LONDON, Ont. — Doug Ford says he isn't breaking a promise to release a fully costed platform because a list of his pledges contains dollar figures beside each item.
Speaking in London, Ont., a week before the provincial election, Ontario's Progressive Conservative leader defended his party's decision to quietly release a compilation of their campaign promises without saying how they would pay for them.
"I'm not breaking my promise at all — we have a dollar figure right beside every single item," he said. "We're the only party that's fiscally responsible. We're the only party that is accurate."
Ford has said he would hire an auditing firm and find billions of dollars in "efficiencies," but the plan doesn't indicate what those would be.
He also says a Tory government would run deficits for the first two or three years, but the plan also doesn't spell out the size of those deficits or a path to balance.
Some economists said the plan leaves many questions unanswered, particularly when it comes to tackling the province's deficit.
Don Drummond, an economist at Queen's University who was previously appointed by the Liberals to examine government spending, said voters who value fiscal discipline should find the Tory plan "very worrying."
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"The only source of savings in this is this four per cent across-the-board spending cut, which delivers $6 billion a year," he said. "I think that itself is highly dubious, but let's just assume that that's in place. These spending initiatives far exceed $6 billion."
Drummond said there is no doubt in his mind that the plan would lead to a larger deficit than the Liberal or NDP platforms.
"So the net impact of this plan — I won't call it a platform — is actually to increase whatever the underlying deficit is," he said. "The other ones, like them or not — and there's lots of things not to like about them — at least you've got a pretty good idea of what they're proposing to do. This one you don't."
Kevin Page, former budgetary officer for the government of Canada and now president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy in Ottawa, said that while none of the parties has presented fiscally prudent plans, the Tories at least had a transparent platform under their previous leader, Patrick Brown. Ford, he said, doesn't appear to have a good grasp of what a costed platform is.
"This is quite different. The platform they released in the fall, you'd have to give it pretty good marks for transparency and the work that they did on costing. You can't do that with what we (see) on the website," he said.
"There's no way anyone can add up the numbers that are just line by line throughout the various policy envelopes and get anything that suggests they can get back to balance over the next three to five years. It's going in the opposite direction."
The Liberals and NDP have also warned that Ford's "efficiencies" would really mean deep cuts to public services such as healthcare and education.
Ford has consistently said he could find those savings without laying off a single person — a message he repeated Thursday.
"If anything, I'm going to do the contrary," he said. "When the economy starts going and it starts booming in Ontario, we're going to need more nurses, more doctors, more teachers, more police officers, that's what we're going to need."