It's now clear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has blown the huge budgetary surplus they inherited in 2006 with their ill-considered cuts to the GST and other spending decisions. The result is in leaner times like today whatever buffers we had under the Liberals against slipping into deficit are now gone. Furthermore, the Tories are now struggling to explain to Canadians how this economic downturn could've escaped their estimations.
Conservatives have gained a reputation in government, both in Canada and the U.S., as bad fiscal managers, while Liberals and Democrats have earned a reputation for fiscal competence. This is quite the reversal from two decades ago when lefties used to be associated with deficit spending. But history is clear: Mulroney ran huge deficits, while Chretien balanced the budget. Mike Harris and Ernie Eves cut taxes too low, created structural deficits during booming times and undermined basic public services, a situation Dalton McGuinty had to fix with the imposition of the health premium and other value-for-money budgetary choices. The $13 billion surplus Harper inherited from Paul Martin just under three years ago is now gone.
Do Liberals today want to give up this reputation for fiscal competence by electing a man with a record of deficit spending even worse than the current Prime Minister? Already, Bob Rae's comments on the John Oakley Show last week downplaying the responsibilities of governments that choose to run deficits are coming back to haunt us.
To abandon the strategic advantage Liberals have earned through many years of fiscal prudence seems absolutely foolhardy. With all due respect, Bob, I don't care about the reputation you're trying to salvage or your leadership bid. Giving our opposition ammunition to attack Liberals (like you did last weekend in Mississauga and again with your comments on deficits) is hurting the party. This is not how you're going to win the leadership, I can assure you.