TORONTO — Canada can no longer afford the Conservative government, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday as he unveiled his party’s economic platform, promising not to raise taxes to eliminate a growing federal deficit.
The country is in worse economic shape after four years of Conservative rule under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and is saddled with a government “whose ambition is limited to their own survival,” Ignatieff told the Toronto Board of Trade.
“How can we support a government that is so smugly satisfied with achieving so little?” Ignatieff asked the business audience.
“A government that defines success as not being in as much of a mess as the United States.”
Harper misled Canadians about the size of the federal deficit even before the Conservatives confirmed there would be a $32-billion deficit this year, which grew to $50 billion and then “ballooned” to $56 billion, said Ignatieff.
“How can a credible opposition support a government that can’t be trusted with the public finances of our country,” he asked.
“Expenditure control alone can’t dig us out of the mess Mr. Harper has left us,” said Ignatieff, who promised that a Liberal government would not raise taxes when the economic recovery is so fragile.
“Tax increases would add to the burden on Canadian businesses and Canadian families, and we think that might just shut the recovery off cold,” he said. “We will not propose tax increases in a platform in the next election.”
Ignatieff also accused the Conservatives of favouring ridings they hold with funding from the economic stimulus package, saying opposition-held ridings got one-third less than Tory-held ridings.
“We’d like to remove the political favouritism from it,” he said.
“We’re in a national crisis, for heaven’s sake. Let’s not play politics.”
The Conservatives dismissed Ignatieff’s attack as well as his economic platform, saying it lacked credibility.
“He has two plans: One is to call an immediate election during a very crucial time for the Canadian economy — that will interrupt the progress that we’re just seeing,” said Minister of State Gary Goodyear.
“His second plan is to raise taxes. That is the second worst thing you can do during a country’s economic recovery.”
A Liberal government would do more to protect Canadian jobs, spend more on research and development and drive more private investment to Canadian biotech and high-tech companies, said Ignatieff.