Canada's ruling Liberals pledge massive new investments as election looms

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OTTAWA, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party on Wednesday pledged a whopping C$78 billion ($62 billion) in new investments over five years, with a focus on healthcare, if it wins the Sept. 20 federal election.

The investments would be partially offset by more than C$25 billion in new revenue, mostly from a higher tax on profits of banks and insurers and fighting tax evasion, the party said in releasing its full election platform.

These investments are in addition to the C$101 billion in extra spending over three years passed in a budget earlier this year, and would be spread over five years, from 2021-22 to 2025-26.

The Liberals spent heavily on programs to shield citizens and businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic, driving the national debt and budget deficits to record highs. Trudeau sidestepped repeated questions as to when the budget might be balanced.

"I think it matters to be fiscally responsible. I think it matters to live within our means," he told a news conference in Toronto. "I think it also matters to be making the right investments so that future generations can prosper."

"This is a plan for jobs and growth," Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said standing alongside Trudeau.

Debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is projected to decline 2 percentage points to 46.5% in 2025-26, the Liberals said.

Trudeau called a snap vote two years early on Aug 15 hoping his management of the pandemic and his vaccine roll out would be a springboard to a majority. (See party platform FACTBOX: read more )

But the polls show Trudeau's Liberals in a statistical tie with Erin O'Toole's Conservatives less than three weeks before the vote. (POLLS: read more )

The platform is "more borrowing, more debt, higher taxes, and rising prices," said Dan Robertson, chief of strategy for O'Toole, on Twitter.

O'Toole has also put forward a big-spending platform, but he said on Tuesday he would balance the budget in 10 years time "without cuts" and only by boosting revenues through stronger economic growth. The Conservatives have yet to detail the costs of their platform.

"If he doesn't show the numbers, why should Canadians believe him?" Trudeau said of O'Toole's pledge to balance the budget. "He's relying on a level of magical thinking that involves 3% growth every single year."

Most of the individual policies in the Liberal platform have been announced, but this is the first glimpse at a full pricing of the plan with investments focused on improving long-term care, mental health, indigenous health and lowering soaring housing costs.

One new element in the platform is a promise by Liberals to increase accessibility for abortions across the country while revoking the charity status of anti-abortion organizations, an issue that has historically divided Canadian Conservatives.

While legal in Canada, access to abortions varies by province. Trudeau has suggested that a woman's right to choose could be threatened if the Conservatives win, given that some social conservatives want abortion limits to be imposed. O'Toole reiterated on Wednesday that he is pro-choice.

($1 = 1.2587 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon, Editing by William Maclean and David Gregorio

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