Remember when campaigning politicians at least pretended to care about deficits

Politics Insider for Sept. 18: Bernier the longshot, the double-digit deficit nobody cares about and Rick Mercer goes on a well-deserved rant

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer while walking with the crowd in Dieppe, N.B., Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. (Marc Grandmaison/CP)

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Poll position: Maxime Bernier secured a podium in the official leaders debates by convincing debate commissioner David Johnston that he had a “reasonable” chance of winning seats. Bernier’s case was made when Johnston tapped EKOS Research Associates to run polls in four ridings the People’s Party of Canada identified as good bets for the party, and the EKOS poll results showed between 24.5 and 34 per cent of respondents in those ridings would consider backing the PPC candidate. But Johnston also approached 338Canada’s Philippe J. Fournier in August about the PPCs prospects, writes Fournier, and he had a different message for Johnston, then and now:

The matter was to determine whether Bernier’s party met the second half of the third criterion: “that candidates endorsed by the party have legitimate chance to be elected in the general election.”

In full transparency: The Commission contacted 338Canada in August and asked this very question. My answer at the time, according to the data that was available then, was no: the PPC did not have a reasonable chance to elect another candidate other than Bernier. This answer was based on several local and national polls that had been conducted and published then, as well as by-election results since the PPC’s creation. (Maclean’s)

Mo money, mo promises: With the race still tight between the Liberals and Conservatives, the parties devoted another day to making big-ticket promises to families, from Andrew Scheer‘s pledge to hike the federal government’s contribution to Registered Education Saving Plans from 20 to 30 per cent, to Justin Trudeau‘s promise to make maternity and parental benefits tax-free, giving plenty of work to the fact-checkers fact-checking the fact-checkers fact-checking the facts.

Mo deficits: Despite a 6.7 per cent jump in revenue in the last year, the Trudeau government ran a $14-billion deficit in 2018/19, which is somewhat off from the $1 billion surplus Trudeau promised in 2015. But now that both the Conservatives and Liberals are falling over each other to rack up the spending promises, and neither envisions erasing the deficit within the next term if they win (Scheer has managed just one tweet in each official language about Trudeau’s fiscal record since the campaign began), the hand-wringing was mostly left to the usual suspects. (Canadian Press)

It’s a good thing Canadians at least have the Parliamentary Budget Officer there to independently estimate the costs of all the promises the parties are making, a power the Trudeau government gave the PBO to improve transparency. Oh, snap: “Liberals delay release of PBO platform costings, say only ‘big ticket’ pledges will get independent review” (Globe and Mail)

Crude rhetoric: Premier Jason Kenney has stayed true to his promise to attack critics of the Alberta oil patch, but he’s not doing the sector any favours by drawing on Ezra Levant‘s “Ethical oil” slogan, argues Max Fawcett, the former editor of Alberta Oil magazine:

Premier Kenney’s five-page open letter to the Canadian head of Amnesty International represents perhaps the highest profile example of Ethical Oil’s renewed prominence. In it, he chastises the organization for its own open letter in which it raised concerns about the impact of Alberta’s new “fight back strategy” on human rights in the province, and suggests it was giving comfort to the real enemies of freedom. “There was a reason I singled Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela for comparison,” Kenney writes. “They–along with Iran–would be major beneficiaries of a moratorium on Canadian oil production. No one will cheer your letter harder than Vladimir Putin, the Houses of Saud and Al Thani, the caudillo Nicolás Maduro, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

This is straight out of the pages of Levant’s book. The problem is that these words, like Levant’s book, misunderstand the nature of the challenge facing the industry they ostensibly seek to defend. Yes, this sort of rhetorical swordplay will thrill Kenney’s voters in Alberta, but it doesn’t actually address any of the challenges that their province’s oil and gas industry faces. (Maclean’s)

Sticking with the theme of energy and the environment, former prime minister Brian Mulroney offered a word of warning to any party that doesn’t take climate change seriously in their campaign (not mentioning any names): “[Canadians] want more than anything else to pass on… to their children and grandchildren, a pristine environment, and anybody that doesn’t understand that or campaigns against it is going to pay the price.” (CTV News)

And one more on the climate file, turns out Ontario Premier Doug Ford‘s message to drivers in the province attacking the Trudeau government’s carbon tax isn’t sticking, literally.

Worth a rant: Comedian Rick Mercer is none too pleased with the Conservatives after their candidate in the B.C. riding of Burnaby North-Seymour doctored a meme of him calling on young Canadians to vote, period, by changing the message to “vote Conservative.” After making it clear the meme was not real, Mercer laid into Scheer on Twitter: “Not true. All fake. Please Stop. #WhoAreThesePeople? #Cdnpoli #yuck”.

Where’s everyone at? Scheer will be attending campaign events in Hamilton, Richmond Hill and Etobicoke, Ont. today, Trudeau starts things off in New Brunswick before heading to Nova Scotia and Jagmeet Singh works his way down from Sudbury, Ont. to Toronto. Meanwhile Elizabeth May will be in Vancouver and Bernier will spend the day in New Brunswick. Also on the agenda tomorrow, the Canadian American Business Council hosts a “campaign insiders briefing” though the representative for the NDP is not like Liberal or Conservative insiders.