OTTAWA — A look at key developments Thursday on the campaign trail:
Big promises from the NDP and Liberals and a scornful review from the Conservatives enlivened the election campaign on Thursday. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would almost double infrastructure funding over the next 10 years, while NDP Leader Tom Mulcair appeared to back away from a previous commitment to reverse the Tory government's planned cuts to provincial health transfers. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, meanwhile, berated his two principal opponents for doing little more than promising billions without saying how they'll pay the bill.
Harper campaigned in Markham, Ont., part of the Toronto-region battleground that could make or break the Oct. 19 election. He said a re-elected Conservative government would provide new funding for a federal loans program that offers financial support to new Canadians while they complete the foreign credential recognition process. He pledged another $40 million for the program over five years, on top of $35 million already committed for the program in this year's budget. He scoffed at his opponents' campaign promises, saying runaway spending financed by deficits and new taxes will ruin the economy.
Mulcair was in Toronto, where he said it will be a top priority for his party to reverse Conservative cuts to provincial health transfers, though he said it's not likely to happen right away because of budget uncertainty. Mulcair was responding to questions about the party's original commitment from last summer to pour any budget surpluses into shoring up transfer payments. The cuts imposed by the Tories don't start for another two years, however, so he has some leeway, Mulcair noted. The cuts could shave as much as $36 billion from provincial budgets over 10 years. Home care and pharmacare will also be priorities for an NDP government, he said, although he again refused to provide details of how he would finance these priorities.
Trudeau, too, was on the Toronto outskirts, where he announced that a Liberal government would double planned infrastructure spending over a decade, to $125 billion compared with the estimated $65 billion currently budgeted. He also said a Liberal government would run deficits of no more than $10 billion a year until 2019, when the budget would be balanced. . He said this will salvage the economy by promoting growth, something he said Harper has managed to do. His willingness to go into the red is drawing scorn from both the NDP and the Conservatives. The former say they will balance their first budget. The latter say the budget is balanced and should stay that way.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May pleaded with her Conservative and NDP rivals to reconsider their plans to skip the traditional televised leaders' debate. Stephen Harper has said no to the English election debate normally organized by a consortium of broadcasters, and Tom Mulcair has made it clear he won't be at any national debate that doesn't include the Conservative leader. May has written to the leaders, calling it "unconscionable" that political parties would undermine and ultimately derail such an important tradition. "As things now stand, this vital opportunity to engage and inform voters may not happen at all," she writes.
A single screen grab from a Facebook page has triggered turmoil within the ranks of an NDP riding association in Nova Scotia. The image included a comment about Israel attributed to Morgan Wheeldon, then the NDP's candidate in Kings-Hants: "One could argue that Israel's intention was always to ethnically cleanse the region." On Aug. 10, NDP campaign adviser Brad Lavigne said the candidate's position was "not in line" with the NDP position, and that when the party approached Wheeldon about it, he resigned. Earlier this week, the president of the riding association, Judy Swift, said she, too, had stepped down, citing differences with the association's executive. Now the party's hand-picked replacement for Wheeldon, Stephen Schneider, says he won't run because he believes Wheeldon's removal was unjust. "It is my belief that there was a lack of due process accorded to Morgan from the NDP national office when it confronted him with this smear campaign," he said in a statement.
The Canadian Press