Scheer releases Conservatives' full election platform

Oct 11 2019, 1:24 pm

The Conservatives are promising to balance the federal budget within five years by delaying billions of dollars’ worth of federal infrastructure spending, levying a tax on tech giants, forcing tobacco companies to pay for anti-smoking campaigns and finding ways to cut billions of dollars in spending.

But though the details of the cuts will take time to uncover, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer insisted they won’t be to the near-sacred transfers sent from the federal government to the provinces, nor would core services to Canadians be touched.

“Liberals measure success in government by how much money they spend,” Scheer said during an event in Tsawwassen, BC. “Conservatives measure success in government by actually getting results.”

The savings in the first year would help cover $6.2 billion in new spending and forgone revenue next year that’s largely in the form of tax cuts and tax credits, but also includes some big-ticket items like MRI machines and support for businesses that help curb greenhouse-gas emissions overseas.

Under a Conservative government, spending and forgone revenue — things that make the government’s fiscal balance worse — would increase by $11.4 billion by 2024-2025, driven largely by the Tories’ signature “universal tax cut,” which lowers the tax rate for income under $47,630 to 13.75% from 15%.

The party says they’ll cover some of that by spreading the Liberal government’s massive $187-billion infrastructure commitment over 15 years instead of 12, but they will follow through on existing infrastructure commitments.

The Liberals have already accused the conservatives of actually cutting infrastructure spending, but Scheer rejected the assertion, noting the Liberals have yet to fully cost their own promises, so have no business trying to cost his.

The tax on tech giants will be a 3% levy on revenues from companies that provide social media platforms, search engines, or online marketplaces if those companies have worldwide revenues of more than $1 billion and revenues in Canada of more than $50 million. The platform says that would bring in about $5.2 billion over five years.

The Conservatives say if those companies locate here, and pay Canadian corporate tax, they will be able to pay less of the technology tax.

The single biggest measure to improve the books would be $53 billion in cuts to government spending over five years, with the biggest chunk in the last year.

The Conservatives say they’d be taking a knife to consultant costs, scaling back travel and hospitality and selling federal real estate, among other measures, but they say they will maintain the number of civil servants at existing levels.

Scheer presented the platform along with a lengthy speech that sought to position his party as one of dreamers and doers, in contrast with the governing Liberals.

“It’s time to turn the page on four years of negativity and broken promises,” he said. “It’s time for us to look to the future once again with confidence and optimism.”

The 103-page document is largely made up of spending promises that the party has made over the first few weeks of the campaign or in a series of speeches Scheer made earlier in the summer.

New ones include tighter oversight of pensions, an expansion of powers for Canada’s spy agency, new laws designed to prosecute Canadians who travel overseas to engage in terrorism (but also new measures to protect their children), an extension of EI for parents
when an infant dies, legislation to address cyberbullying, and a promise to require any new budget proposals to cost no money or be offset by savings or specified new revenues.

He’d previously alluded to the Conservatives’ being able to pay for their promises in general terms, but also promised to cover the costs by cutting foreign aid spending, and withdrawing Canada’s $256-million investment from the Asian Infrastructure Investment
Bank.

On that element, the platform shows they wouldn’t actually get all those funds back — pulling out of the bank only returns $45 million over five years to the treasury.

Scheer’s party is the last to release a costed platform, and it came as advance polls opened Friday.

The Conservatives had been repeatedly attacked for delaying the full release, a theme seized upon anew Friday by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

“The reality is, I think we all know it, you don’t release your best work at 6 o’clock on the Friday of a long weekend,” he quipped.

In the event, the Liberals scooped the Conservatives on elements of the platform, releasing an excerpt of its financial tables and decrying its proposed spending cuts most of an hour before Scheer delivered it.