Conservatives to unveil platform costs hours before Erin O’Toole takes debate stage

The Conservatives will release the costing details of their campaign promises Wednesday afternoon, hours before Leader Erin O’Toole takes part in the first official debate of the campaign.

O’Toole is not expected to personally reveal the price tag of his platform, which his party has called “Canada’s Recovery Plan.” O’Toole has referenced the document at press conferences and events throughout the campaign to explain what he would like to do in government.

Like the other four federal leaders set to square off in a televised French-language debate in Gatineau, Que., at 8 p.m. ET, O’Toole is behind closed doors preparing and has nothing else on his official campaign itinerary on Wednesday. 

The move comes amid increased pressure from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who on Tuesday said he would not refer to O’Toole’s electoral program as a real platform because of its lack of specifics. 

“There are no tables at the end of it, like there are in the Liberal platform, to show what the expenses are over the coming years, how much every promise will cost and what the fiscal trajectory is,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.

WATCH | Trudeau challenges O’Toole’s budgeting, position on firearms:

Trudeau challenges O’Toole’s budgeting, position on firearms

During a campaign stop in Montreal, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau calls out Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole over his plans to return the budget to balance. 1:47

In a potential preview of an attack line voters could still hear on the debate stage, Trudeau accused O’Toole of “not doing his homework” and claiming he can “magically” balance the budget within 10 years.

Conservatives had said platform was ‘costed internally’

Trudeau unveiled his party’s platform at an event in Toronto last week, a document outlining $78 billion in new spending over five years but no path back to balanced budgets. While most of the costing relies on Liberal projections, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has examined 11 of the party’s platform promises.

The Conservative plan released in August included a statement that the platform has been “costed internally” and is being reviewed by the PBO. The party promised to include the watchdog’s costing in “subsequent editions.”

Pressed on the issue in Ottawa Tuesday, O’Toole said the party expected an update from the PBO “shortly,” and blamed the delay on Trudeau’s calling a snap election.

“That was a process that Mr. Trudeau set up. We could not access the PBO until the campaign began,” he said. “We will update Canada’s Recovery Plan as soon as we get that confirmation.”

A reporter noted that other parties had released costing estimates in past campaigns without the help of the PBO, which was created in 2006.

WATCH | O’Toole says he’s waiting for the PBO to put a price tag on his platform:

O’Toole says he’s waiting for the PBO to put a price tag on his platform

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he is waiting for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to cost his platform — but is being pressed to say why he needs the PBO’s numbers. 2:33

The PBO began responding to requests from parties to estimate the costs of their campaign proposals on Aug. 15, the day of the election call. 

The PBO tweeted Tuesday that, since the start of the campaign, it has received more than 100 requests to cost electoral proposals and has returned 75 completed estimates to the parties. 

“We release these costing estimates on dates selected by the parties that placed the requests,” the PBO said in the tweet.

The PBO website has so far posted 13 reports examining campaign promises: 11 for the Liberals and two for the New Democrats. The 2019 election, which was called according to a fixed election date, was the first to see the budget watchdog examine campaign planks by the parties.

Debates set for Wednesday and Thursday

The NDP has also not released the costing of its platform. An NDP spokesperson told CBC News Tuesday the party will be “releasing our full costing in the coming days.”

The Bloc Québécois and Green Party have released platforms, but neither have been costed.

The five party leaders participating in Wednesday’s event  — Trudeau, O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul — will also face off Thursday for a high-stakes English-language debate.

While Canadians will head to polls in just 12 days, advance polling opens on Friday.