Tories to release platform on Friday, Singh sets terms for NDP minority support

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to balance the budget in five years

The Conservatives are to release their campaign platform on Friday, a party spokesman says — just in time for the beginning of advance polls but not before the last televised leaders’ debate of the federal contest.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who spent Thursday preparing for tonight’s French-language debate battle, has vowed to balance the budget in five years, but the party has not yet released a full campaign platform detailing how that would be accomplished.

“I can assure you that Canadians will see our fully costed platform with plenty of time to make up their minds before they vote,” Scheer said earlier this week. The advance polls open Friday at 9 a.m. and will run throughout the holiday Thanksgiving weekend before closing at 9 p.m. on Monday.

Scheer has said his platform would lay out his party’s path to a balanced budget, complete with its targets on spending cuts and deficit reduction, and it will include the assessments of the parliamentary budget officer.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has criticized Scheer for withholding the specific spending details of his platform until after the debates. In Monday’s English-language debate, Trudeau called that “a disrespect for every Canadian.”

The Liberals won the 2015 election on a platform to run deficits as a way to lift the economy by funding major infrastructure investments and tax reductions, but they broke their promises to return Canada to balanced budgets by the end of their mandate. The Liberals’ 2019 platform has no timeline to eliminate them, and projects another four years of red ink: $27.4 billion next year, falling to $21 billion by the fourth year of a new mandate.

WATCH: NDP reminds Trudeau of electoral-reform promise before last debate

Scheer had no debate-day events on Thursday, but the Conservatives laid another plank in their platform by matching a Liberal promise to extend employment insurance leave by 15 weeks for adoptive parents, who currently only receive 35 weeks of EI-funded leave, and expand a tax credit for them.

Trudeau made an early-morning visit to pumpkin patch in rural Ottawa, where he helped collect a wagonload of gourds with several young children, including his son, Hadrien. It was part of the ongoing targeting by the Liberals of the semi-rural riding of Carleton, where they are trying to knock off Conservative attack dog Pierre Poilievre.

The Liberals released new ads on Thursday that took aim at Scheer, hoping to deflect from scrutiny of Trudeau himself with the Liberal leader saying in one ad that Scheer “wants you to think this election is about me — I think it’s about you.”

The Conservatives fired back on Facebook with a video urging Trudeau to fire former cabinet minister and Toronto candidate Judy Sgro, who told a radio station that her black constituents in Toronto told her they loved Trudeau even more after learning he wore blackface. Sgro has apologized.

Trudeau has apologized for wearing brownface and blackface, which he says he now understands to be racist, after a series of images of him from 2001 and the 1990s rocked his campaign last month.

“She claimed that black Canadians like myself loved Justin Trudeau even more because, ‘He wanted to have a black face,’” said Abdul Abdi, an Ottawa police officer who is taking a leave of absence to run for the Conservatives in Ottawa West-Nepean.

Abdi also called for the firing of Jaime Battiste, who is running for the Liberals in the Nova Scotia riding of Sydney-Victoria, because of past racist and sexist remarks he had made on social media. Battiste, too, has apologized.

“The people that I talk to in my community are hurt,” said Abdi. “Those two make a mockery out of (Trudeau’s) apology.”

Earlier Thursday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh laid out the conditions it would take to earn the support of the NDP in a minority Parliament.

His terms largely matched his campaign platform — national pharmacare and dental care programs, more affordable housing, eliminating interest on federal student loans, a tax for the super-rich and action on climate change.

Singh added a new item: changing the way the country votes.

Electoral reform is an especially sore spot for the Liberals, who promised that the 2015 election would be the last under the traditional first-past-the-post electoral system, only to scuttle the recommendations of the committee they put together to examine the issue.

Singh’s NDP backs a system of mixed-member proportional representation, which advocates say better reflects the will of voters as expressed in the popular vote. Singh said the issue is about “giving power back to people.”

“Canadians should not have to be in this position where Mr. Trudeau is telling them to vote out of fear, to settle for less, to say, ‘OK, we may not be perfect, we might have broken our commitments on things, but vote for us anyways because you’re afraid of another party,’” Singh said, foreshadowing what he expects to voters to hear as election day nears.

“I want to end that once and for all and so I want to say to Canadians, with a New Democrat government, with more New Democrats in place, we can deliver that.”

With just over a week to go before voters go to the polls, the federal parties made a push Thursday to frame the dinner conversation this holiday long-weekend, boiling it all down to one word: choice.

Trudeau is likely to face continued attacks from his opponents during the debate, which starts at 8 p.m. ET in Gatineau, Que., within sight of Parliament Hill. It is one last big chance for the six leaders to make their marks before the Oct. 21 election, especially on the volatile electorate in Quebec.

Singh said much of his focus will be on attacking Trudeau, despite polling that suggests the Bloc Quebecois are gaining ground in Quebec at the expense of the New Democrats. Singh dismissed the Bloc and leader Yves-Francois Blanchet as not being able to work with the rest of Canada to deliver on major promises.

The Canadian Press

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