Conservative Party Platform Unveils Billions In Cuts To Balance Budget In 5 Years

TSAWWASSEN, B.C. — The Conservatives are promising to balance the federal budget within five years by delaying billions of dollars’ worth of federal infrastructure spending, levying a tax on tech giants, forcing tobacco companies to pay for anti-smoking campaigns and finding ways to cut billions of dollars in spending.

The savings would help fund $6.2 billion in new spending and forgone revenue next year that’s largely in the form of tax cuts and tax credits, but also includes some big-ticket items like MRI machines and support for businesses that help curb greenhouse-gas emissions overseas.

Under a Conservative government, spending and forgone revenue — things that make the government’s fiscal balance worse — would increase by $11.4 billion by 2024-2025, driven largely by the Tories’ signature “universal tax cut,” which lowers the tax rate for income under $47,630 to 13.75 per cent from 15 per cent.

The party says they’ll cover some of that by spreading the Liberal government’s massive $187-billion infrastructure commitment over 15 years instead of 12, but they will follow through on existing infrastructure commitments.

The tax on tech giants will be a three per cent levy on revenues from companies that provide social media platforms, search engines, or online marketplaces if those companies have worldwide revenues of more than $1 billion and revenues in Canada of more than $50 million. The platform says that would bring in about $5.2 billion over five years.

The Conservatives say if those companies locate here, and pay Canadian corporate tax, they will be able to pay less of the technology tax.

The single biggest measure to improve the books would be cuts to government spending, projected to reach $5 billion worth of savings in the fifth year of the Tory forecast.

The Conservatives say they’d be taking a knife to consultant costs, scaling back travel and hospitality and selling federal real estate, among other measures, but they say they will maintain the number of civil servants at existing levels.

Final party to unveil platform

The 103-page document is largely made up of spending promises that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has made over the first few weeks of the campaign or in a series of speeches he made earlier in the summer.

New ones include tighter oversight of pensions, an expansion of powers for Canada’s spy agency, new laws designed to prosecute Canadians who travel overseas to engage in terrorism (but also new measures to protect their children), an extension of EI for parents when an infant dies, legislation to address cyberbullying, and a promise to require any new budget proposals to cost no money or be offset by savings or specified new revenues.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveiled his platform at an event Friday in Tsawwassen, B.C., the final national party leader to so.

He’d previously alluded to the Conservatives’ being able to pay for their promises in general terms, but also promised to cover the costs by cutting foreign aid spending, and withdrawing Canada’s $256-million investment from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. On that element, the platform shows they wouldn’t actually get all those funds back — pulling out of the bank only returns $45 million over five years to the treasury.

Scheer had been repeatedly attacked for delaying the full released of his platform and its costs, a theme seized upon anew Friday by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

“The reality is, I think we all know it, you don’t release your best work at 6 o’clock on the Friday of a long weekend,” he quipped.

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In the event, the Liberals scooped the Conservatives on elements of the platform, releasing an excerpt of its financial tables and decrying its proposed spending cuts most of an hour before Scheer delivered it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 11, 2019.

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