Politics

Conservatives accuse Liberals of keeping Canadians in dark on cost of promises

The Conservatives are accusing the Liberals of trying to hide the cost of their campaign promises from Canadians.

Justin Trudeau said Liberals have engaged PBO costing services on 'a number of elements'

The Conservatives are accusing the Liberals of hiding the cost of their campaign promises. (Patrick Doyle, Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

The Conservatives are accusing the Liberals of trying to hide the costs of their campaign promises from Canadians.

Canada's budget watchdog has a mandate to cost out election promises, but one week into the campaign only the NDP and the Conservative Party have had their policy proposals analyzed by the Parliamentary Budget Office and publicly released.

PBO results for six Conservative promises and two NDP commitments have been posted on the PBO's website, but none have been published from the Liberals, the Greens or the other parties.

Conservative Party spokesman Simon Jefferies said Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will use the PBO to cost "every platform commitment that has dollars and cents attached to it."

All requests for cost analysis come from the parties, and the service is not mandatory.

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau was "cagey" and non-committal when asked about PBO costing during a news conference in St. John's Tuesday, said Jefferies.

"Justin Trudeau and the Liberals should be up-front and honest with Canadians and release their costing as they make their platform commitments. It's starting to look they have something to hide and are preparing a document dump days before election day," he said in an email.

Jefferies said the lack of transparency from the Liberals suggests they may not have got the answers they were looking for from the PBO.

During today's event, Trudeau said the Liberals have made use of the PBO's new powers to cost out "a number of our platform announcements." 

"We know it's important for Canadians to have objective review of the costs of various platforms and I can assure you that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has been very much engaged by the Liberal Party on a number of elements within our platform costing," he said, adding the information will be released in coming weeks. 

In an email to CBC News, a Liberal spokesperson said the party is working with the PBO on the costing of specific electoral proposals, calling it "a commitment we made in 2015 and that we have now delivered."

Green Party platform released

Liberal Party background documents provide the party's own costing projections, but not the PBO's independent analysis.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was the first to release her entire party platform Monday. It did not include PBO costing. She said the office is still "crunching the numbers" on a few planks and is working on translation.

Green Party spokesman John Chenery said the party wants to release the cost analysis as soon as possible — hopefully by week's end.

"The reason for waiting for the whole costing is to show that the entire platform makes sense fiscally ... that spending and revenue are in synch," he said in an email.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May revealed her party’s platform during a campaign stop in Toronto Monday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Asked if the volume of requests has caused any delay or backlog, Sloane Mask, PBO's director of parliamentary relations and planning, said the PBO "is meeting the current demand." The timing of the release of platform costing is up to the parties, she said.

If the PBO is unable to complete a cost estimate, the request and the reason it could not be completed will be published on its website, Mask said.

Speaking about the new election costing mandate this spring, PBO Yves Giroux said the initiative will give political parties more certainty and boost their credibility.

"But the main advantage will be for Canadians. Canadians will have enhanced reassurance that there is a non-partisan and professional organization that provides cost estimates for political parties' engagements," he said at the time.

To conduct the costing, Giroux hired a new team of economists and accountants with expertise in various fields, including taxes, defence procurement and student financial assistance.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is pressed on why he won't release costing from the Parliamentary Budget Officer for his promises - something the Conservatives have been doing during the campaign. 1:17

With files from David Cochrane

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