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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, seen here at a campaign stop in Stoney Creek, Ont., promised a re-elected Liberal government would spend an additional $6-billion over four years on health care.

Cole Burston/Getty Images

Party leaders promised on Monday to make life more affordable for Canadians, with the Liberals and NDP saying they would lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Justin Trudeau promised a re-elected Liberal government would spend an additional $6-billion over four years on health care, describing the promise as a “down payment” to launch negotiations with provinces on pharmacare. The announcement led NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to re-emphasize his party’s own pharmacare plan on Monday, while the Conservatives unveiled their plans to make it easier to buy a home.

At an announcement in Hamilton, Mr. Trudeau said the increased funding would ensure that every Canadian can “easily” find a family doctor or primary-care team. He said the money would also lead to clear national standards for access to mental-health services, improve home care and implement a rare-disease drug strategy.

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Mr. Trudeau gave very few details on the plans for a universal pharmacare system beyond interim measures that were announced in this year’s budget. He did not release a costing for the proposed plan, nor did he say when it would be implemented.

Trudeau won’t say if he’s worn blackface since 2001

Canadian federal election guide: What you need to know before Oct. 21

He said the goal for the system would be based on the report released this summer, commissioned by the Liberal government and led by former Ontario Liberal health minister Eric Hoskins, which called for a universal single-payer system with a small co-payment.

The report said its proposed universal pharmacare program would cost $15.3-billion annually if it’s fully implemented as of 2027.

Don Drummond, an adjunct professor at Queen’s University and a former chief economist at TD Bank, said depending on which province you’re looking at, 8 per cent to 13 per cent of people are not covered by either a provincial or private pharmacare plan. He said if the focus is covering those people currently left out, costs could be better controlled, but at the moment he sees a “knee-jerk” reaction to pharmacare with parties saying it has to be one or the other instead of a mix of public and private coverage.

“The whole thing is confused and that just continues the confusion," he said about the lack of details from the Liberals.

By promising a family doctor or health-care team for every Canadian, Mr. Trudeau could face the same problem his provincial colleague, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, did in the 2013 election. Six years later, the promise still hasn’t been realized and access to primary health care is a serious concern in the province.

“Do none of the Liberals really understand how much trouble McNeil got into for this?” said Katherine Fierlbeck, a political-science professor at Dalhousie University.

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The Liberal Party said in a news release that Monday’s promises would cost $750-million in 2020-21, rising to $1.75-billion in 2023-24. Unlike the Conservatives and the NDP, the Liberal Party has not approved the release of any independent costing reports from the Parliamentary Budget Office. The Liberals have said the independent PBO reports on their major promises will not be released until the party’s full platform is unveiled.

The Liberal Party has announced three major planks of its election platform in recent days as it attempts to shift the public’s focus away from last week’s revelation that Mr. Trudeau wore blackface and brownface in the past. One of the incidents – from a 2001 fundraising event for a B.C. school where Mr. Trudeau was a teacher – was first reported on Wednesday by Time magazine. Mr. Trudeau then admitted to another occasion when he was in high school, before video of a third incident surfaced.

During a campaign stop in New Brunswick, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the Liberals have promised pharmacare in the past and never delivered. The NDP’s campaign platform calls for a national pharmacare plan that would begin next year.

“They’re going to study it again maybe, even though it’s been studied since 1963 and all the commissions have come out saying it needs to be expanded,” Mr. Singh said.

The Liberals have been promising pharmacare on and off for decades, dating as far back as 1997.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer announced Monday that a Conservative government would introduce measures that he said would make it easier for first-time home buyers to enter the market.

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Mr. Scheer, who made the announcement in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area, said the Conservatives would review the mortgage stress test for first-time buyers and remove it for mortgage renewals. The stress test – which was expanded to apply to all insured mortgages by the Liberal government in 2016 – is meant to ensure that home buyers could still afford their mortgage payments if interest rates were to rise.

The party also proposed an increase to amortization periods on insured mortgages from 25 years to 30 for first-time buyers.

The latest numbers from Nanos Research show the race for first place remains tight. The Conservatives had the support of 34 per cent of respondents and the Liberals had 33 per cent. The NDP is at 13 per cent, followed by the Green Party at 11 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 6 per cent and the People’s Party of Canada at 3 per cent.

The poll was sponsored by The Globe and CTV, with a total of 1,200 Canadians surveyed from Sept. 20 to 22. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at http://tgam.ca/election-polls.

With a report from Michelle Zilio

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