Liberals attack Flaherty on economic record

Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale lays into the governing Conservatives, accusing Finance Minister Jim Flaherty of financial mismanagement and being incapable of getting Canada's deficit under control.

Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale laid into the governing Conservatives on Monday, accusing Finance Minister Jim Flaherty of financial mismanagement and being incapable of getting Canada's deficit under control.

Ralph Goodale speaks to the Economic Club of Canada on Monday. ((CBC))

"The track [Canada] is on has taken us from a $13 billion surplus to an all-time record deficit," Goodale told The Economic Club of Canada at a business luncheon. "We should demand better."

Goodale was one of three high-ranking Liberals scheduled to deliver economic-themed speeches on Monday, a hint that the Opposition sees the economy as a key issue in the current sitting of Parliament. MP Marc Garneau was to deliver a speech to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce later in the afternoon, while Scott Brison was to address the Empire Club in Toronto.

"Our message is unmistakable," Goodale said in his opening remarks in Ottawa. "The Liberal Party regards the economy as our nation's top priority."

Last Tuesday, Flaherty presented the government's latest fiscal update. It had the deficit hitting an all-time record of almost $56 billion this year but being on track to turn to a surplus by 2015.

Goodale lambasted the government for those projections, saying they are overly optimistic and not all that impressive to begin with.

The government uses "selective statistics to show other countries performing worse than we are," Goodale said. "To be the least bad is hardly a show of strength."

The 15 private sector economist forecasts that Flaherty's projection used have wildly divergent outlooks. The gap between the most optimistic and pessimistic forecasts for Canada's budgets moving forward is $60 billion.

Goodale cited the Liberals' track record during the 15 years of uninterrupted economic expansion before the recession of 2008, a period during which the Liberals were in power for the most part.

"Liberals would take a different approach than we’ve seen from this government," he said. "And we would begin from a different premise."

The Liberals would get Canada's deficit down to one per cent of GDP within two fiscal years, Goodale pledged. Under the most recent Liberal governments, Canada's debt ratio was cut by more than half, he noted.

A major way of achieving that, he said, would be to cancel government plans to give corporations another 20 per cent tax cut, when the base corporate tax rate is already the second-lowest among the G7 countries.

The $6 billion in revenue that would have been lost because of the tax cut would then be earmarked for deficit and debt reduction, he said.

"As a former finance minister, I like cutting taxes," Goodale said. "But if you’re a responsible minister, your tax cuts will be affordable, sustainable and consistent with your other obligations to Canadian citizens. And be especially careful when you’re already $55.6 billion in the hole."