Conservatives will review business subsidies in effort to save $1.5 billion

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks at a campaign event in Hamilton, Ontario on Wednesday September 18, 2019. The federal Conservatives say they can find $1.5 billion in savings each year by eliminating some of the federal funding received by businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

HAMILTON — The federal Conservatives say they can find $1.5 billion in savings each year by eliminating some of the federal funding received by businesses.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was at a barbershop in Hamilton, Ont., Wednesday morning to make the announcement.

He said a Conservative government will review all federal business subsidies and eliminate economic-development programs where the funds benefit shareholders, corporate executives, foreign companies, lobbyists or consultants. Those subsidies and programs total $7 billion now, he said, scattered among numerous departments.

The Conservatives would protect regional economic-development agencies, however, and make sure they're administered by ministers from those regions. They'd also give support to "strategic industries," such as aerospace, if the money stays in the country and creates or protects jobs.

He cited a $12-million subsidy the government gave for grocery giant Loblaw to buy more energy-efficient coolers as one example of an expense Conservatives wouldn't support.

"Hard-working Canadians are rightly offended when they see their tax dollars going to further the interests of the wealthy and well-connected friends while Justin Trudeau makes them pay more for gasoline, groceries, and home heating," Scheer said.

Scheer said the Conservatives would have never spent federal funds in other ways the Liberals have, including $220 million to buy energy-efficient gas turbines for the Canada LNG project in British Columbia, and the $4.5-billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

He also is gunning for what he called the $35-billion "boondoggle-in-waiting" Canada Infrastructure Bank. The bank is meant to use federal money to spark private investments in things like new highways, bridges and water systems, helping find projects that could eventually spin off revenue to pay those investments back.

The Tories submitted the promise to the parliamentary budget officer, as they have others; the office said this is not the type of proposal the office can assess.

This is the first announcement Scheer has made in the week-old campaign in which he's talked about cutting government spending rather than forgoing revenue. The Conservatives have thus far pledged tax credits, cuts and grants exceeding $9 billion, which Scheer has said he will pay for by having different priorities from the Liberal government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2019.

The Canadian Press