OTTAWA — Federal spending on health care under an NDP government would jump beyond what Conservative budgets have forecast, with much of that money tied to programs and commitments Tom Mulcair leader promised this week.
Under the Conservative plan, the annual increase in health-care spending is to drop to at least three per cent from six per cent starting in fiscal year 2017-18, while the NDP plans to keep it at six per cent overall.
Figures provided by the NDP show that in the 2017-18 fiscal year, it plans to spend an additional $940 million on health and senior care — it didn’t specifically split out the money for health care — with the total hitting $2.5 billion in the last year of a four-year mandate.
The numbers, contained in a party document released Wednesday, left officials trying to explain how much the NDP would tie to specific pledges and how much would be left to the provinces to spend as they please.
“We have committed to continue the six per cent escalator, but I do want to be clear that some of that six per cent will include announcements on health care that our leader Tom Mulcair has already made this week,” said NDP candidate Peggy Nash.
Wednesday’s costing provided a high-level overview of the party’s spending and revenue projections, minus the details of each spending item. Pressed for more information on spending projections, NDP officials said the full platform will be released in the coming weeks.
Mulcair has promised huge health proposals this week.
They include a $100-million mental-health innovation fund for children and youth, a $40-million commitment for a national strategy on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, $500 million to build medical clinics and hire more health-care professionals and $1.8 billion to expand home care and palliative services.
To meet those promises, the NDP are vowing to run four years of budget surpluses by increasing corporate tax rates, going after subsidies to oil companies and eliminating tax breaks on stock options to raise almost $7.2 billion in new revenue.
The plan includes a jump in corporate taxes to 17 per cent from 15 per cent to raise about $3.7 billion, based on projections from the parliamentary budget officer. The party plans to eliminate income splitting and the doubling of the contribution limit to tax-free savings accounts, which could save the government almost $2.2 billion.
As early as last month, however, just days after the campaign had begun, Mulcair said the increase would be “slight and graduated” and “far below the average” corporate tax rate under the Conservatives _ 17.5 per cent.
The party also wants to target subsidies to oil companies to the tune of $240 million. That’s how much the Green Budget Coalition estimates the government could save if it limited tax breaks to oil and mining companies to writing off the costs of unsuccessful hunts for resources.
The NDP believes it can run a surplus in the $3 billion to $4 billion range in each of the next four years.
Missing from the costing is a long-standing promise by the NDP to raise foreign aid spending to 0.7 per cent of GDP. Andrew Thomson, a party candidate and former Saskatchewan finance minister, said there’s not enough financial wiggle room to follow through on that.
Conservative cabinet minister Michelle Rempel, an economist, called the NDP plan “chicanery” and an attempt to fool voters.
“If you look through this document, it’s full of buzzwords without any sort of details on programming or how much things would actually cost.”
Liberal candidate John McCallum, a former bank economist, called the NDP plan a “mirage.” He said many marquee promises such as child care and public transit are backloaded to later years and he predicted the promised corporate tax hike would lead to 150,000 lost jobs.
McCallum said the Liberals would release a detailed costing of their promises later in the campaign and said it would be far more detailed than the NDP’s.
The Conservatives have yet to release a detailed costing of their promises, but, to date, the pledges have been small and remain within the fiscal framework so the party would remain in surplus for the coming years.