Trudeau’s (bad) numbers

Trudeau’s (bad) numbers

Politicians like Trudeau talk too much, promise too much, and provoke questions about a balanced budget.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not exactly a good administrator. Some voices complain about his numbers and are asking for explanations on how things went from his 2015 election promise to balance the federal budget this year, to his own finance department’s latest projection: it won’t be balanced until 2040.

Back in 2015, Trudeau was adamant that under his economic stewardship, Canada would have a balanced budget this year.

Looking right into the camera, he said during the Globe and Mail televised leaders’ debate on the economy in 2015: “I am looking straight at Canadians, and being honest the way I always have. We’ve said we are committed to balanced budgets, and we are. We will balance that budget in 2019.”

After the election, in a 2015 year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau repeated his promise to balance the budget by 2019, saying it was cast in stone.

“I think one of the things that Canadians expect is a level of fiscal responsibility that we’ve been able to demonstrate in the past, and we’re certainly going to demonstrate it in the future,” Trudeau said.

In fact, Trudeau not only promised that his government would have a balanced budget by 2019, but a $1 billion surplus. Now here’s Trudeau’s actual record.

In his March, 2019 budget—the last before the Oct. 21 election—Trudeau projects a $19.8 billion deficit this year.

To get to that number, Trudeau reneged on every one of his 2015 promises.

Here’s what Trudeau said during the 2015 election would be Canada’s deficits for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019:


Trudeau’s promise 2015





$9.7 billion

$19 billion


$9.5 billion

$19 billion


$5.7 billion

$14.9 billion


$1 billion surplus

$19.8 billion

Trudeau now says that under his economic leadership, Canada will have a $19.7 billion deficit in 2020, $14.8 billion in 2021, $12.1 billion in 2022, and a $9.8 billion deficit in 2023.

Both Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau now insist the more significant figure when it comes to budgetary deficits isn’t the actual size, but Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio—the lower the better. They also say that if the economy goes well, Canada could achieve a balanced budget earlier than forecast, while admitting that if the economy doesn’t go well, it could take even longer.

Whatever happens, Trudeau’s 2015 promise of having a balanced budget by this year has long gone from being a promise to a political liability.


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Oso Oseguera
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