“‘This isn’t the Red Book, it’s a back page of the Red Book,’ says Hébert on NDP platform costing” (The Hill Times)

NDP candidate Andrew Thomson, a former Finance minister in Saskatchewan, released the NDP platform's fiscal framework in Ottawa on Sept. 16. (The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright)

Tim Naumetz (The Hill Times):

The NDP tried Wednesday to channel Jean Chrétien’s famous Red Book of promises that kick-started his Liberal Party’s campaign to a majority government in 1993, but it didn’t work out as planned.

The large contingent of veteran and not-so-veteran journalists who attended an NDP lockup to pore over what turned out to be a one-page “fiscal framework” of campaign promises, and one page of explanatory notes, nearly revolted at an absence of detail in the document—a glossy brochure that came to seven pages including a front letter from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, a summary of main points, one bar graph and general reviews by four prominent economists near the back cover, with one lined page for notes.

“This isn’t the Red Book, it’s a back page of the Red Book,” quipped Toronto Star national affairs columnist Chantal Hebert, who along with a few others in the room took part in the 1993 Red Book lockup—coincidentally or not located in a conference room of the Delta Hotel, which the 1993 Liberals also used, admittedly at a difference spot then two blocks down from the Delta’s current location.

Postmedia News veteran Mark Kennedy challenged three of the most prominent members of the NDP team—election candidates Peggy Nash, Andrew Thomson, now challenging Finance Minister Joe Oliver in Toronto’s Eglinton-Lawrence electoral district, and Guy Caron—over an apparent gap between the NDP’s promise to hike health care transfers to provinces by six per cent annually with a total of $5.4-billion worth of increases over four years, including an unspecified amount for seniors care.

Veteran Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson skipped over the bare details in the numbers framework to a broader question—what is the NDP rationale for planning relatively large surpluses—an accumulated total of $14.6-billion over the plan’s first four years beginning in 2016—while the economic growth is being measured in inches.

“What we have heard is it is time to bring the government’s books back to balance,” replied Mr. Thomson, a star NDP candidate and former finance minister in the last NDP government in Saskatchewan.

“This framework does provide for moderate surpluses,” acknowledged Mr. Thomson.

The NDP campaign framework forecasts a total of $14.8-billion in new revenue from a two percentage point increase in federal corporate tax over the plan’s first four years, although each year of the forecast sets the new revenues at exactly $3.7-billion per year.

That new corporate tax revenue combined with a total of $9.4-billion the NDP says will be gained by scrapping the Conservative government’s income-splitting tax deduction for couples with children under 18 and also ending a recent $5,000 increase in the yearly cap for deposits in tax-free savings accounts will help fund new infrastructure spending to total $13.2-billion from 2016 to 2020 and another $6.6-billion for $15-a-day child care spaces over the same period.

The child care costs increase significantly in the final two years of the framework—but the designated amounts in the plan include other “measures to bring families together.”

The NDP plan forecasts a total of $29.9-billion in new revenues from the major tax changes and other changes—including an end to stock option loopholes for business executives—but it forecasts a total of $34-billion in new costs for the new or expanded social programs and other funding in the NDP platform.

With likely new revenue returned to the government from the NDP infrastructure and other spending plans, the plan forecasts four years of surpluses from 2016 to 2020, with an accumulated total of $14.6-billion.

The NDP candidates—literally besieged by a crush of journalists after they outlined the program and answered or deflected questions—explained that the absence of specific detail was due to the fact that the party has so far unveiled two-thirds of its platform and will disclose the rest over the remainder of the campaign to the Oct. 19 election. While NDP distributed the brochure to journalists who attended the news conference, and posted a news release on its party web site, no detailed version had been posted on ndp.ca as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.