Politics

'They squandered the good times': Poilievre says Canada lacks 'cushion' to weather economic crises

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the Liberal government has left Canadians without a “cushion” to soften potential economic fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak and impacts of rail blockades across the country.

Conservative finance committee members criticize Liberal record ahead of federal budget

Finance critic Pierre Poilievre, centre, national revenue critic Marty Morantz, left, and deputy finance critic Michael Cooper, right, outlined the Conservative Party's priorities for the 2020 federal budget in Ottawa March 8. (Mike O'Shaughnessy/CBC)

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the Liberal government has left Canadians without a "cushion" to soften potential economic fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak and impacts of rail blockades across the country. 

"They spent the cupboard bare in the good times and now we face a crisis, and we have nothing left ... to take on that crisis," Poilievre said Sunday during a speech outlining the Conservative Party's priorities for the upcoming federal budget.

"We now have economic problems, but we have no surplus with which to cushion ourselves against those problems."

Finance Minister Bill Morneau revealed Friday that the Trudeau government's budget would include measures to handle the "clear" threat COVID-19 poses to Canada's economy.

Morneau added that he would also boost the risk adjustment provision in the budget, which acts as a contingency plan that will ensure "we are ready and able to respond" to economic repercussions. 

WATCH: Morneau on COVID-19 and the economy

Finance Minister Bill Morneau lays out what he sees as the challenges of COVID-19 and how the government hopes to deal with them. 2:16

In response to the outbreak, the Bank of Canada dropped its key interest rate target to 1.25 per cent and said it was prepared to make further cuts if needed.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said Thursday that, while the Canadian economy is resilient, it should prepare to be "seriously tested by COVID-19 ... depending on the severity and duration of its effects."

Efforts are underway to determine the economic impact of nationwide rail blockades erected in the past month in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en people opposing a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territory. Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the calculations will take six months to complete

Critics outlined key priorities

But Poilievre slammed the Liberal government for racking up deficits and contributing to a slowdown of Canada's economic growth before those crises hit. 

"In other words, they squandered the good times and have left us weak and vulnerable going into the bad times," he said. 

After delivering the 2019 fiscal update in December of last year, Morneau said Canada's economy was "sound and growing," despite an increase in the country's deficit.

Poilievre was joined by Conservative finance committee members Marty Morantz, the party's national revenue critic, and Michael Cooper, deputy finance critic.

Cooper outlined the party's key priorities ahead of the budget, including the elimination of corporate welfare programs — including grants to MasterCard, BlackBerry and Loblaws — a recommendation put forward in the committee's pre-budget report

Cooper also called for an end to what he called the Liberals' attempt to "declare war" on Canada's energy sector, referencing the cancellation of Teck Resources' proposed Frontier mine. 

The party plans to use its Opposition day on Monday to debate a motion calling for the government to produce documents dating back to 2015 related to concerns of economic downturns and their "potential impact on the fiscal framework." 

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