RICHMOND, B.C. — Stephen Harper pitched his $6.8 billion in campaign promises as modest compared with those of his opponents and urged voters to mull the contrasts as the campaign entered the home stretch on Friday.
The Conservatives say in their 159-page platform that the four-year total is affordable and will hold down tax hikes as they bring in a series of budget surpluses.
"Our plan doesn't cut. It makes investments we can afford ... and we can do it with lower taxes," Harper said during a speech in Richmond, B.C., in a pitch likely to continue in speeches and paid advertising until the Oct. 19 vote.
The platform says the pledges will cost $590 million next year and gradually rise to $2.9 billion by 2019-20, as about a billion dollars in compensation costs for dairy farms kicks in.
Harper emphasized during a speech in Richmond that his plan differs sharply from the Liberals, who polls suggest have surpassed the NDP in public support.
The prime minister estimated the cost of Justin Trudeau's spending promises are over 20 times what he's offering. The Liberal platform document has totalled up the cost of their promises at almost $139 billion.
The NDP document, released Friday, estimates the costs of its proposed new spending at $5.75 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year, rising to $11.3 billion by 2019-20.
Harper suggested voters will come to share his spending approach in the final days of the election.
"When Canadians look at the cold, hard choices, they know which way we need to go to keep our economy on track," he said.
Harper was composed during his appearance, despite having an environmental protester rush at him during an appearance at a community centre in Surrey the night before.
During his speech, the prime minister watched a series of video vignettes of him visiting small businesses and families who praised him for keeping taxes low and balancing the budget.
The Tory campaign document promises a series of budget surpluses, predicting a $1.7 billion surplus in 2016-17 and $1.4 billion the year after.
The projected surplus would then dip to $947 million, due mainly to the rising cost of compensating dairy and automotive industries under the TransPacific Partnership trade dealt.
The surpluses would come after money is set aside for contingencies, including emergencies and natural disasters.
Trudeau has countered the Conservative pitch by urging Canadians to consider whether they're better off since Harper took power in 2006 and has consistently reminded voters of the six years of Tory deficits.
The Liberal leader has said he'll stimulate the economy with deficit spending on infrastructure.
There is some added spending in the Tory platform.
The document includes costs for programs already announced during the campaign, such as the $1.5-billion home renovation tax credit Harper proposed in August.
New programs include a $100 million over three years for a program to support crop science, which was sought by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.
There is also $3 million a year for a Correctional Service Canada program to have prisoners build homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and $10 million a year to fund summer jobs in the trades for high school students.
And there are also hints at the price for some Conservative restraint.
The platform indicates a re-elected Conservative government would continue a freeze on federal operating budgets, with savings estimated at $565 million next year.
The freeze was originally to expire this year, but is being extended by a year.
The platform also includes a plan to bring in legislation that would allow an aboriginal band in British Columbia to begin allowing people to own their own properties on the reserve.
The law would specifically apply to the Whispering Pine/Clinton Indian Band near Kamloops, but would allow other bands to opt in.
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