Reality Check: How do the Liberals’ campaign promises add up?

Liberal leader Trudeau has said “every single promise that we have made has been fully costed” and that the party’s been “crystal clear” in how a Liberal government would pay for its spending commitments.

“We are the very first party to have put out a detailed framework about where every single dollar that we’re investing in Canadians, in our cities, in our communities, in growth, in jobs is going to come from,” Trudeau said in a speech to supporters in Calgary Wednesday morning.

“We have been crystal clear on that. And every day our opponents and the media ask us questions and attack us on that.”

Is Trudeau right? Have the Liberals released all their numbers?

Yes – to an extent.

But while most parties release a platform including detailed, line-by-line budgets, the Liberals have not (yet). Instead, they’ve said how much each individual promise will cost during each announcement.

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So we added up the Liberal promises made so far in the campaign and put together this list, so you can see them all for yourself.

(Note: The Liberal numbers only include new spending and don’t include money already budgeted by the Harper government. We got the figures from the party.)

Interactive: Have a look at the costs and savings associated with the Liberals’ promises below. Hover over a promise to see the first-year and full-term cost of each. 

As you can see, there’s still a significant spending gap at the end of a hypothetical four-year Liberal term. We’re awaiting details from the party on how they’d make up that difference.

Trudeau’s promises include a $5-billion-a-year increase to federal infrastructure spending, $515 million each year to First Nations Education, $1.5 billion over four years on youth jobs and $4 billion for a Child Care Benefit targeting low-income families.

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It all adds up to roughly $11.36 billion each year.

So how is a Liberal government planning on paying for all of this?

Cancelling Harper’s income-splitting scheme for couples with children (not income-splitting for seniors, which the Liberals would keep) would save an estimated $2 billion a year.

The rest of the money comes from Canada’s federal credit card. Trudeau has been upfront about the party’s plan to run “modest deficits” of no more than $10 billion a year with plans to reach surplus by 2019.

“Every commitment we make at every announcement in this campaign, is not only fully costed, but fits into that fiscal framework that we announced weeks ago before any other party did,” Trudeau said during an announcement in Calgary. “We can do this because we’ve made different choices than our opponents.”

Both Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair have said they’ll run balanced budgets, saying running a deficit now is a bad idea.

“Proposing a deficit right now with economic growth is a recipe for permanent deficits,” Harper said on Sept. 2. “It’s why we’re not going to do it and why I think the country will reject that proposal from the other parties.”

Mulcair said the NDP will be able to increase investment while still balancing the budget. The NDP laid out a framework for their platform on Wednesday afternoon. 

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“We have a plan for investing in infrastructure and housing, but it’s all done within the framework of a balanced budget,” he said. “Tommy Douglas balanced the budget 17 times in Saskatchewan and still brought in medicare in Canada for the first time.”

Scott Clark, a former deputy minister of finance for Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, said in an interview Wednesday that while deficits might not make sexy political promises, they can be a good idea economically.

“As an economist I would say, ‘I wouldn’t borrow money to go out for dinner, but I would borrow money for the future,’” he said, pointing out that the Liberals infrastructure spending should spur the economy and generate more revenue for the government. “In the long run, infrastructure investment will improve the overall productivity and growth potential of the economy. They are investments.”

The Conservatives have not released a full platform but are expected to. The Liberals haven’t said when they’ll release their full platform, but have said they will.  But they don’t have to, no party does. That’s something Clark says should change.

“I think it would be better if every political party was required to provide a costing. You’re being transparent,” he said.  “In a lot of countries the parliaments require that an independent agency do the costing. They don’t allow the political parties to do it; an independent agency does it for every party.”

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– With files from Bryan Mullan, Leslie Whyte

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