Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has accused the Harper government of slashing funding to seniors, veterans and Aboriginal Affairs last year in order to balance the books just in time for Canadians to head to the polls.
“We are in deficit right now, Mr. Harper has put us into deficit this year,” Trudeau said Monday. “As for last year’s numbers, we know, and we saw Mr. Harper under-spending and making cuts to Veterans Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs, to seniors, in the billions of dollars so that he could balance the books in time for his election.”
WATCH: Trudeau accuses Stephen Harper of making billions of dollars in cuts last year so he could have a balanced budget in time for the election
But Trudeau’s statements don’t add up, according to the official 2014-2015 fiscal report from the Finance Department released the same day he made the claims. The books were balanced, and even showed a surprise surplus, but no deep cuts in the areas Trudeau claimed.
The report showed spending increased for Aboriginal Affairs by $2 billion, to $8.78 billion from $6.794 billion the year before.
In-Depth: Federal Election 2015
Spending increased for Veterans Affairs by $121 million, up to $1.018 billion from $897 million in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Spending for elderly benefits increased as well, to a total of $2.3 billion, up 5.5 per cent.
The $1.9 billion surplus certainly came as good news for Harper, breaking a painful streak of six-straight years in the red.
“This is incredibly good news,” Harper said Monday. “In spite of all the problems of the world, this country has a balanced budget, has had it all along. And the other parties are going to have to explain why they think now would be a good time to throw us into deficit.”
Trudeau has said he plans to run a deficit until 2019, in order to invest in infrastructure and boost the economy. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has pledged to not run a deficit as prime minister, even if he has to cut Conservative initiatives to do it.
The Liberals say Trudeau’s accusation was based on Monday’s fiscal report which said program spending was down, in part because of a “higher-than-expected lapse of departmental spending authorities.”
Budget numbers indicated government departments spent $1.6 billion less than projected.
When asked about his claims, Trudeau on Tuesday called the report Harper’s “paper budget,” full of dollars pledged but not delivered.
“He makes commitments to veterans, and First Nations, and others, and then doesn’t keep those promises,” said Trudeau. “We know from years past, a billion dollars unspent in commitments made to our veterans, a billion dollars unspent in commitments made to First Nations.”
It has been documented that billions of federal dollars have gone unspent in many departments; in late 2014 it came to light that $1.13 billion from Veterans Affairs had gone unspent since the Conservatives come to power in 2006.
The departments in which the funds went unspent will not be clear until after the federal election on October 19.
With a file from The Canadian Press