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The most common phrase spoken at the finance committee is a Morneau favourite

Finance Minister Bill Morneau appears at a Commons committee for pre-budget consultations, Feb. 23, 2016.


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By Chris Hannay (@channay)

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Five days, eight meetings, about 100 witnesses and more than 200,000 words: that's the tally from the finance committee's pre-budget blitz.

Between the election, procedural shenanigans and the pressure on the Liberals to start getting stimulus out the door, the finance committee ending up having very little time to conduct its pre-budget consultations, which wrapped this week.

Dozens of economic experts and interest groups gave their advice or made their requests to the committee between Feb. 16 and 23. For fun, we (by which I mean Globe developer Michael Pereira) analyzed the committee meeting transcripts to see which words and phrases got bandied about the most.

After omitting phrases like "thank you," "thank you very much," and "the chair, thank you very much," the most common budget-related term was…

"Debt-to-GDP ratio."

The phrase – one frequently used by Finance Minister Bill Morneau – was spoken 37 times, according to our count. Debt-to-GDP ratio is the relationship between a country's public debt and its gross domestic product, and is used as a measure of how well a country can pay back its debts. Mr. Morneau has referenced it repeatedly when discussing the upcoming budget, by saying that, no matter how deep the deficit will be, they will try to keep it below the point where the government will increase its debt-to-GDP ratio. (By some calculations, that ceiling is in the range of $25– to $30-billion).

For the record, the second most common phrase was "in the United States," uttered 22 times, and "small– and medium-sized enterprises," spoken 11 times.

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> Ontario released its budget: the deficit is down to $4.3-billion, thanks to favourable economic conditions (the province's manufacturing sector benefits from a low dollar and low energy prices), selling off part of Hydro One and increased transfers from Ottawa. Hospitals will get 1 per cent more funding after a four-year freeze and most low-income students will get postsecondary education for free, thanks to a change in how grants are handed out. David Parkinson thinks the Ontario Liberals is banking too much on luck, while Jeffrey Simpson says the province is ignoring the ballooning interest rates on its debt (both for subscribers).

> Mr. Morneau is in Shanghai for a meeting of G-20 finance ministers, where they will talk about the problem of slow economic growth facing most developed nations right now.

> The Liberal cabinet is now weighing a parliamentary committee's report into medically assisted dying, which recommends broad access. The report urges not limiting access to the terminally ill or those with only physical conditions.

> The Canadian Olympic Committee spent $2.9-million on a lavish boardroom, according to an audit obtained by The Globe that details other big spending.

> The head of a committee tasked with compensating survivors of Canada's residential schools has rejected a call to explain why so many claims were thrown out on a technicality.

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> To fix a problem that would have left the Senate Liberals with little office funding, senators from both government and opposition have cut a deal that sees all funding divided in a more even way – and one that also increases everyone's budgets in the process.

> Jane Taber tells the incredible story of Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo's path from a being street kid to Queen's Park.

> Muckracking media critic Canadaland says most guests on political TV shows are men.

> And we crunched the numbers: Ottawa has spent about $32-million on flights for refugees, or about $1,436 per person.


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"The committee has produced a legislative road map offering patients autonomy over the way they die. With choice comes responsibility to make our wishes known both privately and publicly in a vigorous parliamentary debate followed by a free vote. The issues are too important for a whipped vote, as the Trudeau government has threatened. Death, after all, is democratic." – Sandra Martin.

Daphne Bramham (Vancouver Sun): "If the federal government embraces the [assisted dying] committee's recommendation, it is possible under the Canada Health Act to withhold transfer payments to provinces and territories judged not to be meeting the act's principles that include universality and accessibility of all insured services."

Preston Manning (Globe and Mail): "What are the unity consequences when the federal government is all ears to requests from Bombardier for financial aid to protect 3,000 jobs in Quebec, but is deaf to the voices of more than 100,000 unemployed oil-field workers in Western Canada?"

Carol Goar (Toronto Star): "Is shoring up Bombardier a higher priority than delivering the unfunded promises in the Liberal platform?"

Sara MacIntyre (Sun): "It's a great time to be a Conservative in Canada. There is nothing to lose. Let's not water down our core beliefs in an attempt to be more centrists. "

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More


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