(Ed. note – An earlier version of this piece erroneously stated that Gerald Butts advised Kathleen Wynne and worked on the Green Energy Act. We regret the error.)
Will Trudeau and his new Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland pitch an agenda of increasing massive debt and deficit? If so, where might any dedicated attention toward growing the economy and judiciously writing future cheques be directed?
Is Trudeau preparing to engineer what amounts to a guaranteed annual income through the new $22-billion Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)? The program will pay $400 weekly and not begin any clawing back of funds until a recipient reaches a $38,000 annual earning threshold.
Might such a move offer an incentive to work less or not at all at minimum wage rates?
At present, CRB is not scheduled as a permanent reality. Where will the money come from to pay the $22 billion for this — so far — one-year program? Whip out the national credit card already bearing never before seen skid marks from a $380-billion deficit and an approaching $1 trillion in national debt.
Even if the CRB remains a 12-month effort, the concept of a guaranteed income remains appealing. However, the fly in the ointment is the cost.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux explained in a recent interview with me that his office has calculated that a guaranteed national income will range in cost from the mid-40s to low-90s in billions of dollars. For six months.
The federal government spending watchdog will be returning to my program on Saturday.
Canadians have heard the prime minister and his minister of finance speak about a pandemic recovery being launched on the fundamentals of a green economy.
Perhaps worthy of a reminder is the Ontario Green Energy Act of 2009 during the tenures of former Liberal premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.
In Ontario, hard on the heels of the Green Energy Act, electricity costs skyrocketed as home hydro (electricity) bills drove the poorest into desperation.
A caller to my program in 2016 spoke of wearing his snowmobile suit inside his bachelor apartment all winter while keeping the thermostat set at 10 C and still being saddled with a $300 per month electricity bill he had difficulty paying.
Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the Bruce Grey County United Way, told us on air in November 2016 she worried someone would die because of the electricity cost crisis.
Business suffered. The province suffered. The Wynne government was to blame.
The then-premier and her government were repeatedly criticized by provincial auditor Bonnie Lysyk. Variously, Lysyk reported Ontarians’ bill for green energy would exceed necessary costs over 20 years by $9.2 billion and consumers would be paying twice the average market price for wind-generated energy and 3.5 times the average market cost for solar power in 2014. Result? A 70 per cent rise in electricity cost for private homes and small businesses over eight years (2006-14)
In October 2017, Lysyk declared Wynne’s government was “improperly” engaging in accounting for some $26 billion in short-term loans taken on by the province through Ontario Power Generation in order for the debt to not appear on Ontario’s books. She told a news conference it was like “treating your credit card debt as an asset in your books.”
While we do not know whether a Trudeau government 2020 green initiative will poach significantly from the disaster invoked by Ontario’s Liberals, the Green Energy Act should serve as an amber light at least for Jagmeet Singh and the federal New Democrats.
The NDP is experiencing a national voter support collapse when compared with the heady days of 2011 and Jack Layton’s leadership. Had Layton not succumbed to cancer, it is not impossible to imagine the NDP having formed at least a minority federal government in 2015.
The party had occupied official opposition benches in Parliament with 103 MPs and support in the crucial voter battleground of Quebec was huge. The Liberals, meanwhile, had managed to get a meagre 34 MPs elected.
Singh and the NDP emerged from last October’s federal election with just 24 seats, including being shut out in Toronto.
It will be difficult for Singh and the NDP to support a non-confidence vote if Trudeau and Freeland pile non-existent massive billions of dollars into traditional NDP platform programs. However, Singh should remember Trudeau is tacking hard-left and may poach significant remaining New Democrat territory.
Perhaps an acceptable refusal of Trudeau’s Speech from the Throne for Singh would be that Trudeau is a twice-declared violator of the parliamentary Conflict of Interest Act who prorogued Parliament, shutting down the finance and ethics committees whose opposition MPs were pushing Trudeau hard on his role in the awarding to WE Charity the sole-source contract to administer the $912-million student grant program.
With a minority government, while experiencing ongoing investigations into his ethical behaviours, there would appear to be a strong argument that Trudeau has no mandate for a plan with the potential to plunge Canada into existential financial pain, in turn, to be borne by the taxpayers of the land.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.