Sun Column: This election offers no cheap date

Published in the Sun Media chain and QMI Agency

Politicians are everywhere right now: on your TV, at your shopping malls, at your doorsteps and in your wallets. Yet, the most expensive part of an election is not the $300 million spent on counting ballots, but the bidding war that politicians engage in to buy your vote.

Like singles at a nightclub, the party leaders each offer to buy voters a drink with the hope that they will pay attention. For those attractive enough to have several politicians interested in them (swing voters), the offers can become overwhelming, forcing one to choose between different, expensive campaign cocktails.

Unfortunately, politicians don’t always pay off their tab with cash. Since returning to deficit, federal politicians have borrowed $101.7 billion. With that borrowing figure set to reach $160 billion by the time it stops, voters can expect a nasty hangover.

Rather than fall for the politician promising to shower them with the most gifts, voters should demand that candidates show them a little respect. When the federal government alone is borrowing $81 million a day, it’s time for a cheaper date.

The Liberals have already laid out their plans, but they include hiking business taxes. While such a move is likely to damage Canada’s reputation as a hot spot to do business and hurt the fragile economic recovery, at least they are open about their intentions to do so. Despite their openness of intentions, most economists point out that an effective 3 per cent increase in business taxes does not translate into a 3 per cent increase in revenues, as firms become less productive.

While the Conservatives increased spending at a breakneck pace during their first four years (40 per cent), thus far, they have commendably shied away from major new spending promises during the campaign. Their promise to find $4 billion in savings and balance the budget a year ahead of schedule is a mild improvement over their now-dead budget. Nonetheless, promises that focus the discussion on tax cuts and the deficit – however timid and far down the road – is a welcome change from the ‘borrow and spend’ voters have seen to date.

As always, the NDP has promised a chicken in every pot and mustache on every smile. While some may consider it pointless for the NDP to have cost-out its platform since it will never form government, that notion needs to be put in the context of a potential coalition government to which it is open.

The Bloc Québécois’ platform is less a document summarizing spending in one ledger and revenue in another, so much as it is a hostage letter with a list of demands. In can best be summarized as, “give Quebec a briefcase of money and an unmarked plane with enough fuel to reach independence, or else Newfoundland gets it.”

So far, this campaign’s options have all proved to be costly with no party promising a return to pre-stimulus levels of spending and all opposition parties promising to raise taxes. Still, with all party platforms released, it is no longer a blind date.

With Canada staring down the hole of a $560 billion debt during this campaign, voters should look past the politicians promising to spend evermore on them. In this election, Canadians need a cheap date and tough love.

Derek Fildebrandt is the National Research Director and Acting Federal Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

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