Conservative plan very much affordable.

Liberals claimed yesterday that Conservative promises would plunge Canada into deficit, but the front-running Tories countered quickly, producing a letter of support from a prestigious economic think tank.

The battle of the balance sheets broke out as leaders of all four parties prepared for the main event, the crucial television debates tonight and tomorrow in Montreal.

Liberal Leader Paul Martin said that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's numbers -- tax cuts plus promised new spending and financial transfers to provinces -- don't add up.

"I would be very interested to see how Mr. Harper is going to pay for them," he said.

The Liberals claim the Conservatives would come up at least $12.4-billion short over five years, a figure Tory finance critic Monte Solberg dismissed as a "simply ridiculous" scare tactic.

The Conservatives also produced a letter from Conference Board of Canada economist Paul Darby, stating that the party's fiscal plan looks pretty sound.

Mr. Solberg said the Conservatives have a "fantastic" record of fiscal forecasting compared to the that of the scandal-plagued Liberals. "The Liberal record," he said, "is a record, frankly, of lying in the past about the actual financial situation of the government."

Rising Conservative fortunes and perceived momentum suggest Mr. Harper will be the target of much of tonight's verbal thrust and parry.

Asked about the cost of Conservative promises, Mr. Martin said: "I know these numbers and I know that we've got a very strong economy because we stayed out of deficit and I will be very, very interested in how all his numbers add up."

Neither theTories nor the Liberals have released their full platforms in advance of the TV debates. But Mr. Solberg said the Conference Board has analyzed the Conservative platform and concluded it would not only remain in the black, but generate surpluses of at least $3-billion annually.

"In summary," Mr. Darby wrote, "we found that the Conservative Party's economic platform is affordable in each fiscal year from 2005-2006 through 2010-2011. In each year there is enough fiscal room to pay down at least $3-billion a year in debt, as in the [government's] fiscal plan."

Reached yesterday, Mr. Darby reaffirmed that the Tory platform the board analyzed would keep Canada's finances in the black. "The Conservative Party sent us a complete list of the elements of their platform late last year. We analyzed it at that time and deemed it was affordable in every fiscal year -- affordable in the sense that it does not lower the surplus in any given fiscal year to less than $3-billion."

The Conference Board was given access to the entire Conservative platform in order to conduct its analysis. The Conservative Party will release its whole platform and supporting fiscal framework later this week.

The board found that there is substantial surplus in the Conservative fiscal plan. "Over the five-year forecast horizon to 2010-2011, the CBoC economic and fiscal outlook suggests that there remains $15.7-billion in unallocated fiscal room, over and above the annual debt payment, which provides further cushion to ensure that deficits do not occur due to adverse economic effects," Mr. Darby wrote.

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said the Conservatives must show where they will cut existing spending in order to fund their program.

"You cannot make the books balance on the set of numbers they've put out. Something's got to give," he said in an interview. "If you try to shave the numbers as cutely as it appears the Conservatives are doing, you are inviting a deficit."

Yesterday's release was not the first time the Liberals have tried to make points by crunching Conservative numbers.

In the last election campaign, when the Tories promised an $80-billion platform, Mr. Martin said the Tory platform would push Canada into deficit. Then Liberals budgeted for $143-billion in spending. (typical Liberal propoganda that sheep buy into)

And when the Tories promised about $40-billion in tax cuts during the 2004 campaign, the Liberals ran campaign commercials denouncing them and Mr. Martin called them "impossible." But the Liberals subsequently budgeted for $40-billion in tax cuts.(typical Liberal propoganda that sheep buy into)

The Liberals, in the 2004 campaign, accused the Tories of spending money that wasn't there to spend, but it was only several months after that election that Mr. Martin's government revealed the fiscal situation was improving. A projected $1.9-billion surplus grew to $9.1-billion and last year the Liberals said improving economic conditions had added $54.5-billion of revenue to Ottawa's bottom line.

The Conservatives have to cancel about $4.5-billion in annual tax cuts to pay for their platform, which means rolling back reductions that took effect at the start of 2005. They include a reduction of 1 per cent in the lowest tax bracket and reverse most of an increase in the basic personal exemption -- the amount Canadians can earn tax-free.

Mr. Martin said those rollbacks would mean that the people who have gained from the cuts will have to pay that money back when they file their 2006 taxes.

But the Conservatives say they are able to free up about $9-billion in extra revenue over five years -- to fund their platform -- by cancelling other spending announcements in the November mini-budget announced by the Liberals.

The Liberals yesterday attacked the Tories for planning to repeal their mini-budget, saying deputy Tory leader Peter MacKay pledged in November to preserve the spending and tax cuts.
Yeah the Tory tax-cuts might benefit their nice cozy rich and middle income tax people but not 20% of Canada's society.

In my view, the Liberals tax-cuts were better but both major parties are crappy on the tax-cut issue.
Here we go again.

Why is it so hard to understand that 32% of Canadians do NOT pay income tax? If these people are already paying zero income tax, the Liberal income tax cut does absolutely nothing for them.
BTW, in case it's not so obvious, those that make so little as to not pay income taxes are the poorest of the poor.
No Party Affiliation
Canada already has close to $500 billion in debt that Mulroney left for us. We don't need any more debt thank you very much.
"Some people consider Trudeau's economic policies to have been a weak point. Inflation and unemployment marred much of his term. When Trudeau took office in 1968 Canada had a debt of $18 billion, when he left office in 1984, that debt stood at $200 billion - an increase of 1200%"
I think not
I think it's safe to assume what Jay will be voting for this election :P
Who ever offers the most free booze!!
Here we go again.

Why is it so hard to understand that 32% of Canadians do NOT pay income tax? If these people are already paying zero income tax, the Liberal income tax cut does absolutely nothing for them.


This is a fundamental issue, about burden.

And about who has a stake in providing and receiving

The more people you take off the tax rolls will no
longer have a painful stake in deciding how much
of their own personal money must go to the great
idealism of socialism's benefits.

Such a burden of having to pay for what you need
makes you into an adult.

I'd rather have other people pay for me.

But if I had to pay for this great idea, I might
think differently.

This is why everyone from poor to rich should
have a stake in the matter.

And yes it is regressive, but psychologically more
educating and responsible.