The Conservative Party is planning to release its costed platform on Wednesday, hours before the campaign’s first official debate.
Entering the second last week of the campaign, only Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party had released a costed platform. Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives and Jagmeet Singh’s NDP had released platforms outlining policy priorities, but both had said the costing details would be released later.
The Conservatives have confirmed that those costing details will be released late Wednesday afternoon ahead of the French language leaders’ debate in the evening.
The NDP, Greens and Bloc Québécois have not said when they will release costed platforms.
The Liberal Party released its costed platform on Sept. 1. Most of the financial estimates were done by the party, but the non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Officer released independent costing notes on 11 of the document’s main policy planks.
All five party leaders will be in Ottawa on Wednesday for the first of two debates organized by the Leaders’ Debates Commission. Wednesday’s will be in French, and the second, on Thursday, will be in English.
Mr. O’Toole, the Conservative Leader, has pledged to spend an extra $60-billion over the next 10 years on health care alone. He has also promised a range of tax credits, including one to offset child care costs. And he has said he will balance the budget in 10 years with no cuts, while relying on economic growth to fill fiscal gaps.
Mr. Singh has promised $10-billion annually for a new pharmacare program, in addition to more spending on health care. The NDP Leader has also pledged free mental health care for all who need it.
The NDP told The Globe and Mail that it will release its costed platform in the coming days. The Conservatives had said they were waiting for an update from the PBO. The 2019 campaign was the first election in which parties relied on the budget office to assess the costs of campaign promises. Before then, parties released their own costing. The office does not provide cost estimates for platforms in their entirety. Instead, it assesses the costs of specific policy planks.
While the NDP has released the PBO’s cost estimates for two planks of its platform, the Conservatives have not yet released any. On Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau derided Mr. O’Toole for failing to release the price tags for his promises, calling the Conservative plan a pamphlet rather than a true platform.
“I won’t call it a platform, because he actually hasn’t costed it,” Mr. Trudeau said. “He’s not showing his work, he’s not doing his homework. And if you want to be taken seriously as a potential government, you have to be honest with Canadians.”
In his platform, Mr. Trudeau proposes spending an additional $78-billion over five years, primarily in areas such as health care, housing and support for seniors. Under a re-elected Liberal government, the party has said, annual deficits would be $14-billion higher each year, on average, than the pre-election forecast from the PBO. The Liberals have not proposed balancing the budget. The party’s platform says the debt-to-GDP ratio would decline by two percentage points over five years.
In Ottawa on Tuesday, reporters asked Mr. O’Toole to explain why his party had not yet released its costing. He said the Conservatives are planning record spending in health care, “but we’re also going to get spending under control.”
In a regular four-year election cycle, parties are able to submit policies to the PBO before an election is called. But, in this instance, that time frame was limited to just the campaign period because of Mr. Trudeau’s snap election call, which came two years early.
Mr. O’Toole said he hoped his party would release the numbers “shortly,” but placed the blame for the delay with the Liberal Leader. “We could not access the PBO until the campaign began. We will update Canada’s Recovery Plan as soon as we get that confirmation,” Mr. O’Toole said.
To balance the federal budget, the Conservatives say they would rely on 3-per-cent annual GDP growth, which is considerably higher than Canada’s average over the past decade. The PBO predicts real GDP growth will average around 1.7 per cent annually between 2023 and 2025.
A reporter asked Mr. O’Toole on Tuesday which economists told his party 3-per-cent growth was plausible. “We have an ambitious plan, but we know we can attain our targets, and our balanced budget approach will be disciplined over a period of time,” Mr. O’Toole replied.
The PBO said on Tuesday that, since the election call on Aug. 15, the office has received more than 100 costing requests and has returned 75 completed estimates to the parties.
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