A New Democratic government would funnel hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal gas tax into stable and reliable funding for public transit in Canada's cities and towns, NDP Leader Jack Layton pledged Monday.
Standing outside a Toronto subway station, Layton said he would dedicate one cent a litre of the gas tax — about $400 million a year — to transit.
Another $350 million a year for transit would come from the sale of carbon permits to big polluters, he said.
"The major polluters would be the ones paying to make transit greener, not you and your families," Layton said during a stop while campaigning for the Oct. 14 federal election.
"Fighting climate change requires investing in transit, and that's what our plan does."
Layton estimated the investment plan would translate into as many as 2,000 new buses in Toronto, 1,400 buses for Montreal, more than 300 for Ottawa, as well as 62 new SkyTrains in Vancouver.
The transit improvements would reduce pollution by pulling cars off the road, while also giving people an alternative to paying more at the pumps to fill up their vehicles, he said.
Polls over the weekend suggested the NDP had pulled closer to the Liberals in second place behind the Conservatives, but a fresh rolling survey on Monday indicated the New Democrats' surge may be slowing.
The four-day Canadian Press Harris-Decima rolling survey, conducted in partnership with the CBC, suggests that concerns about a Conservative majority government may have created some breathing room for the Liberals.
The survey suggests the Tories have 36 per cent support nationally, with the Liberals at 26 per cent, the NDP at 19, the Greens at nine and the Bloc Québécois at eight. The poll surveyed a total of 1,250 people Thursday through Sunday and is considered accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
NDP plan 'recipe for economic disaster': McCallum
During his announcement, Layton made a direct appeal to Liberal voters disaffected with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, saying Dion's "enthusiastic" support of corporate tax cuts showed the Liberals' platform was "not a balanced approach."
Layton said Canadians "can see really clearly that there are only two visions out there.
"That's Stephen Harper's vision or my vision," he said.
The Liberals responded quickly to Layton's assertion that the NDP was the only party capable of stopping a Harper majority.
Dion, speaking about Canada's nursing shortage at a campaign stop in Ottawa, said Canadians cannot take Layton's "old-school socialist" platform seriously.
"All the progressive forces, the ones that want to see progress for nurses, doctors and students and so on, they need to vote Liberal because we are going to do so with a platform that will strengthen this economy and make our environment cleaner," Dion said.
Speaking in Toronto, Liberal finance critic John McCallum took aim at the NDP's numbers, saying Layton's various billion-dollar spending proposals and pledge to reverse $50 billion in corporate tax cuts are a "recipe for economic disaster."
"Under that plan, people sitting around the kitchen table are going to be asking themselves, 'Where am I going to find a new job after the company that used to employ me has been taxed to death by Jack Layton? '" McCallum told reporters.
"The NDP doesn't understand economics. They're living in the early 20th-century period of class warfare."