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Canada Erin O'Toole warns that the Liberals may bankrupt the country to win the next election

02:41  25 september  2020
02:41  25 september  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

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an open laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table: Erin O'Toole, leader of Canada's Conservative Party, speaks during a televised address as seen on a laptop computer in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. © Provided by National Post Erin O'Toole, leader of Canada's Conservative Party, speaks during a televised address as seen on a laptop computer in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

OTTAWA — Conservative leader Erin O’Toole isn’t calling for dramatic reductions in government spending as Canada comes out of the pandemic, but he says the Liberals have become complacent about the country’s debt and appear ready to “bankrupt” Canada with their new spending plans.

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“There is not an unlimited pot of ever-increasing deficit spending,” O’Toole told the National Post in an interview Thursday morning, where he discussed the throne speech, the Liberals’ proposal for new national childcare and pharmacare programs, and his concerns about their plan to regulate internet platforms.

O’Toole said he watched Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland make a round of TV interviews Wednesday night and found it troubling that she didn’t signal any limit to the government’s willingness to spend.

Freeland was asked on CBC if there’s a point where these new programs such as childcare and pharmacare are unaffordable. “I think the way to answer that question is to say: these are things we just can’t afford not to do,” Freeland responded. She went on to say the cost of not acting is higher, and that the government has the “fiscal firepower” to do it while interest rates are so low.

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“I think looking at Ms. Freeland’s comments last night, it seems like they have no concern about huge, huge deficits and the impact on our fiscal capacity in the future,” O’Toole said. “And that should concern Canadians because it seems like they’re willing to bankrupt a nation in order to win the next election.”

O’Toole says his own view is that the government should spend what’s necessary to support Canadians through the pandemic, but in a targeted way that avoids excessive expenditures and aims to return the books to balance gradually over the next decade.

He spoke to the Post by phone from his home where he has been isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 last Friday. O’Toole says he is mostly doing fine, experiencing minor symptoms such as a sore throat and fatigue. His wife Rebecca also has the virus and her symptoms have been a little worse, he said.

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“But we’re healthy and we have neighbours and friends dropping off food and coffees and things like that,” he said. “So we’re fortunate.”

Even while in isolation, O’Toole recorded a national address that was broadcast Wednesday night in response to Prime Minister’s Justin Trudeau’s. On Thursday he went into more detail about what exactly he supports and opposes in the throne speech.

The speech announced that the government would extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy — which covers up to 75 per cent of employee wages for companies hit hard by the pandemic — until the summer. To date, CEWS has paid out about $35.3 billion to 312,000 applicants since it was formally launched last May.

O’Toole said he broadly supports extending this program, but thinks it could be more strategically focused on sectors that will be continually depressed by the pandemic, such as tourism.

“Our approach has always been that the wage subsidy should have been used faster and more effectively by the government,” he said. “I think government spending where it’s preserving economic activity, where it’s preserving jobs for Canadian families, will be a priority. I think it can be a little more strategic, and I think some sectors will need more help than others.”

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“Across this country , millions of Canadians have lost their jobs. Many fear losing their homes. And too many have lost hope,” said Conservative leader Erin O ’ Toole , who has been self-isolating after Trudeau’s government has won broad praise for its response to the pandemic – but also criticism NDP leader Jagmeet Singh – whose support appears critical for the Liberal government to survive

But O’Toole says he and his party are “inherently opposed” to the Liberals’ plans to create massive new national, universal childcare and pharmacare programs — the spending details of which have not yet been announced.

“You can provide assistance for families for childcare, which I have proposed (in my leadership platform), through higher supports for families, particularly in the pandemic, and the ability for more of it to be written off on your taxes, more options for families to make their own childcare decision,” he said. “Not some third level of education to be established.”

O’Toole’s leadership platform promised to convert the existing Child Care Expense deduction to a refundable tax credit for the duration of the pandemic recovery period. The refundable tax credit would cover up to 75 per cent of childcare expenses and be rolled back as the economy recovers.

It also promised to double the existing limits under the Child Care Expense deduction, meaning families would get a refundable tax credit for up to $16,000 in childcare expenses for children aged 0-6 and $10,000 for children aged 7-17.

By contrast, the Liberals promised in the throne speech to “make a significant, long-term, sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system.”

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Erin O'Toole wearing a suit and tie:  Conservative Leader and Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole speaks to members of the National Caucus in Ottawa, Wednesday September 9, 2020. © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld Conservative Leader and Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole speaks to members of the National Caucus in Ottawa, Wednesday September 9, 2020.

On pharmacare, O’Toole said that “any system that would remove the billions spent by health insurers in the process would be reckless.”

“Why would we replace billions that are being spent within the system by the insurance sector?” he said. “This is why most of the provinces don’t support what the government is suggesting. I think there’s much more partnership the federal government can do on healthcare, but it also shouldn’t be interfering with how the provinces run their system.”

O’Toole also said he has deep concerns about frequent suggestions by the Liberals that regulation of internet platforms such as Facebook and Netflix is coming.

The throne speech said the government would ensure the revenue of “web giants” is “shared more fairly with our creators and media, and will also require them to contribute to the creation, production, and distribution of our stories, on screen, in lyrics, in music, and in writing.” The speech also vaguely promised to take “action on online hate.”

“I get very worried when I hear about the Liberal government’s thoughts about regulating internet content,” he said. “I think Canadians are not going to stand for it…If we start having Ottawa-approved content online, I think that fundamentally changes the way people have approached using the internet. I think we can watch to see what some of the other countries are doing, but I get very worried when I hear about the Liberal government planning to regulate.”

• Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter: btaplatt

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole lambastes Liberals' handing of pandemic .
OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole used his first speech in the House of Commons as party leader to lambaste the Liberal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his formal reply to the Liberals' throne speech, O'Toole drew on his own experiences with being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. That kicked off a lengthy attack on what he called the government's slow and at times completely wrong approach that left too many people behind. O'Toole, an Ontario MP, was elected leader of the party in August, but just ahead of the resumption of Parliament last week he contracted COVID-19 as did his wife.

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