Word on the Street: How the economy is affecting Calgary voters in the 2019 federal election

The Global News Morning Calgary team takes to the streets to find out how Calgarians think the economy is affecting the 2019 federal election.

Each day this week, Global News will explore some of the issues that matter to voters in Calgary as we approach the 2019 federal election in a new segment called Word on the Street.

The Global News Morning Calgary team took to the streets last week to find out what voters in Calgary think about the economy in the context of the 2019 federal election — and what they want to see, money-wise, from the next prime minister.

The economy is a key issue in the federal election campaign, and the parties have laid out their spending platforms.

But what do voters want to see?

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A recent Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found that 77 per cent of respondents feel it’s important the next government balance the books and not run a deficit.

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Roughly 31 per cent said balancing the budget is the top priority, even if it means spending cuts or tax increases. Thirty-six per cent said that lowering taxes was more urgent, even if it means continued deficits or cuts.

In Alberta, the economy continues to be sluggish. It’s been five years since global oil prices collapsed and sent Alberta’s economy into a tailspin, leaving thousands of people suddenly unemployed.

Since then, economic recovery has been slow.

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Mel Reyes cited some decisions made by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau during his last term as prime minister as reasons for the downturn in Alberta.

“He kind of shot his number one economic driver in the foot with his policies,” Reyes said, referring to the oil and gas industry. “There’s a reason why all of these office towers are half-empty, you know?”

Hillary Johnstone, who was visiting Calgary from Toronto, said economic decisions need to be made with the whole country in mind.

When it comes to the federal government spending money, Susan Waddell thinks it should use restraint.

“Instead of spending all of this money, we are going to have to suck it up and try and get the deficits down,” Waddell said.

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Others, like Rebecca Edworthy, say they can see their tax dollars at work.

“I think our system is really great,” Edworthy said. “I don’t mind paying the taxes we pay because we get so much out of it.”

Economist Trevor Tombe with the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary said the spending plans from the major parties aren’t as different as they may appear.

“What surprised me in terms of spending is how similar the parties are, so clearly there are differences in how much each wants to spend, but all the parties are proposing we spend more over the next couple of years,” Tombe said.

“The Conservatives will grow spending the slowest at about 1.8 per cent per year, and the NDP will grow it the fastest at a little shy of 5 per cent.”

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Canada’s deficit may be concerning to some voters, but Tombe said not as bad as it seems.

“When we think about the federal deficit, it’s important to put it in a broader context — compare it to the size of the economy. So the deficits that even the Liberals are proposing we run over the next couple of years — which, of the major parties, is the largest — is fairly modest by historic standards,” Tombe explained.

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“All three parties, despite the spending increases, are going to see that debt-to-GDP will be declining, although it will be declining the most under the Conservatives. So I think that we shouldn’t be concerned, in the sense that it’s really leading us into a risky situation, but there are tradeoffs, of course.”

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Tombe says that no matter who wins the upcoming federal election, Canadians won’t see a big change in growth and employment.

“Canada’s economy, we produce about $2.3 trillion in income each year, and each day we produce about $12 to $13 billion worth of goods and services. So tweaks to tax rates here and there, new spending programs here and there – these are not things that will move the needle to any large degree one way or the other.”

Tombe suggests Canada is, however, greatly impacted by international trade.

“So if the China-U.S. trade war really heats up and gets out of control, that’s the real risk to Canada’s economy.”

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