Tuesday, June 16, 2009

(Video) Tony Clement on deck to defend the government

It seems the Conservatives have designed Tony Clement as their go-to talking head to take the bulk of the media interviews yesterday and today about the election speculation and the four questions Michael Ignatieff wants answered by Stephen Harper ahead of Friday's confidence vote/s.

This video is Clement's interview yesterday evening on CTV's PowerPlay program. I thought Tom Clark gave him a pretty through grilling on why the government can't just cough-up the numbers that Canadians have a right to know anyways, and questioning the validity of Clement and the government's claims they can still get the country out of deficit in five years.

Clement looked like a dear in the headlights at times, although all in all I thought he did reasonably well with a bad script, managed to keep his composure, and offered what may at a brief glance seem like a reasonable explanation. On a closer look though, not so much.

The deficit has ballooned since the January budget to over $50 billion, yet the government is still sticking to its five-year out of deficit plan. With a much bigger than forecast deficit it doesn't make sense, right? Clement says it does, because revenues are going to be EVEN HIGHER than forecast in the budget, therefore increased revenues cancel out the increased deficit and the five-year plan is maintained.

Except I find that very hard to believe. Clement says private sector economists are now revising their revenue projections upward. Which ones? Because I recall private sector economists saying Jim Flaherty's budget revenue projections were grossly optimistic. Now we're to believe they've actually vastly underestimated revenues, despite massively underestimating the deficit?

The economists at TD Bank, for one, still say the government's numbers are way off. On next year's deficit, for example, TD says Flaherty is underestimating the deficit by $15 billion. That's a $15 billion hole in the Conservative 5-year plan they haven't explained away yet. Over the next five years, TD projects a deficit DOUBLE what Flaherty forecast in the budget. And Tony Clement wants us to seriously believe revenues are going to increase so much they'll easily cover off that? It doesn't pass the smell test, Tony.

And then there's the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, who has a far better record so far that Flaherty on these matters. Page says the only way to get there in five years is to cut spending, raise taxes, or both. Flaherty says pishaw.

Clement does, at least, say sure, we'll release our numbers. I'm sure they'll make for creative reading.

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