Conservative plan would cut $35.4B to balance books

Conservative plan would cut $35.4B to balance books

OTTAWA—The Conservatives are promising $35.4 billion in spending cuts over five years to make good on their pledge to balance the federal books if they are elected to form Canada’s next government.

Most of the big-ticket items in the election platform released Friday by Leader Andrew Scheer — a cut in the income tax, a home renovation credit, and cutting the GST from home heating costs — have already been announced.

But on Friday, the Conservatives revealed how they’d pay for their promises, although the platform was sparse on details, and the party limited how many questions could be asked about its plans.

The Conservatives would spread the Liberals’ infrastructure programs over 15 years from the current 12-year plan, which they say would cut spending by more than $18 billion over their planning time frame. That money would still be spent under the Conservatives proposals, just pushed forward into later years.

The platform also promises to freeze public service hiring, for an estimated saving of $1.2 billion over five years.

The Conservatives say “other operating expenses reductions” — spending cuts — would save $14.4 billion over their five-year plan, although exactly what would be cut is not clear from their document.

The party says it would cut down on the use of consultants, and “control” expenses on travel and hospitality. According to federal government documents, total spending on those two categories amounted to $12.5 billion in 2018-19. The platform also envisions “tightening” the federal government’s procurement rules in an unspecified way.

A Conservative government would also cut federally leased office space by 30 per cent, and rein in so-called “March madness,” when government agencies spend remaining funds at the end of the fiscal year.

“Every year, the federal government spends billions on consultants, travel and conferences. Across the country, thousands of square feet of office space remains under used, but rents are still paid,” the platform reads.

“A new Conservative government will maintain these expenses at the 2019-20 levels for five years and find savings of an additional 1.2 per cent, until 6 per cent cost savings are achieved.”

The Conservatives previously announced a proposal to cut Canada’s foreign aid spending by $1.5 billion a year, and cut government subsidies to businesses by $1.5 billion annually.

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Alex Boutilier

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