- Deficit to be eliminated earlier than budget forecast
- HST deal with Quebec promised
- March 22 budget at centre of the platform
- Law and order legislation a priority
- Focus on low taxes, job creation, small business
The Conservative election platform promises to eliminate the federal deficit faster than previously projected and would push both a tough-on-crime agenda and support for families and businesses.
The party released the platform Friday at a town-hall-style event in Mississauga, Ont.
The deficit had been projected by the Conservatives only two weeks ago to continue to decline to $0.3 billion in 2014–15, and the party expected that there would be a surplus of $4.2 billion in 2015–16.
But the party says now it will eliminate the deficit by 2014-15 "by controlling spending and cutting waste."
"We will reduce the costs of government through finding efficiencies through a thorough strategic and operating expense review," Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said.
"This will allow us to eliminate the deficit in 2014, a full year ahead of schedule," he said.
"Our platform is realistic, accurately costed and looks four years down the road."
The platform is organized around five themes:
- Job creation, with a hiring credit for small businesses, red tape reduction, tax cuts and a digital economy strategy.
- Support for families: a "family tax cut," support for seniors and caregivers, doubling tax-free saving account limit.
- Deficit elimination, with a strategic review to save $11 billion and restraints on growth of program spending.
- Safe streets, with support for victims of crime, combat human trafficking, re-introduction of law-and-order legislation.
- Standing on guard for Canada, focusing on Arctic protection, purchase of F-35s, re-introduced legislation to combat terrorism.
Harper called it a low-tax, job-focused plan that "is another move forward in the clear direction we have been following since we took office."
"Conservatives understand you cannot tax your way to prosperity," he said.
March 22 budget measures
Much of the 67-page platform mirrors what the Conservatives presented in their March 22 budget.
A tax credit for children's arts programs, a volunteer firefighter tax credit, the return of the ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes Program and an Employment Insurance hiring credit for small businesses have all reappeared in the platform.
The Tories also promise to reach a deal by Sept. 15 with Quebec on the GST tax harmonization issue, a deal in which the province is seeking $2.2 billion.
"What we have promised to do, we can do without raising taxes," Harper told the crowd.
"That is not true of our opponents, who talk sometimes openly, sometimes not so openly, about the taxes they will raise," he said.
"Let's not go back to the days of higher spending, higher taxes, double-digit unemployment, double-digit mortgage rates," he said.
Along with a promise to pass a number of crime bills in one sweep, the Conservatives say they will re-introduce legislation to combat terrorism, including investigative hearings that allow "a judge to order a person to answer questions or produce documents, when there are grounds to believe a terrorism offence has been or will be committed."
Party will negotiate with provinces on health
On health care, the Conservatives want to work with the provinces and territories to renew the Health Accord. Quebec will be handled as it was before, the party said, echoing language in the March 22 budget.
"Recognizing asymmetrical federalism, we will follow the precedent of a separate agreement with the Government of Quebec regarding the implementation of the renewed Health Accord."
Details on Senate reforms were included in the platform, including re-introducing term-limit legislation and continuing to encourage the provinces to establish a democratic process for selecting senators. The Conservatives promise to phase out subsidies for political parties over four years.
The party pushes its support for the military in its platform saying it is committed to purchasing the F-35 fighter plane and will strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard.
Other recent promises, such as the one that will allow families with children under 18 to split up to $50,000 of their income and an adult fitness tax credit, are contingent on when the budget is balanced.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was asked, since the deficit is projected to be eliminated earlier, whether that means such contingent promises come earlier. He told reporters the promises would be delivered within the government's mandate if elected.
He said the party's strategic review plan of government operations to save $11 billion by 2015-16 is achievable, citing his party's track record.
"We know what we are doing," said Flaherty.
When introducing Harper, Flaherty took aim at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, saying his platform will only lead to deficits and high unemployment.
"It’s like Michael Ignatieff doesn’t remember what’s it’s like to live in Canada," said Flaherty, to a round of applause and laughter from the 200-300 people gathered at the Mississauga Convention Centre, a crowd that included all of the Conservative candidates in the Greater Toronto Area.
Holocaust memorial plans
Also included in the platform is a promise to build a national Holocaust memorial in the National Capital Region.
"Remembering the Holocaust also provides an opportunity to appreciate the historic advances in human rights that came about in response to its horrors," the platform stated.
The Tories will also create "a special Office of Religious Freedom in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to monitor religious freedom around the world, to promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canadian foreign policy, and to advance policies and programs that support religious freedom."
The Green Party released its campaign platform Thursday, promising a carbon tax and corporate tax hikes, support for organic farming and the legalization and taxation of marijuana.
The NDP is expected to release its platform Sunday. The Liberals were first to release their policy document, a red book they put out last Sunday.