Before judging Trudeau, Moe might want to consider his own debt blunders

Gage HaubrichTake two Canadian governments: the first doubled its debt since becoming elected, and the other has increased its own debt by 166 percent over the same period.

Which government would you say has better budgeting skills?

Easy – it’s obviously the first one because it increased debt less. But the other one doesn’t have room to gloat.

So, which two governments are we comparing?

The first is the eight years of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in Ottawa and the second is the Saskatchewan government over the same timeframe.

That’s what makes Premier Scott Moe’s comments on the federal budget a little lacking in humility.

Scott Moe, left, and Justin Trudeau saskatchewan debt

Scott Moe, left, and Justin Trudeau

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“It’s very unfortunate that this is a government that just won’t even try and won’t even attempt to curtail some of the spending and the investments that they’re making and try to at least get close to balancing the books federally,” said Moe, when asked about the feds’ deficit.

Trudeau can’t be let off the hook for his runaway spending, but Moe should look at his own record with the province’s books.

Trudeau’s budget contains a $40-billion deficit and no relief to help cash-strapped taxpayers. Moe’s budget saddled taxpayers with a $273 million deficit and also lacked new tax relief.

Now, the numbers are smaller at the provincial level, but the problem is still serious. The difference is that Moe is steering the finances of a province of 1.2 million people, not an entire country with a population of about 40 million.

Since becoming premier in 2018, Moe has balanced exactly one provincial budget. And that one balanced budget wasn’t the result of some newfound financial genius or a reduction in spending but rather a huge increase in resource prices that drove provincial revenues to record highs.

Trudeau, on the other hand, has balanced zero budgets since being elected in 2015.

It’s all well and good to criticize the Trudeau government for maxing out the taxpayer credit card. But it would also be good if Moe’s government did some serious introspection about its own spending habits.

That’s because years of failing to balance the budget means that more and more money must be wasted every year on interest charges on the provincial debt.

This year, the provincial government will be spending $728 million on interest payments on the debt. That works out to about $2 million a day. Just imagine waking up every morning and flushing a couple million because you continually failed to get your budget under control.

And this isn’t a new problem.

Eight years ago, Saskatchewan’s debt was about $7.9 billion. At the end of this year, it will be $21.1 billion. Over that same time, the government wasted about $4.5 billion on interest charges. That means that the amount of interest paid in Saskatchewan during that period exceeds this year’s entire education budget.

And it’s because the government keeps spending money it doesn’t have. The Saskatchewan government is spending about $2.6 billion more inflation-adjusted this year than it did in 2016-17. And spending like that means deficits.

Those years of deficits aren’t because the government has been cutting taxes. The province’s revenues are higher than almost ever before. Part of that is because the government hiked the PST from five to six percent in 2017 and stuck it on more things. And the government did it again in 2022 when it started charging PST on event tickets like Rider games.

Despite the rhetoric, there’s more that unites Moe and Trudeau than divides them when it comes to increasing the debt.

If Moe wants to critique Ottawa, he first needs to get his own fiscal house in order.

Gage Haubrich is the Prairie Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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