O'Toole platform costs lay out plan for lower new spending, axing childcare deals

WATCH: Conservatives' costed platform would add billions in debt

The Conservative party has released costing for its election platform, just hours before Erin O’Toole is to take part in the first of two official leaders’ debates.

The party says the costing demonstrates that a Conservative government could eliminate the deficit within 10 years without cutting programs or services, as O’Toole has promised.

The costing, based on the parliamentary budget officer’s election platform costing baseline, actually covers only five years.

And it doesn’t count axing some programs as cuts, such as the Liberal government’s $30 billion child care system, which the Conservatives would replace with alternative programs of their own.

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It suggests that this fiscal year’s forecasted budget deficit of $138.2 billion would grow to $168 billion under a Conservative government but would fall substantially each year thereafter, to $24.7 billion in 2025-26.

The Conservatives say that shows they’d be well on the way to balancing the books by the end of the decade.

Moreover, they say that’s based on the PBO’s more cautious economic growth estimates, which Conservatives believe would actually be more robust once O’Toole’s recovery plan was implemented.

“Even without the additional growth that will result from the plan, no cuts are needed because Conservatives will run a disciplined government that limits the growth of future spending,” the party says in the costing document.

The Liberal government has inked five-year deals with eight provinces and two territories to fund increased child care spaces and reduce child care fees to an average of $10 per day by 2026.

That includes a deal to transfer $6 billion to Quebec, which already offers $8.50-per-day child care, to increase the number of spaces available.

During a background briefing on the costing document held on condition of anonymity, Conservative officials said an O’Toole government would honour the funding deals with provinces for the first year.

But after that, the Liberal child care plan would be replaced by the Conservatives’ promise to convert the existing child-care expense deduction into a refundable tax credit that would cover up to 75 per cent of child-care costs for low-income families.

As for Quebec’s $6 billion, officials would not say precisely how much of that the province would get to keep. They said there’d be money on the table for a deal, which O’Toole would sit down with Premier Francois Legault to discuss.

O’Toole has made much of his promise to boost unconditional health transfers to the provinces by $60 billion over 10 years, by guaranteeing a six per cent increase in the transfer each year.

However, the costing document shows that under the existing formula for the Canada Health Transfer, which is based on economic growth, the annual payments would already increase by almost six per cent for the next two to three years.

Officials said the Conservative plan would guarantee that would continue over the long-term, whereas the current formula guarantees a minimum of just three per cent annual increases.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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