Trudeau on surpluses – ours were good, Mulcair’s would be bad

Oh my friends, my friends – the things I do for the sake of political coverage!

I just spent the last half hour of my life – a half hour I’ll never get back, I hasten to add, a half hour which brought me thirty minutes closer to death – watching a Liberal Party rally livestreamed on the CBC’s website. I watched first Paul Martin and then Justin Trudeau lecture a crowd of rowdy partisan holding incoherently eerie clearly-aiming-at-being-subliminal red-and-white signs reading “leader” and “plan”, on the virtues of Liberal economic leadership. I heard Paul Martin tell the crowd that he knew a thing or two about creating a balanced budget, and that the Conservatives had squandered his surpluses, to raucous applause, and then I heard Justin Trudeau tell the crowd that a balanced budget was entirely the wrong decision for Canadians right now, to raucous applause.

Oh my lord the cognitive dissonance was real. To hear about all the compassion that the Liberal Party supposedly has for average Canadians while also hearing Martin extol his many many surpluses in the 90s – surpluses that were racked up on the backs of working Canadians – was borderline nauseating.

But see here’s the thing. Today Thomas Mulcair pledged that the NDP wouldn’t post a deficit if elected. Which, in case I needed it, was yet another reason not to vote for them, and yet another reason to wonder if the “N” stands for “neoliberal”. Because, with a super-stagnant economy and record-low interest rates, posting a deficit right now seems like a great idea. That’s not radical economics – that’s straight-up Keynes. And Mulcair is, y’know, the leader of the NDP.

But it’s left to Justin friggin’ Trudeau – who, as today’s rally revealed, is really a natural in front of a microphone, even if it is all completely scripted – to point out that running a surplus right now would take billions of dollars out of the economy, would necessarily reduce the well-being of Canadians, would amount to cruel austerity, while deficit spending would allow us to invest in our future. With his tie clumsily knotted and his shirt sleeves rolled up, he worked the crowd into a frenzy with his denunciation of first Harper and then Mulcair. They were so fired up that they missed the massive logical leap he made when he posited that therefore the Liberals were the only option.

Now, I don’t agree with his party’s priorities, and there’s no way in hell you’ll ever catch me voting Liberal. To be honest, I think he’s taking this position in large part to make a distinction between his centrist party and the increasingly right-wing No Difference Party. (Nauseatingly Disappointing Party?) Trudeau and Mulcair are locked in a fight-to-the-death cage match over who’ll win the ABC vote, which in all likelihood will determine the winner of this election, and with Mulcair’s recent appeals to discontented Conservative supporters receiving pushback from diehard Dippers, the Liberal brain trust senses an opening on the left. And much as they Kathleen Wynne in the Ontario provincial election last fall, they’re more than happy to sell themselves as the most progressive electable option available – and we’ve all seen how that one worked out.

Mostly I’m just kind of sad that, on the issue of the economy, the Liberals have taken the most coherent position of the Big Three.

That’s faint praise indeed – and bad news for all of us.

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