News from the New Brunswick campaign trail

The New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives have released an election platform that touts modest spending and promises to have a balanced budget in two years.

Leader Blaine Higgs is committing to less than $200 million in new spending over the four-year mandate if elected, and calls his platform ``responsible.''

The Tories say there would be no new taxes, and promise to reduce wait times for knee and hip replacement surgeries by 50 per cent.

They're also vowing to achieve 85 per cent Grade 2 literacy by 2022, and establish a Teacher Freedom Act that gives teachers and principals the power to choose curriculum plans.

NDP

The NDP was focused on pharmacare on the campaign trail Tuesday.

The party announced that a New Democratic government would push for a national universal pharmacare plan that is cost-shared between the federal government and provinces.

In the meantime, it would invest $50 million to establish universal coverage.

Liberals

The New Brunswick Liberals say they would expand an existing free childcare program province-wide if elected on Sept. 24.

The free childcare program would offer child care services to families with a gross family income of $37,500 or less, while middle class families would be subsidized so that no more than 15 per cent of their gross family income goes to child care fees.

The programs are currently available in Saint John and Edmundston, and would be expanded province-wide by March 2019.

A party official says the Liberal election platform will be released soon, likely next week.

Tories

The Liberals launched an attack on the Tory leader Tuesday, accusing him of having had a ``secret plan'' to make cuts to education.

A news release from the party says the Tory plan included laying off 500 teachers and closing 79 schools during Blaine Higgs' time as finance minister, based on a 2013 report by accounting and consulting firm EY.

But Higgs said his government decided not to act on the report at the time, and suggestions that he may adopt its findings if elected premier are ``a lie.''

He said the Liberal release seemed like an act of desperation.