Please note: Because it’s 2015: A Conversation with the Prime Minister will air on Dec. 25. at 6:00 p.m. on Global Television (6:30 p.m. on Global BC).
VANCOUVER — There was a clear moment in the recent federal election campaign where Justin Trudeau and his team felt the tide was turning. But it wasn’t just because of what he promised on the campaign trail, it was what Tom Mulcair and the NDP did.
The prime minister, in a sit-down interview with Global News on Thursday, told Global National’s Dawna Friesen his decision to run “modest” deficits of $10 billion annually, with a vow to balance the budget in 2019, was “counterintuitive.”
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It’s a move to “give more money to families” and make more of an investment in infrastructure. But he feared the bold promise would be outdone by the NDP.
“When we made that decision, my one worry was actually that the NDP was going to have heard the same things that we did and pitch an even more ambitious program,” he told Friesen. “We were worried that the NDP was going to go really big.”
That’s not what happened.
Mulcair not only committed to balancing the budget next year but in each of the next four years, had he won. That was in September when the NDP had a very slight lead in the polls; the NDP came in a distant third on election night, winning just 44 seats, while the Liberals won a majority government with 184 seats.
“When they came out, as soon as we said we’re going to run deficits because we’re going to invest in our future, and they said well that’s irresponsible, we’re going to balance Stephen Harper’s budget, we realized ‘OK, you know what? That’s probably the election right there,’” he told Friesen.
“And I told a few people … we’ll look back at this as the turning point of the election campaign and it turned out to be.”
The prime minister also said a balanced budget was not the main concern for the Canadians who elected him to office.
“If deficits and slaying deficits were at the top of everyone’s mind, they had two parties that were putting that forward.”
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The former Conservative government’s focus on balancing the budget came at a cost, Trudeau said.
“People that I spoke to knew that that came at a cost and they were underspending on veterans and they were underspending on indigenous affairs and underspending on services to Canadians,” he said. “So, we needed to once again say ‘look we’re in a confident place, let’s invest in our future.’”
Since coming to power, his promise to run $10-billion deficits isn’t a guarantee: his government admits the deficits could run higher “if the situation deteriorates.”