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Setting cynicism to the side, the question the opposition leaders must ask is whether the program outlined by Trudeau is the right one for the country. Are the right supports in place to weather COVID-19? Is there a plan for growth to pay for them? If the answer is “no,” then people like Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh need to supply the “yes.”
Because Lord knows the Liberals are spoiling for a “no” fight. Liberal spinners who have kept their pie-holes shut since Trudeau prorogued were out in force Wednesday vomiting out talking points and taking pot shots at the leaders of the opposition parties. “This,” they all tweeted, “is not the time for austerity.” We get it, Grits. It’s record spending or Scrooge McDuck, with nothing in between.
Of course, reducing spending following a period of Brewster’s Millions-like firehosing is hardly “austerity”; it’s responsibility. Because it can’t go on forever. Sitting atop a pile of debt gunpowder might feel fine when the world is short of sparks but it doesn’t take much to make it all go up in smoke.
Trudeau’s bet is now clearly for a spring election, ahead of next summer’s expiration of the just-extended federal emergency wage subsidy. The hope by then is that a vaccine will be in hand or at least in sight, and that Canadians will be well-disposed to the man who got them through the storm.
It feels like a safe bet. But given Trudeau’s habit of breaking the rules, I’m sure he’ll keep a dead cat handy just in case.
Andrew MacDougall is a London-based communications consultant and ex-director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper.