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Ontario PC leader defends platform

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TORONTO—A day after launching an election platform that promises billions in new spending, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown is defending his plan as an affordable alternative to the current Liberal government's spending habits.

Brown says his plan, launched Saturday at a policy convention in Toronto, is fully-costed and will not see a Tory government run deficits beyond its first year if elected.

The platform says if the PCs win the 2018 election, they would run a $2.8-billion deficit in 2018-2019, then posting modest surpluses starting with $8 million in 2019-20.

Asked if there was a risk a PC government would slip into deficit throughout the rest of its term, Brown denied the suggestion.

“Absolutely not," he stressed. ”We are going to pay down over $1 billion on the debt.

“[The platform is] fully-costed. It's affordable,” Brown added.

“The numbers have been verified by senior economists in this country.”

Brown is referring to former federal Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who the party says has reviewed the spending package and deemed it “reasonable.”

Brown also denied the party's strategy is to spend, instead of treading a path of traditional fiscal conservatism, in order to beat an Ontario Liberal party that has won four-onsecutive elections.

“I think offering a pretty significant tax cut . . . is giving significant relief that I know conservatives across the province are excited about,” he remarked.

Brown added the Tory plan to repay some of the provinces's debt—which sits at roughly $312 billion—is “music to the ears of conservatives.”

The Tory plan promises a tax cut for the middle class, a child care tax credit, a further 12 percent cut to hydro rates, and $1.9 billion in new mental health spending over the next decade.

The platform also would spend $5 billion to build new subways in Toronto, and cover the costs of millions more in maintenance and infrastructure for the Toronto Transit Commission.

The Tory tax cuts would reduce costs for Ontarians with the lowest incomes by 2022.

People making up to $42,960 would see their tax rate cut from 5.05 percent to 4.5 percent.

Those making from $42,960 to $85,923 would see their tax rate cut from 9.15 percent to 7.1 percent.

As well, the plan would introduce the Ontario Child Care Refund—a tax credit based on household income.

Under the plan, a mother who earns $35,000 a year and has a child under six would be eligible for a refund of $6,750 in child-care costs.

Brown took questions on the plan for the first time since it was unveiled, touting the child care tax credit at a day care centre yesterday.

He downplayed suggestions that by revealing the platform six months before the vote, he was giving the Liberals a chance to one-up his party, which has led in the polls for months.

“I think we all know what the Liberals stand for,” Brown said.

“They've had 14 years, 14 long years, to say who they are," he noted. "We know who they are.”

The PC platform—called the “People's Guarantee”—contains more than 140 promises and also will keep many of the Liberal's biggest spending initiatives.

That includes a government plan to offer free pharmacare for anyone under the age of 24, all-day kindergarten, and the free tuition plan for post-secondary students.

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