Green party platform receives failing grade from former budget officer

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WATCH: Greens first to release election platform vetted by budget office – Sep 25, 2019

Green party Leader Elizabeth May’s “fully costed” platform has received a failing grade from a team of economists at the University of Ottawa over “serious gaps” in fiscal planning and transparency.

The University of Ottawa’s Institute for Fiscal Studies and Democracy (IFSD), headed by former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, judged the Greens’ platform on three principles to evaluate whether the promises could realistically be delivered.

The report card issued late Wednesday found the Greens platform failed to make “realistic and credible economic and fiscal projections” and also failed when it came to “responsible fiscal management” and “transparency.”

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The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) released its own costing of more than 20 Green party pledges and found that several came with high or moderate uncertainty.

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“We were a bit surprised when we saw the numbers,” said Mostafa Askari, chief economist at the IFSD. “There were a lot of issues with costing and the way they presented the material.”

Askari said that aside from basic errors, like mislabelled tables, one of the major issues was that the billions in spending commitments would require massive revenue tools of about $60 billion per year, which is more than 2.5 per cent of the country’s GDP.

“This is significant,” he said. “The proposals would substantially change the way the Canadian economy works. It requires some explanation on how they would do this.”

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Askari said another serious problem was that the platform failed to provide any kind of background documents to support the fiscal baseline the Greens used to project how they would achieve a balanced budget in five years.

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Speaking in Halifax on Wednesday, May said her platform would offer a balanced budget in five years while delivering massive new social programs, like free tuition, which was costed at $16.4 billion in its first year, and a universal pharmacare plan costed at $27 billion.

“Our blood, sweat and tears has gone into making sure that we could number-crunch some key promises that we’ve made to Canadians and deliver them,” May told reporters.

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The IFSD’s analysis “applauded” the Green party for its ambitious policy commitments but found there were serious gaps in medium- and long-term fiscal planning when it came to balancing the budget.

“There is no strategy nor is there supporting information to guide the change in fiscal stance other than a large number of proposals,” the report said. “There is no formal commitment to fiscal sustainability over the long run other than verbal commitments made by the party leader.”

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The numbers released Wednesday also did not include costing for key promises like the Greens’ plan to stop fossil-fuel production in Canada and did not include any information on their much-touted “guaranteed livable income.”

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“We expected [from] them some more detailed explanations on how they would implement [their promises] and what are the consequences, what are the priorities,” Askari said. “We’ve heard they are going to fix some of the problems in their platform and give it another shot.”

The IFSD is planning to release report cards for all parties once the platforms are released.

Global News reached out to the Green party for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

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