BONOKOSKI: Freeland’s vanity poll not what she was expecting

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“The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.”
— Andy Rooney

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Before she delivered her budget, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was so interested in what voters might think that she spent $53,445 on a survey to poll 34 people — eight seniors, eight Quebecers, nine parents, and seven unemployed — on what their instant reactions would be.

“The Liberals must think money grows on trees” was a dominant reaction, and why not?

Freeland’s budget, wrote Blacklock’s Reporter, disclosed the 2020 deficit had reached $354.2 billion, six times the previous record and more than Canada spent to fund the Second World War, and that this year’s deficit was estimated at $154.7 billion.

So where does all the money come from?

A tree would be nice, but it’s all borrowed, supposedly to fund whatever the pandemic demands.

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But it has to be paid back.

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It’s unfortunate, therefore, that we have a prime minister in Justin Trudeau who admitted he rarely concerned himself with monetary policy, therefore debt ($1.1 trillion), and deficit be damned.

It’s not surprising, considering Andy Rooney’s sage reflection, that most of the harder-lined response to Freeland’s budget came from the eight seniors, their reaction virtually drowning out the others.

As Blacklock’s put it, pensioners were most alarmed by deficit spending, which is now the mark of the Trudeau Liberals.

Many seniors admitted to being skeptical about this budget,” said the researchers’ report, adding half said the country was headed in the wrong direction.

“This group (was) somewhat uneasy about the level of spending and how it gets reconciled in the future,” added the report. “There was a feeling it was legitimate to raise questions of spending.”

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The last dial-in poll in 2019 went unfinished after then-finance minister Bill Morneau started his televised speech an hour late, then was drowned out by 20 minutes of desk pounding and cries of “point of order!’ before Conservative MPs walked out of the Commons in protest over the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

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Findings this year were based on focus groups in which 32 people were given handheld dials to instantly record real-time reaction to the budget speech from zero to 100 as “negative,” “lukewarm” or “positive.”

A 2017 dial-in survey found Canadians responded negatively to too many buzz words, such as the overuse of “middle class.”

Seniors suspected Freeland was  “tossing numbers and large sums out there,” said the report, a vanity project for which Freeland’s department paid Léger Marketing Inc. $53,445.

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Seniors, however, were put off by the section of the speech where Freeland challenged those who would criticize spending at this time, which characterized those who would do so as being “uncaring about some people who lost their job” or “uncaring about struggling small businesses,” wrote researchers.

Pensioners, for sure, were skeptical about “how these expenditures will be paid for,” they wrote.

“I really have no confidence this is sustainable,” the report quoted one pensioner.

Another responded: “The government must have a money tree some place,” adding, “I don’t know how they’re going to be able to pluck it all off the tree to do what they’re going to do.”

So much for Trudeau’s promise in the 2015 election that his fiscal plan for the country would see “a modest short-term deficit” of less than $10 billion in each of the first three years and then a balanced budget by the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Surely he remembers this as he and world leaders attend the big 12-day climate conflab in Glasgow.

But likely not.

markbonokoski@gmail.com

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