The leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh, did not hesitate for a moment before announcing that his party would support the federal budget tabled Tuesday by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. Indeed, it would have been surprising to see Mr. Singh repudiate a document that bears his marks so much that Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre called it the “New Democrat budget”.
A year after signing their support and confidence agreement, the marriage of convenience between the New Democrats and the Liberals seems to have found its stride. The two parties have weathered difficult times — notably around the Liberals’ botched attempt to ban certain models of hunting weapons — to strengthen their alliance, if only to buy time. Nevertheless, the differences between the two parties have become so slight that the two formations are now almost interchangeable.
Under Justin Trudeau, the Liberals occupy more than ever the center left of the political spectrum. The New Democrats are struggling to distinguish themselves. The one issue where Mr. Singh’s training strays from the liberal approach involves the carbon capture tax credits included in the last two budgets. New Democrats see it as fossil fuel subsidies that keep the oil industry going. However, it is not certain that an NDP government would abolish such measures which enjoy the support of the NDP in Alberta.
Mr. Singh may congratulate himself on having “forced” the Liberals to launch a new Canadian dental plan for the less fortunate, such a program fits perfectly into the progressive and centralizing vision of Mr. Trudeau. The latter is rather stingy when the provinces ask for more money to provide health care already covered by their public plans, but he seems to have no problem loosening the purse strings to create new cost-shared social programs. whose bill is likely to explode in the years to come.
The Liberals are increasing spending at such a meteoric pace that it would be hard for the New Democrats to beat them on this. Remember when Mr. Singh’s predecessor, Thomas Mulcair, promised balanced budgets? This idea does not even cross the mind of Mr. Singh or that of Mr. Trudeau.
Since taking office in 2015, the Liberals have continuously revised their own deficit forecast upwards. If it were necessary during the pandemic, the debt accumulated during this period should encourage the Liberals to exercise more caution today. However, the opposite is happening. “With each successive budget, the spending profile gradually increases, despite the fact that COVID-19 has passed into an endemic stage,” Desjardins Group economists noted this week.
Thus, instead of the $30.6 billion deficit for 2023-2024 forecast last November in Ms.me Freeland, this week’s budget instead forecasts a $40.1 billion shortfall. Instead of the accumulated deficits of $70 billion over the next five years predicted in the fall statement, it is now more than $130 billion in deficits over five years that the last budget of Mr.me Freeland.
Needless to say, these forecasts won’t hold water for long if Canada enters a recession during this period or if the Liberals decide to go ahead with a national pharmacare program as their NDP allies are urging them to do. to do.
The New Democrats’ support for the budget rules out the possibility of an early election in 2023. And looking at the latest polls, we understand Mr. Singh’s desire to avoid any short-term electoral appointment. The NDP would likely emerge with fewer seats than the 25 it currently holds. The Liberals would also lose several feathers, according to the most recent projection of seats from Qc125. Even together, Liberals and New Democrats would find themselves short of the 170 seats needed to form an informal coalition and block the way to the formation of a minority Conservative government.
Admittedly, Mr. Poilievre is not breaking popularity records. But, according to a Nanos poll released this week, more voters prefer the Conservative leader as prime minister to Mr Trudeau. The latter’s rating is down more than five percentage points for the past month, while Mr. Poilievre’s is up two points. The revelations around Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections undoubtedly have something to do with it. But the tide was already not in favor of the liberals before this controversy made headlines.
Mr. Singh has every interest in enjoying this moment in the sun snatched from the budget, because this moment is likely to be rather fleeting. In the longer term, the left shift of the Liberals poses a threat to the NDP.