GOLDSTEIN: Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland’s absurd policies

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It was the $43.9 billion question that Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland refused to answer.

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During her testimony before the House of Commons Finance Committee on Tuesday about the federal budget she presented to Parliament on March 28, Freeland was asked a simple question by Conservative MP Adam Chambers.

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This was the amount of interest taxpayers will pay on Canada’s $1.22 trillion government debt in fiscal year 2023 (April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024).

It wasn’t a trick question. The numbers are in Freeland’s budget.

Interest on the federal debt is estimated to cost Canadians $43.9 billion in 2023 out of $1.22 trillion in government debt; $46 billion in 2024; $46.6 billion in 2025; $48.3 billion in 2026 and $50.3 billion in 2027 when total federal debt will be $1.31 trillion.

Instead of answering the question, Freeland accused Chambers of “fiscal scaremongering” — in the tone she often uses, it sounds as if she thinks she’s teaching a wayward kid a lesson.

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This is how the exchange went:

Chambers: Tell the committee and the Canadians how much we are spending or expect to spend on interest on the debt in the coming fiscal year. I’m looking for the number right now.

Freeland: Let me just say, because I think it’s important to put things in context, that in both cases…

Chambers: Minister, my time is very limited. I ask if you know the number? You have many officials at your side. Can you tell Canadians how much we will be spending on debt servicing next year?

Freeland: I think it’s really important to put numbers in context because without context, numbers are meaningless. Our debt service fees are low in Canada’s historical context, and they are low compared to what our peers in the G-7 pay.

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Chambers: Thanks for the context. What is the gross dollar value that we will spend next year on interest on the debt?

Freeland: And let me say again, I’m really opposed to conservative fiscal scaremongering, and so it’s important for Canadians to point out that our debt service fees are reasonable and sustainable in historical context and lower than many other countries in the last few years. For this reason, S&P (credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s) has again confirmed our triple A rating.

Chambers: I’m asking you if you would tell Canadians how much we’re spending on the debt? It’s in black and white in your book, you just don’t want to say it?

Freeland: I think it’s important to put all the numbers in context.

Chambers: Thank you, Minister. I move on to the next question.

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Freeland: Don’t you agree that our debt service fees are perfectly reasonable in the historical context?

Freeland’s reasoning was of course logically flawed, because if you want to give context to a number, you have to say what number it is.

Providing context without giving the number is arrogant and suggests that for some reason Freeland thought it would be politically damaging to say it out loud, even in context.

Freeland also accused Conservative MPs of trying to “harass” her by instituting a two-week filibuster procedure before her performance because they wanted her to testify for two hours instead of one – which ended up being 80 minutes of testimony time.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised.

After all, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not answer the questions he is constantly asked – whether by opposition MPs at Question Time or by reporters in media skirmishes.

So it’s hardly surprising that Freeland is doing the same.


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