September 1, 2021
The Liberal re-election platform released today includes $78 billion in new spending, more than three times the direct new revenues promised over the next five years.
The 82-page document includes all of the announcements Trudeau has made to date on $10-a-day child care, new mental health transfers to the provinces, climate change and housing.
But it also throws down two political wedges targeting Conservatives – enshrining abortion services as publicly funded and medically necessary in the Canada Health Act and going further on their existing gun ban.
The platform cost would add $70 billion to the federal debt over the next five years, but the Liberals say the debt-to-GDP ratio would be lower under this platform than was projected in last spring’s budget.
And Trudeau said Canada can afford the “ambitious and detailed and responsible and concrete platform” in an election where he says voters are facing a choice not just about what the next 18 months will look like, but the next 18 years.
“This is the plan that is going to bring Canadians forward to end this pandemic, to invest in growth, as we fight climate change, and create jobs,” he said in Toronto on Wednesday.
“Canada needs to be even more ambitious, to draw all that we’ve learned in fighting the crisis of COVID to apply it to the process of climate change, and housing, health care, child care.”
The Liberals are the last major party to release their platform but the first to include full costing. Some of the items were costed by the parliamentary budget office, but because of time constraints, the PBO could not cost them all.
In 2020 the Liberals banned the use, sale and importation of more than 1,500 models of what they consider assault-style weapons, with an amnesty until April 30, 2022, to give people time to comply.
Legislation introduced last February would have created a voluntary buyback program, allowing those who chose to keep their weapons to do so as long as they agreed not to use them, buy any more, or give them to someone else.
The Liberal platform suggests that bill, which didn’t pass before the election was called, will be amended to make it mandatory for owners of the banned weapons to either sell them back to the government or have them rendered inoperable at the government’s expense.
In 2019 the Liberals suggested the firearms ban would cost up to $600 million, but the new platform says it will cost $800 million, all in 2021-22.
The bill also would have given municipalities the power to ban handguns. The Liberals are now saying they would expand that authority to entire provinces, responding to demands from some provinces, and concerns by cities that just banning handguns in their jurisdiction wouldn’t do anything to stop handguns from coming in from surrounding municipalities.
The Liberals say they will provide $1 billion to provinces that move to ban handguns in 2022.
On abortion, the Liberals plan to leave no room for doubt that abortion is a medically necessary procedure under the Canada Health Act, by including it in a regulation, much like they regulated the inclusion of diagnostic tests in 2018.
The latter was to respond to a Saskatchewan policy to allow MRIs in private clinics. The abortion issue directly goes at New Brunswick, which saw its health transfer payments clawed back by about $140,000 this year for charging fees for abortion at a private clinic.
The Liberals also plan to revoke the charitable status of organizations, often known as crisis pregnancy centres, which they say “provide dishonest counselling to women” about abortion rights and options available to them during pregnancy.
“There are many Canadians who have different perspectives on a large range of things,” said Trudeau. “Where we take issue is where there are organizations actively working, not just to promote their own views, but to limit the opportunities of women to make their own choices about their body.”
The platform also includes a promise to permanently end interest payments on federal student loans, introduce a new stand-alone national financial crimes agency, and add or extend tax credits for teachers, people who work at home and seniors who want to keep working after they turn 65.
Overall, the Liberals fully costed platform will add $70.2 billion to the deficit over the next five years, but they say the debt-to-GDP ratio will still be lower than predicted in last spring’s federal budget.