OTTAWA — Conservatives and Liberals are ganging up on Tom Mulcair, claiming there's a multibillion-dollar hole in the front-running NDP leader's platform.
The two rival parties differ on precisely how deep that hole would be and on their suspicions of what Mulcair would do to dig himself out of it.
Liberals claim there's a $28-billion gap between Mulcair's promises of new spending and his pledge that an NDP government would be able to balance all its budgets over a four-year term.
Jason Kenney, the defence minister, says there's at least an $8-billion gap and that's just in the first year of an NDP government.
Liberal MP John McCallum, a former bank economist, says Mulcair would have to slash spending or break most of his promises if he's serious about balancing the budget.
But Kenney is betting Mulcair is secretly planning to impose massive tax hikes.
"Canadians cannot afford the NDP," Kenney told a news conference on Sunday.
"We're only a third of the way through this campaign and already their reckless spending would mean massive tax hikes."
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau last week set himself apart from the rest of the political pack, announcing that he would run deficits of up to $10 billion for three years in order to stimulate economic growth and job creation.
Among other things, Trudeau is promising to invest $60 billion in infrastructure.
Mulcair has promised to eventually release a full costing of the NDP's platform, detailing where he'd get the money to pay for all his commitments.
In the meantime, the Liberals and Conservatives have done their own math.
The Liberals have used the cost numbers provided by the NDP so far, fiscal projections for the next four years from the last federal budget and the parliamentary budget officer's most recent fiscal outlook — which predicted a deficit of $1.1 billion this year despite the Conservative government's insistence that the budget will be balanced.
They've made some assumptions, including that Mulcair would hike the federal corporate tax rate by one percentage point to 16 per cent. The NDP leader has not yet specified how high he'd raise corporate taxes, other than to say the rate would remain "far below" the average under the Conservatives of 17.5 per cent.
Over a four-year term, the Liberals calculate the NDP promises would cost the federal treasury $63 billion.
Yet, they say Mulcair has identified new sources of revenue that would add just $13.5 billion to federal coffers over that period.
Taken together with projected surpluses and contingency funds as set out in the last budget, the Liberals say it all adds up to an NDP government that would run deficits every year, totalling $27.9 billion over the course of its first mandate.
McCallum says Mulcair would have to slash spending or break most of his promises if he's serious about balancing the budget.
The Canadian Press