FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Progressive Conservatives released their platform Friday that promises no new taxes and lean spending, but as they did they found themselves the target of a court action from the Liberals over the very commitments contained in the document.
The Liberals filed an application late Thursday with the Court of Queen's Bench in Fredericton in an effort to determine whether the governing Tories are following a law they had introduced only months ago that requires parties to give audited cost estimates of their election promises.
"The applicant says that to date, all post-writ cost estimates published and filed with the supervisor by the PC Party are absent a statement from an accountant," the court document says.
Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said there was only one promise about education that was not accompanied by an accountant's signature, but it was added the next day.
"It's timed for a reason," Higgs said of the Liberal court action. "It's timed to discredit a platform that is truly representative of the situation our province is in."
Ellen Creighton, the Liberal party's executive director, said there was no concerted effort to file the application just before the Tories released their platform.
The application also asks the court to rule on whether the Progressive Conservatives are following the legislation as it applies to announcements made in the weeks prior to the start of the election.
Specifically, the Liberals want the court's interpretation on the term "election commitment."
Creighton accuses the Tories of making spending announcements totalling $433 million before the campaign began but not considering them election commitments, thereby attempting to skirt the legislation.
"The reason why we filed this application was to determine whether 'election commitment' includes this huge series of spending announcements that the PC party made over the summer," she said.
Both Higgs and Premier David Alward said any announcements the government made before the campaign began on Aug. 21 were included in the spring budget, and therefore cannot be considered election commitments.
No date has been set to hear the matter.
The Tory platform commits to $117 million worth of new spending over the next four years, about half of which is devoted to the second phase of the province's drug plan, which will provide mandatory drug coverage for people without a private plan.
"It's a modest platform, one that New Brunswickers can afford," Alward said.
Much of the platform banks on an anticipated $10 billion in private investment flowing from natural resources such as shale gas and the Energy East Pipeline.
"That will really be the key to growing New Brunswick's opportunities as we go forward," Alward said.
The party is also promising a review of all Crown corporations to ensure they're profitable, legislation to reduce red tape for small businesses and efforts to improve disaster preparedness.
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant, whose party is the only one that hasn't yet released a platform for the Sept. 22 election, said Friday he would introduce a fund to clear roadside brush and fill potholes.
The New Democrats released an education plan that says teachers would be granted the freedom to create individual learning plans for every student.
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