – as well as the fact that they were already in deficit before the recession after ramping up spending, and that he’s missed every deficit target he’s set.
“By now Canadians should recognize that a Jim Flaherty budget projection just isn’t credible.”
Brison detailed some of the government’s spending habits – upwards of $21 billion on the F-35 fighter jets without an open competition, $10 billion on US-style megaprisons, $6 billion more on corporate tax cuts, last summer’s $1.3 billion G8/G20, $50 million in vanity projects, many of which are in Tony Clement’s riding, $45 million on partisan advertising that broke Treasury Board rules, a 30-percent increase in the budget of the Prime Minister’s Office and Flaherty overspending his own office budget.
He talked about Canada’s record levels of household debt (we tend to owe $1.50 for every dollar we earn), and how it was Flaherty who contributed to that debt bubble by first introducing 40-year mortgages with zero down (a move he had to later cancel after the US housing crisis hit). He then touted his party’s priorities of home care, pensions and learning.
He faced questions on the job numbers, whether the Liberals would vote down the budget (short answer: we want to see it first, but they’d have to change their priorities), and what the true cost to our economy is if all the new jobs being created are simply those in the resource sector, which drives up the dollar.
“Jim Flaherty cannot and should not take responsibility for the $13 billion surplus he inherited, and he didn’t put the oil and the gas under the ground or under the water on the East Coast, though he may try to take credit for that next week too,” Brison said. “Jim Flaherty preaching fiscal restraint is a little bit like Jimmy Swaggart preaching on the sanctity of marriage. It just doesn’t have much credibility.”