National Post (Latest Edition)
‘I’m not breaking my promise’
LONDON• Doug Ford denied breaking his promise to deliver a fully costed election platform Thursday even as his rivals and economists criticized the Progressive Conservative plan as vague and fiscally imprudent.
The Tory leader defended his party’s decision to quietly release a compilation of campaign promises without saying how they’d be paid for.
“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 promised to hire an auditing firm and find billions of dollars in “efficiencies,” but the Tory plan doesn’t indicate what those would be. He also said a Tory government would run deficits for the first two or three years, but the plan doesn’t spell out the size of those deficits or a path to balance.
Don Drummond, an economist at Queen’s University, said voters who value fiscal discipline should find the Tory plan “very worrying.”
“The only source of savings in this is this four per cent across-the-board spending cut, which delivers $6 billion a year,” said Drummond, who was previously appointed by the Liberals to examine government spending. “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 Tory plan would lead to a larger deficit than the Liberals or the New Democrats, who project a deficit of $4.7 billion in 2018-2019.
“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, a former federal government budget officer 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, Page said, doesn’t appear to have a good grasp of what a costed platform is.
“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.”