Finance Minister Bill Morneau today released the federal government’s 2019 Budget in the House of Commons. Titled Investing in the Middle Class, the plan is designed to position the Liberal government ahead of the election currently scheduled for October 21, 2019.
This is the Government’s best opportunity to remind Canadians why they voted Prime Minister Trudeau into office almost four years ago. The stated focus continues to be on support for the middle-class including pharmacare, skills training and home-ownership; targeted investments in innovation including electric vehicles; progressive economic development; and reconciliation with Indigenous people. Priorities that have forced their way onto the Liberal agenda since the last election are also well represented – including social infrastructure, international trade and digital security.
The Liberals are clearly hoping that the Budget will allow them to turn the page on what has been a damaging start to 2019. The Cabinet resignation of former Attorney General / Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould continues to dominate political headlines in Ottawa and across Canada. To the SNC-Lavalin scandal the Prime Minister has lost his Principal Secretary; a very well-respected Minister in Jane Philpott; and, most recently, the seemingly Trudeau-friendly Clerk of the Privy Council. The Liberals now sit behind the Conservatives in most major polls, which is a departure from the norm of the past few years.
For their part, the opposition leaders - Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May and Maxime Bernier - want to keep the public focus exactly where it is: on the perceived Liberal propensity to hypocritically cater to special interests. They are working hard to pull attention away from the contents of the Budget and back to the scandal. The Justice Committee may have helped the opposition cause this morning when it signalled that it will not invite Ms. Wilson-Raybould back to testify a second time and will effectively shut down its probe. This gave ammunition to the opposition parties on a day that should have been a win for the Government.