Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Thursday that his economic policy will be a dramatic departure from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s, and promised that a future Conservative government would live within its means and not treat the taxpayer’s pocket as a “bottomless pit.”
In a wide-ranging speech at the Economic Club in Toronto, Mr. Scheer took aim at the country’s increasing deficits under Mr. Trudeau’s leadership, but stopped short of saying how or when a Conservative government would balance the budget. Unsurprisingly, he vowed to scrap the carbon tax and said that under his leadership there will be more pipeline construction.
But also dotted throughout his speech were anecdotes about his personal life. He talked about growing up in an end-unit townhouse in Ottawa and how his parents struggled to make ends meet for him and his two sisters. He said his parents taught him how to make decisions – such as whether he would go to football camp or baseball camp, but not both.
“I’m running to be Prime Minister for the people who just need a break,” Mr. Scheer said. “The people who are doing everything right – going to university, getting a good job, working hard, paying their bills on time – but who still can’t seem to get ahead in life.”
Mr. Scheer said nearly half of Canadians report being overwhelmed by debt. “People are barely getting by,” he said, adding that Mr. Trudeau has raised taxes on small-business owners and ended tax credits that made things such as dance class more affordable.
Mr. Scheer said that by the end of this year, Mr. Trudeau will have added “$71-billion to the national debt … with little to show for it.”
“The next time a Liberal tries to scare you with supposed Conservative spending cuts – and you can mark my words, they will – just remind them of the track they’ve put us on.
“When times are good, he spends. When times are bad, he also spends. Remember the 2015 election? When Trudeau looked the country straight in the eye and said he would balance the budget by 2019? Well, it’s 2019," he said.
Mr. Scheer said there is an opportunity to “change course,” in October. Launching into a segment on the differences between Conservative and Liberal economic policies, Mr. Scheer said Liberals “put their faith in government,” while Conservatives “put their faith in people.”
He said Canada should be a country of “yes” but that under Mr. Trudeau, it’s become a country of “no.” Mr. Scheer said that if elected prime minister, he would repeal Bill C-69, which is intended to reform the federal assessment process for major construction projects. Mr. Scheer also said he will end the ban on tanker traffic off the coast of British Columbia and assert federal jurisdiction when necessary.
Mr. Scheer proposed that, rather than having industry submit route proposals for new transmission lines and pipeline projects, there could be a single corridor planned in advance and in consultation with the provinces and Indigenous peoples.
“With a single corridor, we could minimize environmental impacts, lower the costs of environmental assessments, increase certainty for investors and, most importantly, get these critical projects built.”
Mr. Scheer said part of his vision is to see Canada become energy independent by 2030, allowing the economy to fire on all cylinders.
Finally, he said a Conservative government will “live within our means,” adding that if one of his ministers proposes a project, he will not consider it until he or she “has figured out where the money will come from.”
“Under my leadership, any new spending not already budgeted must be paid for from savings within the government.”
Mr. Scheer closed by saying Canadians deserve a new government that doesn’t see its citizens as sources of revenue and that understands that balancing the budget is the “best way to preserve” programs and services.
Speaking to reporters in Toronto, Finance Minister Bill Morneau accused the Conservative leader of gearing up for spending cuts that will shrink the economy. “Andrew Scheer has no credible plan for the economy,” Mr. Morneau said. “Now we’ve got Andrew Scheer proposing to pit provinces against each other with some sort of new national corridor. The approach we’ve taken has actually ensured we get big things done,” Mr. Morneau said, referencing the $40-billion LNG Canada project in northern British Columbia.
With a report from Laura Stone