Liberal leader Stephane Dion announces his agricultural policy on a farm just west of Winnipeg, Sept. 19, 2008.
The Liberals wrote another big post-dated election cheque Friday, driving the cost of their election promises to more than $80-billion in the first 13 days of the campaign.
The latest election pledge from Liberal leader Stephane Dion includes a plan to save the Canadian Wheat Board and spend $1.2-billion to help farmers if he is elected to government on Oct. 14.
It comes on the heels of an announcement Thursday to invest $70-billion into Canada's crumbling infrastructure over 10 years. The total cost of the Liberal programs so far is $80.183-billion.
The Tories, meanwhile, kept a tighter hold on future federal coffers by announcing another modest spending program -- this time with an $80-million promise to help families take care of handicapped relatives. The cost of their programs to date is less than $2-billion annually.
The New Democrats planned no major policy initiatives as party leader Jack Layton attended the funeral of a well known Ottawa political figure and former New Democrat MP. The NDP promises so far total $16.5-billion.
Mr. Harper has criticized his political opponents saying they are making "mind boggling" spending plans that would send Canada into deficit.
The Liberal program for farmers announced Friday includes energy conservation, pollution reduction and other steps to protect the environment.
The campaign pledge by Mr. Dion included $30-million to support the promotion of local farmers' markets and branding of Canadian-grown foods.
About half the funds were already announced when the Liberals adjusted their Green Shift plan on the eve of the election to quell a backlash over the proposed carbon tax that would hit diesel fuel and other farming costs.
Mr. Dion used the Ammeter family farm as the backdrop for his pledge to "partner with farmers to build Canadian agriculture as a leader in the green economy."
The programs include $400-million in tax credits for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, $250-million for investments in energy-efficient technology, and $564-million for regional measures to protect the environment.
The Liberal farm plan also promised to "restore farmer control of a strong, democratic Canadian Wheat Board" and called for a moratorium on short-line rail closures pending further stakeholder consultation, Mr. Dion said.
"No government should decide the future of the CWB," said Mr. Dion. "A Liberal government will stand firm in its commitment that only western Canadian wheat and barley farmers will determine the fate of the CWB."
For the second straight day, the Tories timed their news conferences to start just as the Liberals were beginning their announcements, forcing television networks to decide which announcement to broadcast live. Veteran Liberal Ralph Goodale said the timing is clearly deliberate.
"They will try every trick in the book to try to block criticism," he said.
But the Harper campaign dismissed suggestions that they were engaging in duelling news conferences.
"We don't tell give them our schedule and they don't give us theirs," said Kory Teneycke, the prime minister's chief spokesman.
The Conservative campaign issued its final itinerary for Friday later than normal on Thursday night. Campaign aides said at the time the delay was the result of a malfunctioning printer on the campaign buses. The Conservatives held their event at 10 a.m. ET Friday, the same time they've been staging their announcements and media sessions all week long.
Speaking at an event in Farnham, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, Mr. Harper pledged to introduce income-splitting for families where one spouse is staying at home to care for a family member with a disability. Mr. Harper also said he would improve the Registered Disability Savings Program to make it easier for persons with disabilities to be able to receive the unused retirement savings of a deceased family member.
"Families that care for loved ones with disabilities make incredible sacrifices and carry heavy burdens," Mr. Harper said. "The government can -- and should -- take steps to lighten the load."
The Conservatives said that, according to Health Canada, more than one-million Canadians provide care for relatives who have mental or physical disabilities. Three-quarters of those caregivers are women.
The Conservatives say the measure will cost the federal treasury $80-million a year but were vague on the timing of introducing this initiative saying only that they would introduce it sometime in the first four years of their government.
NDP Leader Jack Layton was to spend the day in Ottawa to attend the funeral of former Ottawa mayor and New Democrat Marion Dewar before flying to Edmonton Friday night for his second western campaign swing this week. Also, the NDP released a new TV ad Friday that focused on the economy and took aim at Mr. Harper for "keeping money on Canada's boardroom tables while ignoring Canada's kitchen tables."
Mr. Layton will hold a news conference on Parliament Hill Friday afternoon.