Green Leader Elizabeth May released her party's platform on Wednesday, promising tax breaks for low-income earners and industries that cut carbon emissions, as well as annual federal surpluses.

Speaking to supporters in Halifax, May said her party's proposals offer a realistic approach to dealing with climate change and economic instability while closing the gap between rich and poor, improving crumbling infrastructure and helping Canadian students pay for their loan debts.

The platform, entitled "Looking Forward: a fresh perspective on Canada's future," calls for a $50-a-tonne carbon tax on fossil fuels to help reduce income taxes.

May insisted her programs are cost-negative, despite charges by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper that other parties' spending proposals would result in a deficit.

"For every item of cost, there's an item of revenue, and the bottom line is a surplus," she said.

GST hike would pay for infrastructure

May said the proposal differs from Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's Green Shift plan in that it would hike the GST by one percentage point to generate $3 billion a year for municipalities to pay for improvements to crumbling infrastructure and public transit. It also calls for cutting subsidies to nuclear and fossil fuels.

"Mr. Dion and the Liberal party have adopted our approach partially, so of course I must support our approach when adopted partially," she said. "Our approach is better."

But May insisted she didn't fault Dion for adopting portions of the environmental proposal, instead offering praise for his daring.

"When the leader of the Official Opposition goes out on a limb and takes a position that involves more political courage than any other previous leader of a mainstream party, then I'm not going to take cheap shots," she said.

May will be the party's first leader to participate in the federal leaders' debates after securing a spot despite objections from the Conservatives, NDP and the Bloc Québécois.

The parties had objected to May's participation over what they said was an established partnership between the Greens and the Liberals, citing an agreement between May and Dion not to run opposing candidates in the leaders' respective ridings.

The Greens' previous leader, Jim Harris, was left out of the debates in the run-up to the 2006 federal election. At the time, the television consortium determined the party did not have enough public support to justify an invitation to participate.

In August, the Green party gained its first ever member of Parliament — Blair Wilson — a Vancouver-area Independent who quit the Liberal party last year.