Conservatives face mounting pressure to release costed promises as debates loom
The Conservatives are facing mounting pressure to release how much each of their election promises would cost taxpayers, as leaders prepare for Wednesday’s French-language debate.
On the second day of the campaign, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole promised to release a version of his party’s platform that had been reviewed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), Canada’s government spending watchdog.
With the election less than two weeks away, a costed platform has not yet materialized.
On the campaign trail on Tuesday, O’Toole would not say when a costed version would be available.
"When we launched our plan we said we would have an update from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). We will have that I hope, shortly," he told reporters on Tuesday.
“That was a process that Mr. Trudeau set up, we could not access the PBO until the campaign began.”
In a tweet, the PBO said any released costings are not up to the officer, but rather are only released when the parties want.
"Since the electoral period started on August 15, we have received over 100 requests to cost electoral proposals and have returned 75 completed costings to parties. We release these costing estimates on dates selected by the parties that placed the requests," read a tweet from the PBO's account.
The PBO website lists just 13 costed items, 11 from the Liberals and two from the NDP, meaning there could be dozens of costed promises waiting for release.
O’Toole has promised massive increases in provincial health transfers, but is also pledging to balance the budget in the next 10 years, relying on an optimistic view of the economy coming out of the pandemic.
If O’Toole does not released a costed platform before Wednesday and Thursday’s debates, it’s expected to be a point of contention for the other leaders.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has already begun bringing up the issue. On Tuesday, he accusing O’Toole of not being forthright with voters on how he plans to balance the budget.
“He's going to magically get the budget back to balance,” Trudeau said. “He's not showing his work. He's not doing his homework.”
The Liberals released their full platform on Sept. 1 with most but not all of the big-ticket promises vetted by the PBO. Using the PBO’s growth projections, the Liberals say the federal deficit under their platform would shrink to $32 billion in the next five years.
In May, Canada recorded a deficit of $314 billion for the fiscal year 2020/2021.
The NDP has not had their platform fully costed either, but said the planned spending for their pharmacare and dental coverage would be sustainable.
The Bloc Quebecois and Green Party have not released any costed platform promises either.
It is unclear, however, how much voters actually care about the cost of these federal election promises and the piling of federal debt.
"I think that it would be good for voters and for the quality of the political debate in this country and the policy debates in this country to have numbers,” Daniel Beland, a political science at McGill University, told CTV News.
With files from CTVNews.ca Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello