Canada’s Conservatives pledge to balance budget without cutting public jobs

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Conservative Party on Friday promised to balance the country’s budget in five years without slashing government jobs if it wins an election this month, but the ruling Liberals insisted its main opposition would make painful cuts.

Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves as he leaves his plane at the airport during an election campaign visit to Vancouver, British-Colombia, Canada October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

In its 100-page platform, released during a campaign stop in British Columbia, the Conservative Party said it would erase a deficit of C$23 billion by 2024-2025. Federal public service jobs would hold steady and wages would grow as scheduled, it said.

The federal election is on Oct. 21.

To raise revenue, the Conservatives would eliminate corporate tax breaks worth C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion), cut Canadian foreign aid by 25%, crack down on tax evasion and impose a 3% tax on big tech companies like Facebook.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “said he would balance the budget. Instead he’s running massive deficits that threaten higher taxes and important social programs like healthcare,” Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said in a live broadcast from Delta, B.C.

Scheer said he would “protect core services while we make government more efficient.”

In response to the Conservative platform, the Liberals said it included C$53 billion in cuts. In contrast, Trudeau has vowed to ramp up spending but keep debt on a downward path.

The platform details emerged after Canadians began voting in advance polls on Friday. Voters can cast a ballot from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Monday, which is Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Conservatives and Liberals are locked in a dead heat, polls show, but the left-leaning New Democrats (NDP) and Quebec’s separatist Bloc Quebecois may be left with the balance of power because neither of the main parties is heading for an outright majority in the 338-seat House of Commons.

The early voting “means that for a big chunk of the electorate, this election is already over,” Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker said on Twitter. “Feverish advertising, last minute pitches (are) being made to shrinking audience as election gets closer.”

After the final debate on Thursday evening, all the candidates went back on the campaign trail on Friday.

Trudeau started his day with a short speech to supporters in Ottawa, where he underscored his government’s record of creating 1 million jobs over the past four years. At the same time, Canada’s statistics office said the economy had added a stronger-than-expected 53,700 net jobs in September.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also presented his full platform. The costly plan promises a national prescription-drug and dental plan, plus investments in housing, post-secondary education and the fight against climate change.

The NDP says it will pay for its plan by raising corporate income taxes, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, cracking down on tax havens, increasing the capital gains tax and by introducing a levy on the super wealthy – those with fortunes exceeding C$20 million ($15.2 million).

“I am firmly opposed to austerity,” Singh said.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Nick Macfie and Cynthia Osterman

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