HAMILTON — An NDP government would not need to run a deficit to finance its promises, leader Tom Mulcair said Tuesday, taking his party's message of responsible economic stewardship to staunch Conservative territory.
Despite the low price of oil and Monday's tumultuous day on the markets, Mulcair — campaigning in Tory-friendly ridings in southwestern Ontario — said he does not foresee having to go into the red.
"We're of course going to finish the fiscal year on Mr. (Stephen) Harper's watch — 2015-16 is his budget, but our first budget will be a balanced budget," he said, speaking at a small woodworking business during the first of the day's three stops.
"We know because we've got a lot of experienced people that governing is about priorities. Our priorities are not the same as Mr. Harper's."
Later, in Kitchener, Ont., Mulcair said he believes that he could also bring in subsequent balanced budgets, even as his plan to create one million $15-a-day child care spaces takes effect.
Once fully implemented after eight years, the NDP estimates its child care plan would cost the federal government $5 billion annually.
Mulcair also said he would scrap Harper's income-splitting policy and raise taxes for large corporations, although he has not yet released the full costing details of his platform.
He blamed Harper for manufacturing job losses and a less diversified economy.
The parliamentary budget office released an analysis last month based on downgraded Bank of Canada projections that showed Ottawa is headed for a $1-billion shortfall in 2015-16, despite the long-standing Conservative promise to balance the books.
If the bank's growth forecast is right, the $1.4-billion surplus the Conservatives projected in the 2015 budget could become a deficit, since federal coffers would be $4.1 billion slimmer, according to an analysis in the April budget.
Mulcair took his shots at Harper's economic management in the new riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. Though the NDP held three seats in the Hamilton area, the Conservatives handily won the former Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale riding in 2011.
The NDP leader also travelled to Conservative-dominated Kitchener and Sarnia, though in the latter riding the New Democrats note that the Conservative incumbent is not running.
Mulcair spent the day touting his plan to cut the small business tax rate from 11 per cent to nine per cent, which he said would be fully implemented in the first two years of an NDP government as a job-creation tool.
It would cut small business taxes by almost 20 per cent and save small business owners about $1.2 billion each year, the NDP said.
Mulcair has said he will raise taxes for larger corporations, but he has been adamant that he won't increase other taxes or impose a wealth tax.
He hasn't yet said how high he would raise the rate — currently at 15 per cent — but said the increase would be "reasonable" and below the U.S. rate, as well as the average rate under the Conservatives, which has been 17.5 per cent.
"Mr. Harper has taken an approach, he's following in the footsteps of the Paul Martin Liberals and it's the same mistake," Mulcair said.
"Giving tens of billions of dollars in tax reductions to Canada's richest corporations didn't create jobs."
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