May 16, 2019 / 8:26 PM / 3 months ago

Canada's opposition chief pledges to limit spending, build energy corridor

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer on Thursday said if he is elected in the October national election he will rein in spending, build oil pipelines and put the country on a path to energy independence by 2030.

FILE PHOTO: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

In a 14-page speech delivered in Toronto, Canada’s financial capital, Scheer attacked Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who he says has “blown it all.”

It was the second of five promised policy speeches by Scheer following one on foreign policy last week. Scheer’s Conservatives lead Trudeau’s Liberals by more than 5 percentage points with five months to go until the vote, a Nanos Research poll showed this week.

In 2015, Trudeau promised to balance the budget by this year, which he has not done. But even with the deficit, Canada’s net debt-to-GDP ratio is lower than its G7 rivals and debt as a share of output is expected to decline over the coming years from about 31 percent currently.

Scheer complained that Trudeau’s “borrowed billions for his supposedly historic investments in infrastructure have evaporated into thin air.”

Scheer gave no details on what cuts he would make, but said he would insist that “my government will live within our means”.

Scheer warned that “another four years of runaway spending and we will have an economic crisis on our hands with debt and deficits forcing either massive tax hikes or deep cuts to essential services to cover the spending.”

Trudeau’s government says that since it took power fewer Canadians live in poverty and the middle class has more money to spend. Canada added a record 106,500 jobs in April, although the economy is expected to grow more slowly this year than last.

“Andrew Scheer wants to make reckless cuts that would cripple our economy and put middle class jobs at risk,” said Liberal lawmaker Marco Mendicino in a statement.

Scheer said Canada should boost its economy by doing more to support the struggling oil and gas industry, which needs more pipeline export capacity to get domestic crude to market.

He pledged to overturn Trudeau’s proposed environmental assessment rules that critics say will make it harder to build pipelines. He pledged to build “a dedicated, coast-to-coast right-of-way specifically set aside for energy infrastructure projects”.

Trudeau’s government has struggled to get pipelines built mainly because of opposition from local governments, environmentalists and indigenous peoples.

“Rather than have industry submit complicated route proposals for every new transmission line and pipeline project, we could have a single corridor – planned up front and in full consultation with the provinces and with indigenous Canadians who would share in the prosperity it would provide,” Scheer said.

Scheer also said he would make sure Canada would no longer depend on foreign oil by 2030.

“The fact is Canada has more than enough oil... to put an end to all foreign oil imports once and for all,” he said.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by David Gregorio

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