An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
ISN’T IT AMAZING how a pandemic can change our entire attitude about debt?
The federal government has spent more than $150 billion in direct support to Canadians since COVID-19 hit us like a sledge hammer. The national debt is expected to pass $1 trillion for the first time.
B.C. is spending more than $8 billion on pandemic response, including Premier John Horgan’s recently announced $1.5 billion economic recovery plan. The province’s deficit is expected to come close to $13 billion.
In normal times, we’d be protesting in the streets. But nobody’s arguing very much with all this spending. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is adding even more to it in order to avoid being turfed out of office in a vote of non-confidence.
Going in debt has become a virtue for governments.
And now we have BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson’s promise to can the provincial sales tax for a year if his party forms the next government. In the second year, it would be three per cent, still down from the usual seven.
It’s brilliant in its simplicity. People have long since lost track of how much money is going where during this pandemic.
But cutting the sales tax? Easy for us to get our heads around. We pay that infernal tax every day and it sure would be nice to be rid of it for a while.
The question must be asked, though: where’s the $11 billion in lost government revenue going to come from? Wilkinson takes the approach that has become so common among politicians during this pandemic: we’ll figure it out later.
Sooner or later, indeed, we’re going to have to figure it out. Yes, governments have to spend money right now, but at the end of the day there will be a reckoning.
It’s time to start figuring out how we’re going to pay off our credit cards instead of just maxing them out.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.