Better know a talking point

The Conservaties say they've done the math, but they won't show their work

According to the Conservatives, the New Democrats have proposed $56 billion in new spending.

That figure apparently represents a “costing” of the NDP’s submission to the finance committee’s report pre-budget consultations in 2011. If you read through the NDP’s submission, you’ll note that there are relatively few figures related to total cost. Presumably then, the Conservatives have done their own math to arrive at that $56 billion estimate. Unfortunately, the Conservatives don’t seem particularly keen to show or share their work. They do at least acknowledge that that $56 billion is spread out over four years.

So I’ve attempted to do the math myself. Mostly by cross-referencing the NDP’s submission to the finance committee with the costing document that accompanied the NDP’s 2011 election platform.

Including a reduction in the small business tax rate, the introduction of a job creation tax credit, an extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance, increasing the guaranteed income supplement, investing in long-term care and home care, adjusting the employment insurance system for new parents, investing in high-speed broadband access, investing in child care, transferring funding to the provinces to lower tuition fees, increasing funding for the Canada Student Grants Program, helping parents with the cost of raising kids, hiring more doctors and nurses, improving access to prescription drugs, increasing foreign aid, establishing a benefit for the families of fallen police officers and firefighters, hiring more police officers, funding arts and culture, increasing funding for aboriginal education and infrastructure, expanding mental health programs, establishing a fund for demonstration projects for military procurement and aerospace and, for the sake of argument, all of the environmental initiatives in the NDP platform, I count $55.73 billion in expenses over four years.

So possibly the Conservatives and I are using the same math. Though I suspect estimates will vary depending on how the NDP’s submission is interpreted. (The Conservatives, it has been suggested to me, attach a cost to the NDP’s EI reforms. But I think this is a disputed point, so I’ve excluded that from my estimate.)

Of course, the NDP submission also includes new revenue: an increase in the corporate tax rate and the introduction of a cap-and-trade system. The NDP platform booked $33.7 billion from the former and $21.5 billion from the latter, for a total of $55.2 billion over four years.

That, by my very unofficial estimate, would leave $530 million over four years—$132.5 million per year—to be paid for.

The full NDP platform in 2011 proposed $68.9 billion in new spending over four years and $72.3 billion in new revenue.