O'Toole pressed to release price tag for Conservative campaign promises

·5 min read
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole reveals his party's platform as he campaigns Aug. 16 in Ottawa. Canadians will vote in a federal election on Sept. 20. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz - image credit)
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole reveals his party's platform as he campaigns Aug. 16 in Ottawa. Canadians will vote in a federal election on Sept. 20. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz - image credit)

With less than two weeks left in the federal election campaign, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole faced renewed pressure today to release his party's platform cost.

At a campaign event in Ottawa, the Conservative leader was reminded by reporters that while there will be two leaders' debates this week — a French-language event Wednesday and an English-language debate Thursday — Canadians have not yet seen the estimated price of his promises.

The Tory leader launched his platform, "Canada's Recovery Plan," on Day 2 of the campaign. It promises billions of dollars in new spending — including $60 billion more over the next 10 years for health care — as well as a return to balanced budgets within a decade.

WATCH | Conservative Party pressed to release price tag for campaign promises

At the end of the 160-page document, it states that the plan has "been costed internally and is currently being reviewed by Canada's Parliamentary Budget Office," and it promises that the watchdog's costing will be included in "subsequent editions."

"When we launched our plan, we said we would have an update from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We will have that, I hope, shortly," O'Toole said Tuesday.

"And that was a process that Mr. Trudeau set up. We could not access the PBO until the campaign began. We will update Canada's Recovery Plan as soon as we get that confirmation."

WATCH | Erin O'Toole says a Conservative government would lower cellphone and internet bills

The PBO's website states that beginning on Aug. 15 — the date of the election call — it would respond to requests from parties and independent MPs to estimate the costs of their campaign proposals.

There are currently 13 reports posted online examining campaign promises — 11 for the Liberals and two for the New Democrats.

A reporter accused O'Toole of using a "cat-ate-my-homework excuse," given that parties have released costing projections in numerous elections before the PBO was created by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2006.

Budget watchdog Yves Giroux told CBC's "Power & Politics" in early August that his independent, non-partisan office would not be able to fully assess all platforms in the event of a snap election. In the 2019 campaign, which was called in conjunction with a fixed election date, the PBO provided cost estimates for more than 200 campaign promises, Giroux said.

On Tuesday, the PBO tweeted that since the election period began on Aug. 15, the office has received more than 100 requests to cost electoral proposals and has returned 75 completed costing estimates to the parties. "We release these costing estimates on dates selected by the parties that placed the requests," the PBO said in the tweet.

O'Toole was also pressed to explain why his platform largely relies on a projection for annual GDP growth of three per cent — a target hit only once since 2011.

The Conservative leader said he's glad his party has an "ambitious" target for the booming economy he said is needed to tackle climate change and inequality and advance reconciliation.

"So 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 so that we can help people in the short term, get our economy on a solid footing and then get Mr. Trudeau's reckless spending under control," he said.

The Conservative leader pledged today that a government led by him would lower cellphone and Internet bills — in part by allowing competition from foreign companies in the Canadian market — and connect all of Canada to high-speed internet by 2025.

NDP promises 'full costing in the coming days'

The NDP's campaign commitments, released days before the election call in August, also have not been fully costed. So far, the PBO has released reports on the cost of the NDP's pledge to bring in a national pharmacare system and to implement an annual wealth tax on wealth over $10 million.

NDP spokesperson George Soule told CBC News on Tuesday that the party will be "releasing our full costing in the coming days."

Four days of advanced polling will open this Friday, immediately after the high-stakes English language leaders' debate.

The Liberal platform unveiled last week included costing projections showing the party would spend $78 billion over the next five years. Eleven proposals were assessed by the PBO, as were details that stemmed from the spring budget, such as the party's signature national child care plan, at $30 billion over five years.

At a campaign event in Montreal, Trudeau criticized the Conservative leader for adding a footnote to the Tory platform the day before on its gun control policy. The footnote states that "all firearms that are currently banned will remain banned," despite the platform stating a Conservative government would "start by" repealing the "May 2020 order-in-council" that banned 1,500 makes and models of what Liberals call assault-style weapons.

Trudeau said he would not even call O'Toole's electoral program a real platform.

Trudeau: O'Toole's 'not doing his homework'

"There are no tables at the end of it, like there are in the Liberal platform, to show what the expenses are over the coming years, how much every promise will cost, and what the fiscal trajectory is," Trudeau said.

Watch: Trudeau challenges O'Toole's budgeting, position on firearms

"But he's going to magically get the budget back to balance. 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."

The Liberal platform includes no plan for a return to balanced budgets.

The Green Party also released its platform Tuesday. It also does not include spending projections.

Watch: Power & Politics panel on Conservatives being pressed to release a price tag for their campaign promises:

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