John Ivison, writing in the National Post, says that all indications are that the “Liberal Party … [will be] .. shifting leftward at speed in this month’s throne speech.” He quotes one senior bureaucrat as describing “the expensive schedule of social programs coming down as a “structural change in the way government in this country operates,” and another veteran bureaucrat as saying, about the public servants, ““They are fiscally conscious people but they have thrown up their hands and said, ‘How much do you want to spend.’ There is a state of discouragement that I haven’t seen in 25 years in Ottawa.””
Mr Ivison explains that “Public servants in Canada have traditionally operated under cover of anonymity and have no identity beyond their minister. The exception has been the department of Finance, which has often provided a challenge function to the government of the day, turning back the flood of requests for funding from other departments. The idea that the prime minister and the finance minister are pulling at the opposite ends of the blanket took a hit under Bill Morneau. One Liberal MP called Finance a “vassal state” during the first Trudeau mandate. But Morneau was determined to impose himself during the second mandate, which may be one reason he was retired … [but] … With Trudeau and Freeland …
… apparently simpatico on the plan to “build back better”, concerns about affordability at Finance have been trampled,” and that appears to worry some senior public servants.
John Ivison says that “Esteemed voices like former Bank of Canada governor, David Dodge, and ex-TD Bank chief economist, Don Drummond …
… have warned that far from being “a fabulous opportunity” (in Freeland’s words), more social spending would leave Canada vulnerable to future increases in interest rates and inflation … [and he notes that] … Both economists lived through the debt crisis of the mid-1990s, when many of the politicians and advisors around the table today were still under-graduates.“
And it may worry some, perhaps even quite a few Liberals, too, because John Ivison says that “The risk for Justin Trudeau and new finance minister Chrystia Freeland is that if they spend too much, too fast, they could estrange blue Liberals worried about economic growth and fiscal discipline. The throne speech details remain unknown to all but a few, but there are enough broad hints to make some Liberal MPs and supporters, not to mention senior public servants, very worried indeed.“
Justin Trudeau can ~ he has the authority and it is one of his responsibilities ~ replace very senior civil servants who are opposed to his hard-left spending plans. But that runs the risk of alienating the public service which has, to date, been largely supportive. How he placates the “blue Liberals,” sometimes called the “Manley Liberals” who are, rumours suggest, already rebellious is another question.
It’s an important question, too, because, as Mr Ivison says, “With three weeks until the government unveils its new agenda, the cracks are already beginning to show.“