Behold: a budget from the 1970s, to meet the problems of the 1980s.
That the Trudeau government was eager to spend a great deal we may take as a given. It is a government made up of people with an abiding faith in the centrality of government to the national economy and of the efficacy of government in resolving every ill.
Problem: to justify such an extraordinary burst of spending as this budget projects, the government needed some kind of crisis. A recession, perhaps? Alas, the economy is not in recession. There was some hope of one, during the election, when the Liberals unveiled their platform. But since then, growth has rebounded, as the budget itself explains in some detail. (“Non-energy sector output regained momentum … stronger exports … solid gains in real manufacturing sales,” etc. etc.)
So instead the budget returns to an earlier Liberal theme: the forlorn Canadian middle class, struggling to get by, working harder for less pay while watching all of the income gains going to the top 1 per cent. Which is a perfectly splendid description of the state of things in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was true then that median incomes were declining — not surprisingly, as that period was bracketed by the two worst recessions since the Depression. Likewise, the incomes of those at the very top indeed grew faster than the other 99 per cent — in that period.