OAKVILLE, Ont. — Justin Trudeau says a Liberal government would run modest, short-term deficits until 2019 in order to kickstart the economy.
The party's latest platform plank, which proposes doubling current federal infrastructure funding, says shortfalls in the federal treasury over the next two years would amount to no more than $10 billion per year.
There is a caveat, though.
The platform acknowledges the volatility in global markets and the Liberals have left themselves wiggle room on the numbers by saying "if the fiscal situation deteriorates due to a further slowdown of the economy in the weeks ahead, Liberals will be honest with Canadians about the facts."
The party is also promising significant new investment in public transit, affordable housing and programs to help communities cope with climate change.
Trudeau's refusal to rule out a deficit and insistence that economic growth will help take care of the balance sheet opened him up for attacks this week by both the NDP and the Conservatives, who are now using his position for a fundraising appeal among supporters.
New Democrats promised this week not to run a deficit, if elected.
Balancing the budget is emerging as a wedge issue for the Liberals — a way they can distinguish themselves from their opponents.
One of the main pillars of their growth plan is the proposal for a staggering $125 billion in infrastructure investment over the next decade — up from the estimated $65 billion currently being spent.
The investment would start right away, Trudeau said.
"Every dollar we spend on public infrastructure grows our economy, creates jobs, and strengthens our cities and towns," he said. "Government has a responsibility to act decisively and for the public good. Canada's economic growth was made possible by building ambitiously. We must do so again if we are to transform our transit and transportation systems, create more liveable communities, and ensure that we adapt to a changing climate."
Liberal insiders say the plan was drafted in consultation with members of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, among others. There is a host of enticements for cities, towns and villages in the policy plank.
Aside from the social housing proposal — something municipalities have been demanding for over a decade — the Liberals say they will automatically transfer leftover infrastructure cash each year into a top-up of the federal gas tax fund, which is the pool of money communities use to repair existing roads and bridges.
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