Justin Trudeau tried to make virtue out of red ink Sunday as he released a Liberal platform that promises to impose new taxes on wealthy individuals, large international corporations, foreign housing speculators and tech giants to help cover the cost of billions in new spending and tax breaks for the middle class.
Even with the new taxes, the platform projects another four years of deficits if the Liberals are re-elected on Oct. 21 — $27.4 billion next year, falling to $21 billion by the fourth year of the mandate.
But in a news conference at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, Trudeau said he’s leaning in to the old tax-and-spend Liberal reputation to establish an important point of distinction from his arch-rivals.
“We are making a different choice than Conservatives do,” Trudeau said in response to repeated questions about the persistent Liberal deficit.
“We’re choosing to invest in middle-class Canadians, invest in people’s communities because, quite frankly, that is what has worked over the past four years. Responsible investments have led to the creation of over a million new jobs, most of them full time, and lifting 900,000 people, including 300,000 kids, out of poverty.
“Conservatives are still making the argument that the way to grow the economy is through cuts and austerity and tax breaks that go to the wealthiest. We disagree.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was taking a break from the campaign trail Sunday. But his finance critic, Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre, told a news conference that Trudeau is effectively saying “Canada will literally go on adding debt forever.” He predicted that a re-elected Liberal government would wind up imposing “massive tax increases to fund this irresponsible and costly platform” that would add $56 billion in new spending over four years.
“He expects Canadians to believe that money falls out of the sky or grows on trees,” Poilievre scoffed.
In B.C., NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spent a sixth straight day stumping for west-coast votes, promising a $100-million fund to help keep young people out of gangs and mitigate the growing problem of organized crime.
And in Vancouver, Green party Leader Elizabeth May said her party would introduce a “robot tax” if elected — a levy to be paid by a company every time it replaces a worker with a machine, part of a strategy to ease the impact of the growth of artificial intelligence.
But Sunday was mostly about the Liberal platform, which Trudeau described as a “fiscally responsible” plan under which the Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio — already the best among G7 countries, at 30.9 per cent — would decrease every year of a second mandate. As well, he said Canada will retain its triple-A credit rating, shared with only one other G7 country: Germany.
According to the platform, the proposed new taxes, combined with revenue from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, would fatten federal coffers by $5.2 billion in the first year, rising to $7.2 billion in the fourth year.
But the extra monies would be eclipsed by 48 new spending and tax break initiatives for the middle class, which the platform estimates would cost $9.3 billion next year, rising to nearly $17 billion by the fourth year of a second mandate. The platform does not, however, include costing for several promises, including the promise to introduce a national pharmacare program which Trudeau said will have to be negotiated with the provinces.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press