Conservatives unveil election promises in pandemic-focused platform

Click to play video: 'Tories unveil election platform, post-pandemic recovery plan'
Tories unveil election platform, post-pandemic recovery plan
WATCH: Tories unveil election platform, post-pandemic recovery plan – Aug 16, 2021

Just one day into the federal election campaign, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has released his party’s platform.

The 160-page document focuses on Canada’s economic recovery as the country reels from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with pledges to invest in jobs and protect Canadians’ health moving forward.

The platform details the Conservatives’ plan to “wind down emergency COVID support programs,” beef up tourism with a massive rebate on restaurant food and pop purchases, and boost funding to provinces for mental health care, among many other commitments.

“Today, I am proud to unveil our detailed plan, Canada’s recovery plan. We will secure jobs by recovering the one million jobs lost during the pandemic, and more, in one year. We will secure accountability by enacting a new anti-corruption law and clean up the mess in Ottawa,” O’Toole said, speaking in a press conference on Monday.

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“We will secure the country by building capacity here at home to handle any future pandemic or crisis. And we will secure our economy by balancing the budget over the course of the next decade.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: O’Toole says Canadians ‘have the right’ to choose whether to be vaccinated'
COVID-19: O’Toole says Canadians ‘have the right’ to choose whether to be vaccinated

However, the promises in the platform have yet to be costed by the parliamentary budget officer (PBO) — a process that verifies the math underpinning the price tag attached to the campaign commitments.

Here are some highlights from the platform.

One million jobs?

One headline-grabbing promise laid out in the Conservative Party platform is its pledge to recover one million jobs within one year of the election. According to the document, that includes taking steps to help the sectors and people who were hardest hit by the pandemic, as well as providing incentives for small businesses.

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As part of this, the Conservatives have pledged to launch a Canada Job Surge Plan, which would pay up to half the salary of “net new hires” for six months after the Liberals’ Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) ends.

“The government will pay at least 25 per cent of the salary of a net new hire, with the subsidy increasing up to a maximum of 50 per cent based on how long the new hire has been unemployed,” the platform explains, noting that the plan will have the same salary cap as CEWS: a maximum weekly wage of $1,129.

The party also vows to set up a Dine and Discover Program, which will give Canadians a 50 per cent rebate on food and non-alcoholic drinks — provided you’re dining in at a restaurant and doing so between Monday and Wednesday. They’d also line up an Explore and Support Canada initiative with a 15 per cent tax credit for vacation expenses up to $1,000 per person in 2022.

In a further push for economic growth, the Conservatives say they’ll introduce something called the Canada Investment Accelerator, which would provide a five per cent investment tax credit for any capital investment made in 2022 and 2023 — with the first $25,000 to be “refundable for small business,” the platform says.

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The Tories also say they’ll set up a Main Street Business Loan that’ll give small businesses loans of up to $200,000, and they’ll forgive up to 25 per cent, depending on a company’s revenue loss.

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Another point that’s sure to catch some Canadians’ attention is the Conservatives’ promise for pay increases. An O’Toole-led government would give someone making $20,000 per year a 1$/hour raise, according to the platform.

Anti-corruption law

In what is likely a bid to keep the headlines that bruised the Liberals in recent years top of Canadians’ minds, the Tories have also made a point of highlighting their anti-corruption plans in the platform — a plan they detail with frequent nods to Liberal scandals, including the WE Charity affair and the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

“We need stricter laws to require ethics in government, prevent cover-ups, and ensure that lobbying is adequately regulated,” the platform said.

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Click to play video: 'One-on-one with Conservative leader Erin O’Toole'
One-on-one with Conservative leader Erin O’Toole

The Conservatives would pass what they call an “Anti-Corruption Act” to “strengthen our legislation on ethics, lobbying, and transparency,” the document explained.

On top of that, the Conservatives also boost the fine for a Conflict of Interest Act violation from $500 to a maximum of $50,000 — a fine that would be “proportionate to the severity of the offence and the offender’s history and personal net worth.”

Pandemic prevention

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conservatives have also detailed a number of steps they’d plan to take to try to shore up the country’s vaccine capacity in case of a future pandemic.

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“Our goal is simple: be prepared and take rapid action to protect the health of Canadians while avoiding long-term impacts on the economy and the mental health of Canadians,” the platform said.

The document pledges to call an immediate public inquiry into “every aspect” of the government’s response to the pandemic, deploying any lessons learned into new pandemic prevention measures after ensuring the details are “publicly aired.”

The Conservatives also promised to support an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, put in place a Canada Emergency Preparedness Plan — which would be updated annually — and shore up domestic vaccine production capacity as well as personal protective equipment stockpiles.

The Liberals already have a review of the COVID-19 pandemic response underway — although theirs is an internal one. Health Minister Patty Hajdu has said she’s open to a full review after the pandemic ends.

Click to play video: 'Conservative leader O’Toole dodges vaccine mandate questions as campaign begins'
Conservative leader O’Toole dodges vaccine mandate questions as campaign begins

As part of the pandemic response, the Conservatives also said they’d beef up mental health supports.

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“The last year has made clear the mental health crisis we face. It’s time to make it clear that mental health IS health, and to treat it properly,” the platform said.

The Tories pledge to boost funding to the provinces for mental health care and to provide “incentives” to employers to provide mental health coverage. They’d also establish a countrywide, three-digit suicide prevention hotline.

However, the platform stays away from any kind of mandatory vaccination — focusing instead on widespread use of rapid tests. While O’Toole said this is an effective way to reduce spread, experts have mixed feelings, given the limits in rapid test effectiveness.

O’Toole has come under fire from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau over his unwillingness to embrace mandatory vaccines. The Liberals, meanwhile, have announced plans to pursue a vaccine mandate for all federal workers.

“We do feel that Canadians have the right to make their own health care decisions and we encourage people to get vaccinated,” O’Toole said.

“But we also have to make sure we have the tools to protect Canadians from some people that will not be vaccinated — rapid testing, masks, distancing. All the tools — but rapid testing in particular — on a daily basis can be very effective to make sure we reduce the spread.”

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Other noteworthy nuggets

If O’Toole becomes prime minister, he plans to scrap the Liberals’ $30-billion child-care program, and instead would turn it into a “refundable tax credit,” which he said would cover up to 75 per cent of the child-care cost for lower-income families.

“We’re going to help all parents. All parents, immediately. Not some, six years from now. Parents know what’s best, particularly with the flexibility needed for families coming out of the pandemic,” O’Toole told reporters on Monday.

The Liberals have maintained that their child-care plan would chip child-care from an average fee of $50 per day to $10 a day by the end of 2024 — which they say would save Canadians $10,000 annually, per child, on average.

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The Conservatives also say they’ll ban all foreign investors from purchasing a Canadian home for at least two years, as housing prices skyrocket for prospective Canadian homeowners.

Click to play video: 'O’Toole cautions against holding election amidst possible 4th wave of COVID-19'
O’Toole cautions against holding election amidst possible 4th wave of COVID-19

The plan also promises to implement the Liberal ban on conversion therapy, end the blood donation ban for men who have sex with men, and tackle online hate speech — which they say they’ll do while protecting free speech.

That includes “clearly criminalizing statements that encourage acts of violence against other people or identifiable groups” while protecting “forms of speech, criticism, and argument that do not encourage violence.”

On top of all that, O’Toole appears to have softened his stance on the CBC, which he pledged to “defund” in his leadership campaign. Now, he says he’ll “protect CBC Radio and CBC North,” but will “review the mandate” of other areas of CBC to “assess the viability of refocusing the service on a public interest model.”

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To date, only the Conservatives have released their full platform. The NDP released a set of campaign commitments before the election was called on Sunday — and that document can be read here.

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