Doug Ford is promising to present a fully costed plan for the province before the Ontario election, although he has not laid out the price of his policy announcements so far.
The Progressive Conservative leader has been painting himself as a more fiscally responsible alternative to the governing Liberals, but to date has not said how much his pledges, which include plans for long-term care beds and a reduction of the corporate tax rate, would cost.
Until Thursday, Ford had not committed to delivering a costed platform, saying he did not trust the Liberals’ financial reporting.
He gave no financial figures for his plan, but said he would eventually bring the province back into the black. He noted, however, that a Tory government would not balance the books in its first year.
“We’ll have a fully costed plan, we’ll be able to run through the numbers and we’ll be very transparent,” he said.
“We’re going to do this in a modest and responsible fashion,” he added.
Liberal campaign co-chair Deb Matthews said Ford will have to slash programs to make up for his plan to reduce corporate taxes by one percentage point.
“I think it’s really important in this election that people see what he’s actually putting on the table,” she said. “He’s going to have to make very substantial cuts that will be disastrous…to our health-care system, to our education system.”
Ford also said that if elected premier this spring, he’ll call a commission of inquiry into government spending on top of the full audit he’s already promised.
The announcement came a day after Ontario’s auditor general reported the government had understated the province’s deficit by billions, a discrepancy the Liberals attribute to an accounting dispute related to calculations surrounding the Fair Hydro Plan and pension expenses.
“What we are witnessing is a betrayal of the public trust,” Ford said. “We cannot trust anything about the Liberal estimates or projections.”
The New Democrats questioned the purpose of Ford’s proposed inquiry and audit, saying the auditor general and financial accountability office are already doing that work.
“To have all these other experts involved is actually duplicating the work and it’s not necessary,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said. “Mr. Ford needs to look at his own numbers and how he’s talking about his own plans.”
Ford said he trusts the auditor general’s report but does not believe it gives a complete picture of government spending and accounting practices. The inquiry and audit would build on that work, he said.
“We go in there, we’re going to find additional waste, we’re going to find areas that we can drive efficiencies,” he said, repeating his promise to cut four per cent of spending.
Ford could not say how much his proposed inquiry would cost but said it would be “the best investment this province has ever seen.”
Ontario’s election is set for June 7.