Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is defending his party’s new claim that a hypothetical Liberal-NDP coalition would raise the federal goods and services tax (GST), even though neither of those parties have even mentioned the idea.
Scheer was grilled by reporters at an announcement in Fredericton Friday, after his party issued a press release claiming — without any evidence or explanation — that a coalition government would hike the GST from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.
“Why dabble in this kind of misinformation campaign?” a journalist asked, also citing earlier Conservative claims that the Liberals would legalize hard drugs and introduce a capital-gains tax on home sales. The Liberal Party has said it wouldn’t pursue either policy and the proposals aren’t in the party’s platform.
“It’s not misinformation at all,” Scheer said. “[Liberal Leader] Justin Trudeau did a lot of things that wasn’t in his platform after 2015. And so you’ll pardon me if I don’t trust him on that.”
The Tory leader said a GST hike would be among the “types of consequences” that would emerge if Liberals and the NDP team up in a minority scenario.
The party is also claiming a coalition would cut health transfers to provinces and completely eliminate transfers for social programs and post-secondary education.
Conservatives started speculating about a potential coalition government after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the NDP would push for one if the Tories win the most seats but not a majority. Singh has since walked those comments back by saying his focus is on electing as many New Democrats as possible. If no party wins a majority, the incumbent prime minister gets the first shot at forming government by wooing MPs from other parties to support his or her agenda.
Conservatives have alleged throughout the campaign that Liberals have a “secret plan” to impose a capital-gains tax of up to 50 per cent on Canadians who sell their homes. Liberals say the claim is totally untrue.
The idea was included in a “policy proposal” written last November by Toronto MP Adam Vaughan, part of an Ontario Liberal caucus report of possible measures to include in the party’s platform. Vaughan has said the idea emerged from housing town halls, but the Toronto MP has stated publicly he disagrees with it.
The Conservative Party has also claimed, in Chinese-language ads, that a re-elected Trudeau government would legalize all illegal drugs.
Conservative supporters boo reporter
When a second reporter in Fredericton characterized the Tory messaging as “fear mongering” and asked if it was misleading, Scheer’s supporters booed to drown him out.
The Conservative leader gestured for them to stop.
“We are showing Canadians the types of consequences that they will face with an NDP-Liberal coalition,” Scheer said.
Earlier Friday, his director of communications defended the messaging on Twitter.
“Without Trudeau explaining to Canadians which taxes he will raise to buy the NDP’s support, we’re left to guess,” Brock Harrison wrote. “Could be the GST. Could be something else.”
Trudeau was also asked about the GST claim Friday during a campaign stop in Whitby, Ont.
“Those claims are entirely untrue. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives keep having to make up attacks against us,” he said.
Singh also denied that his party supports raising the GST at an event Friday.
“Mr. Scheer is just making stuff up because he’s getting desperate. We absolutely will not raise the GST.”
With files from Ryan Maloney and The Canadian Press