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Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrive to give remarks before delivering the fall economic statement in Ottawa on Nov. 21.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Tuesday’s fiscal update confirmed that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are a dead government walking, constructing imaginary programs and fictitious projections, doubtless aware that the Canadian electorate has made up its mind to kick the bums out.

Also on Tuesday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre reminded us of the tremendous risk we might be taking by trusting him with power, when his party voted against a free-trade agreement with Ukraine.

Let’s start with the Liberals. This government has begun to eerily resemble Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives in the early 1990s.

Then, as now, the federal government had assured Canadians that, despite chronic deficits, everything was fine because the debt-to-GDP ratio was coming down.

Then, as now, that reassurance proved to be hollow, when the Bank of Canada hiked interest rates to fight inflation, blowing apart the government’s fiscal credibility.

Then, as now, servicing the interest on the debt became one of the biggest items in the budget. Then, as now, people started to realize that a good chunk of their hard-earned income was being used just to pay the interest on the federal credit card.

And then, as now, financial statements became works of fiction. In her fall economic statement, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland promised to increase supports for housing while also reining in deficits. But most measures won’t really kick in until 2026 or later. Why on earth would anybody believe such a promise?

This fiscal update should be nominated for the Giller Prize.

The Progressive Conservatives staggered toward a calamitous defeat in the 1993 election. Today, the next election is 23 months out, assuming Jagmeet Singh’s NDP continues to prop up this zombie administration. But polls suggest that voters’ minds are made up. Four in 10 of us say they intend to vote Conservative; only one in four of us supports the Liberals. Barring some epic upsetting of the apple cart, we appear to be headed toward a majority Conservative government.

Except ...

The House voted Tuesday on legislation to implement an updated version of the Canada-Ukraine free-trade agreement. Although all other parties endorsed the accord, the Conservatives voted against that agreement, saying it would require Ukraine to impose a carbon tax. This is false.

Chapter 13 of the agreement states: “The Parties shall co-operate bilaterally and in international forums to ... promote carbon pricing and measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks.”

There is nothing there that would require the Ukrainian government to impose a carbon tax. In any case, the government of Ukraine signed off on the wording.

If the Liberal strategy was to wedge the Conservatives into opposing stronger trade ties with Ukraine because of a fictitious carbon tax, they succeeded brilliantly. More likely, the carbon clause, like the clauses on gender equality and Indigenous consultation, are just Liberal virtue-signalling. Nonetheless, the Tories have handed the Grits a political gift.

The Liberals believe that their path to a fourth term in office lies in painting Mr. Poilievre as a clone of the once-and-perhaps-future U.S. president Donald Trump. Mr. Trump and many of his supporters harbour an irrational fondness for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin (and for strongmen in general). MAGA Republicans, cheered on by Fox News commentators, oppose sending money to support Ukraine.

People’s Party of Canada Leader and MAGA wannabe Maxime Bernier also opposes aid to Ukraine. He tweeted that Canada should “not get involved in this destructive proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.”

Mr. Poilievre appears to be so hungry to win back the PPC vote, to placate elements within his own base, and to demonstrate his unwavering opposition to carbon taxes, that he would compromise on his support for a democracy whose very existence is under threat.

The Liberals will use this.

The Ukraine vote isn’t likely to matter much. The election will turn on economic issues: the impact of inflation on living standards; the impact of interest rates on mortgages; the housing shortage; the lack of economic competitiveness or growth; the general perception that we are in a mess, the Liberals helped get us there, and they have no idea how to get us out.

But at a time when Mr. Poilievre needs to convince us that he is ready to lead this country, he turns his back on Ukraine. Unbelievable.

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