OTTAWA — The three major federal party leaders were away from the campaign spotlight Saturday, but the election stage was occupied by the Liberals who released a full costing of their campaign promises.
The Liberals put up two of their heavyweight candidates, former Royal Bank economist John McCallum and former finance minister Ralph Goodale, to crunch the numbers on their plan to add almost $146.5 billion in new government spending and tax cuts over the next four years, while still bringing the budget back to balance with a surplus of about $1 billion by the end of a four-year mandate.
The plan calls for a deficit of just under $10 billion in the next two fiscal years, dropping to $5.7 billion in year three, with the books creeping into balance by the fourth year.
To get there, they say, a Liberal government would seek out billions in savings from eliminating a number of tax breaks, cutting back on government spending and cracking down on tax evasion.
Both the Conservatives and New Democrats pounced on the Liberal math with the NDP dismissing it as based on little but “austerity, unfunded and broken promises” and “bad math.”
Focusing on the Liberal pledge to hunt down savings in government spending, NDP candidate Andrew Thomson — a former Saskatchewan finance minister — predicted a Liberal government would lead to “deep cuts in the services that Canadians rely on.”
Conservative Pierre Poilievre said the costing contains a $6.5 billion hole and said voters should be wary about higher taxes if Liberal leader Justin Trudeau were to occupy 24 Sussex Drive.
“Seniors and families should hold on to their wallets,” Poilievre told a news conference, noting that McCallum said nothing is off the table in terms of financing the Liberal promises.
He accused the Liberals of planning to cancel thinks like pension income splitting, the pension income credit and the age credit to cover their shortfall.
“Liberals can’t simply pull $6.5 billion dollars out of thin air. They have to find that money somewhere.”
The Liberals were the last party to outline their spending plans — the Conservatives are basing their promises on the last budget.
The Conservatives added to their list of promises on Saturday.
Conservative minister Jason Kenney promised a re-elected Conservative government would expand the ranks of Canada’s special forces by 35 per cent over the next seven years.
Canada’s special operations forces include just over 1,900 personnel, which means the government is looking at adding some 665 members by the year 2022.
In a statement, Kenney says the expansion would better equip the Canadian Forces to respond to “varied and sometimes multiple” emergencies in Canada and around the world.