The New Democrats would use money from tax cheaters, big corporations and carbon-emitting industries to pay for a broad range of initiatives to reduce the financial burden on Canadian families and promote a cleaner environment.
The policy platform unveiled and then signed by NDP Leader Jack Layton on Sunday promises a balanced budget within four years but also a broad range of spending on items like health care, job creation, education and so-called "green" measures to reduce pollution and carbon emissions.
"These are my commitments to you," Mr. Layton told a town-hall-style meeting of supporters as the platform was released. "Practical, affordable leadership that will give your family a break, an alternative to Stephen Harper's failed policies of rewarding the well connected and a commitment to act on these priorities right away."
Like the platform that brought the Conservatives to power five years ago, the New Democratic Party has zeroed in on five key priorities.
According to the glossy 23-page document released Sunday, an NDP government would increase the number of doctors and nurses, double pension benefits, give small businesses a tax break and introduce hiring incentives. It would also reduce family budgets by capping credit-card fees and cutting home-heating costs.
Using the numbers from the Department of Finance that formed the basis for the Conservative federal budget of last month, the NDP says an increased economic position will gradually bring the country out of the deficit by fiscal year 2014-15.
But, long before that happens, the NDP would increase spending on things such as post-secondary education, affordable housing, infrastructure and the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors. At the same time, it would introduce a number of tax credits for job creators, parents and family caregivers.
The additional spending proposed by the New Democrats, beyond what was outlined by the Conservatives in the recent budget, would cost just under $12.6-billion in this fiscal year, and rise to just under $20.7-billion in 2014-15.
But New Democrats say they would offset those expenditures, in part, by increasing corporate taxes to 19.5 per cent from 16.5 per cent.
They would also end $2-billion in subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry, find $1-billion in taxes from money that Canadians have hidden overseas, eliminate a Conservative drug bill that would cost $125-million annually and skim billions off the top of a carbon cap-and-trade program.
As a result of the money they would find through these measures, the New Democrats say they would spend a little less than the Conservatives would in each of the next three years. The NDP label the difference between the bottom line in their plan and the bottom line in the Conservative budget a "surplus" or a "cushion" even though the government would still be running a deficit for four years.