Federal fiscal update missed ‘urgent, top line’ priorities: Duncan

Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MP Eric Duncan. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SDSG – A frustrated Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MP Eric Duncan says the Trudeau Liberals have their priorities misaligned in their fall fiscal update.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Duncan says his “frustration…hasn’t been relieved in any way” after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s plan released Monday afternoon because it didn’t address a plan for rapid COVID-19 and a detailed plan on vaccines.

“That’s going to be the two single biggest things that are going to help us get out of the pandemic and out of a major part of our economic recovery. They had billion of dollars for everything else but in terms of the details that truly make a difference,” Duncan told CNW.

“To me the urgent priority. The top lines of this need to be. Here’s our plan for rapid testing. Here’s our plan for distribution and timelines for vaccines. Those are the two big things that should be headlining what the economic update is…that should have been the top of the bill and it was not.”

Duncan questions whether the Liberals are serious about getting out of the pandemic as quickly as possible.

Freeland’s blueprint calls for $25 billion in new spending, including child benefit payments, skills training and extending the 75 per cent payroll wage subsidy through March.

Asked whether he’s concerned about the level of spending with a deficit forecast of nearly $382 billion this year and possibly as much as $400 billion, Duncan says it’s “jaw-dropping.”

When compared to other countries, Duncan says the amount Canada is spending per capita is “quite concerning.” He is also worried with the government’s justification for borrowing because interest rates are low.

“My issue is not so much right now, it’s when interest rates go up. A lot of this is short term bonds. When interest rates go up, that’s what’s going to be crippling for a federal budget…we’re going to be paying a lot more on that debt,” he said.

“Looking at their record before COVID, I don’t have a lot of confidence that the Liberals are going to be having a plan to pay it back any time soon or being seen as fiscal stewards. These Liberals are not your Jean Chretien-Paul Martin Liberals at all. I don’t think they have the same goals in mind. I don’t think they care much about debt or deficit,” Duncan said.

Duncan says positive was the temporary boost for the child tax benefit with quarterly payments, which he noted was in Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s leadership platform. “I think that’s going to be very helpful for families.”