Rona Ambrose says the Liberal plan to run “modest” deficits may not be the worst plan, but she wants to know just how big a deficit Justin Trudeau is willing to work with.
The interim Conservative Party leaders is on a multi-city tour across the country ahead of Parliament resuming Jan. 25.
Speaking to Global News in Burnaby, B.C., Ambrose said running deficits aren’t “a recipe for growth” but admitted it’s sometimes necessary.
“During recessions, it’s not a bad thing to take on a little bit of deficit but you don’t want to be taking on deficits unless you really have to,” she told Global News Wednesday morning.
Former Conservative leader Stephen Harper chided Trudeau during the election campaign for wanting to “run a deficit on purpose if the economy is actually showing growth.”
Harper governed and ran for re-election on the promise of balancing the books.
“Proposing a deficit right now with economic growth is a recipe for permanent deficits,” Harper said Sept. 2.
Ambrose echoed that sentiment.
“Because then, of course, you end up with structural deficits, which mean then you have to raise taxes even more on Canadians and eventually you’ll have to cut services and programs.”
Ambrose said the problem with Trudeau’s plan to run deficits is that it’s not clear just how big the deficits will ultimately be.
On the campaign trail last fall, the Liberals promised to run three consecutive deficits of $10 billion before balancing the budget in 2019. But Finance Minister Bill Morneau last month warned that number is not set in stone and the deficits could run higher.
“That [plan] was blown within 30 days [of the Liberals taking office], ” Ambrose said. “We don’t know how much deficit they’re going to take on.
“What I’ve asked Mr. Trudeau is to, in the next budget, to clarify what that debt will look like for Canadians and also to come up with a plan to come out of deficit.”
Ambrose’s comments came as the stock markets took a big tumble with yet another dip in the price of oil: the Dow Jones was down 420 points at 11 a.m. ET, while the Toronto Stock Exchange had dropped more than 400 points at that hour.
WATCH ABOVE: Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose tells Global News taking on “a little bit of deficit” isn’t a bad thing, but she’s concerned about how size of the deficits the Trudeau government plans to run and for how long.
The Canadian dollar is also taking a beating as oil plummets, sitting below 69 cents US.
Although the interim Conservative leader cautioned running deficits are not good for economic growth and the Bank of Canada is warning the economy is in for a rocky year in 2016, it’s not all doom and gloom.
In its Monetary Policy Report released Wednesday, the Bank of Canada said the non-resource sector is “expected to be the main source of growth going forward.”
The report predicted investments in Canada’s oil and gas sector will remain low through next year and into 2017.
But while the oil sector has faltered, other exports have thrived.
“There’s nothing better than to diversify an economy than trade,” said Ambrose, whose party dedicated much of its focus on the development of the energy and resource sector.
That’s why Ambrose, who is serving as interim leader until a permanent leader is chosen in April 2017, wants Trudeau to “show a clear commitment” to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade agreement that would create the world’s largest free trade zone.
The Harper government tentatively signed on to the deal Oct. 5 — just 24 days before he was voted out of office — but the deal has yet to be ratified. Trudeau promised the Liberals would “hold a full and open public debate in Parliament” before committing to joining the 12-nation trade block.
Since taking on the role of the official opposition in the House of Commons, Ambrose and the Conservatives have taken on a notably less brash tone compared to when Harper was at the helm.
“I just am who I am and so perhaps I bring a different tone,” she said. “I was actually named the most civil parliamentarian in the House of Commons and that’s obviously an honour”
But, Ambrose said that doesn’t stop she and her fellow Canadians from being tough on the governing Liberals.
“We’re going to be tough and ask tough questions… but I think we can do that respectfully.”
With files from Robin Gill
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