The Liberals are joining the Conservatives in promising to lower taxes as the two leading parties compete for middle-class voters who put affordability as their biggest concern in the federal election campaign.
On Sunday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that if his party is re-elected, it would not tax the first $15,000 of income for most Canadians, raising the basic personal exemption by almost $2,000 and costing the treasury $5.6-billion once it’s fully implemented in four years.
Unlike other parties, the Liberals have not released independently verified costing from the Parliamentary Budget Officer with each of their announcements.
Last week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promised to reduce the rate of the lowest federal income-tax bracket from 15 per cent to 13.75 per cent by 2023. The change would cost Ottawa more than $6-billion a year once fully implemented.
At a suburban Brampton, Ont., house, Mr. Trudeau also said a Liberal government would lower cellphone bills by 25 per cent – the policy proposal is already getting pushback from the association representing telecoms.
Mr. Trudeau unveiled the big-ticket items as he tries to move past a controversy that has gripped his campaign. Last week, three cases of Mr. Trudeau wearing blackface were made public and continue to grab headlines around the world. While still being asked to address questions about the incidents and whether more are still unreported, Mr. Trudeau said he is focused squarely on the middle class.
“Canadians are concerned about affordability,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters from a small backyard in a city struggling with the affordability challenge that parties are focusing on ahead of the Oct. 21 election. According to a Globe and Mail investigation, Brampton is home to 34 of Canada’s most debt-ridden neighbourhoods.
To address it, the Liberals say they would raise the basic personal exemption to $15,000 by 2023-24 for people with incomes under $147,667. The additional top-up will gradually decrease for those earning between $147,667 and $210,371. For people earning more than $210,371, there would be no additional exemption.
It would cost the treasury $2.9-billion next year.
In the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to balance the budget in their first mandate. Instead, they ended the 2018-19 fiscal year with a $14-billion deficit. Mr. Trudeau insisted that the Liberals have left Canada with a "sustainable fiscal plan,” citing a declining debt-to-GDP ratio.
The Liberals also promised Sunday to bring cellphone bills in line with prices across the Group of Seven and Australia. The party said it would cut bills by working with the telecoms and encouraging more competition. If that doesn’t work within two years, the party said it would tighten regulations.
The association representing Canadian telecoms said the changes aren’t needed because prices are already on the decline.
Robert Ghiz, president and chief executive of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, told The Globe that the association thinks encouraging competition between companies is the “best way to go.”
Earlier in the campaign, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said a New Democratic government would take, on average, $10 off cellphone and internet bills and implement mandatory basic “affordable” plans and unlimited data plans.
The latest numbers from Nanos Research shows little movement in public opinion. The Conservatives are at 36 per cent, with the Liberals slightly lower at 33 per cent. The New Democrats, meanwhile, are at 14 per cent, the Greens 10 per cent, the Bloc Québécois 5 per cent and the People’s Party of Canada 2 per cent.
The poll was sponsored by The Globe and CTV, with a total of 1,200 Canadians surveyed from Sept. 19 to 21. 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.
The Conservatives spent Sunday in Atlantic Canada, where the party was swept off the map by the Liberals in 2015. At a stop in Canoe Cove, PEI, Mr. Scheer made a pledge to support veterans with a proposed military covenant, clear the “current backlog” of benefit applications within two years and create a more fair pension system for disabled veterans.
During a stop in Gatineau, Mr. Singh pledged to add $2.5-billion to the federal government’s disaster mitigation fund. He said the idea is to help people − such as those in Western Quebec who recently faced severe flooding − avoid disasters and be able to stay in their current homes.
With reports from Bill Curry and The Canadian Press