OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Leader Justin Trudeau announced his first big-ticket campaign promise today, saying a Liberal government would spend billions to improve First Nations education.
He says a Liberal government would launch a “renewed, respectful, and inclusive, nation-to-nation process” to close the education funding gap.
With NDP Leader Tom Mulcair away from the hustings and Prime Minister Stephen Harper touting his government’s economic philosophy in Saskatchewan, Trudeau found an opening to make a political splash.
He is promising a new investment of $515 million a year in core annual funding for First Nations education, rising to over $750 million a year by the end of the mandate.
He also proposes spending $500 million over three years for aboriginal education infrastructure and an extra $50 million for a fund which helps indigenous students with post-secondary studies.
Harper, meanwhile, is promoting his government’s tax-free savings accounts — and warning that his opponents would do away with them and other tax breaks brought in by the Tories.
He said the NDP and Liberals see those breaks as taking money away from government.
“The money doesn’t belong to the government, it belongs to you, that’s our philosophy,” he said.
The prime minister, who has been scrapping with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne over her plan for a provincial pension plan, also found himself in a squabble Thursday with Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci.
Ceci reacted angrily to Harper’s suggestion that Alberta’s NDP government is focused on raising taxes during the oil downturn because that’s part of their political DNA.
Ceci noted that Harper hasn’t balanced a budget since 2008.
While the Mike Duffy trial was still a focus in Ottawa, it had little echo on the campaign. Harper was content to recycle what he has said for months; he thought Duffy had repaid his questioned expenses on his own and when he learned that wasn’t so, he took action.
While the Chinese economy continued to send shivers through world stock exchanges, Harper urged urge people to stay the course and avoid what he said was his opponents’ plan for “runaway spending, runaway deficits, runaway taxes.”
Mulcair is due back in public on Friday, promising an important economic announcement.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May is also promising she’ll roll out a proposal to help veterans.