OTTAWA — A promise by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to remove federal sales taxes from home heating bills would cost Ottawa $1.5 billion per year, according to a new report, as the party’s pledge to eventually balance the budget leaves them with few big spending options ahead of the upcoming election.A report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that the policy would cost the federal government $1.52 billion in foregone revenues in fiscal year 2019-20, rising to $1.63 billion by 2024-25. It would also lower household heating costs by an average $117 per year, according to the report.Scheer announced in March that he would remove goods and sales taxes (GST) from all home heating bills, part of a wider effort to draw attention to the Liberal carbon tax and any rising household costs associated with it.Home heating costs have become intensely political in recent years, particularly in Ontario where the previous Liberal government locked the province into a number of long-term power contracts despite a persistent oversupply, in part causing hydro bills to skyrocket.Scheer’s policy received relatively little attention when it was announced, and came in the heat of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which ensnared several ministers and high-level staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office.Conservatives say the rebate will be capped at $200 per household, and will not apply to industrial heating costs. They originally estimated the policy would save households $107 per year on heating bills.“Even the most optimistic projections don’t have the Liberals balancing the budget for 20 more years,” Scheer said in a speech last week. “But if Canadians elect a Conservative government this fall, we will balance the budget in about a quarter of that time.”The $1.5-billion policy comes as the federal Conservative party is left with few options for major spending announcements ahead of the election.Scheer recently abandoned an earlier promise to balance the budget within two years if elected, saying that the Liberals’ consistent deficits have made such cuts impossible. He now plans to balance the budget in five years.Analysts say that an expanding economy would relieve a Conservative government of much of the most difficult cuts required to balance the budget, but still would not provide much space for expensive platform promises.A fast-growing economy in recent years, meanwhile, has provided Finance Minister Bill Morneau with a windfall in promised spending measures. Recent data suggest the Liberals actually ran a budget surplus of $3.1 billion in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2018-19, but are still expected to run a nearly $15-billion deficit this year to cover various spending promises.A spokesperson for Morneau on Thursday said the Conservative home-heating promise is skewed to benefit higher-wealth Canadians.“They would spend billions on a policy that would disproportionately help wealthy Canadians with the largest homes,” spokesperson Pierre-Olivier Herbert said in an email.Canada’s federal debt-to-GDP ratio has remained around 30 per cent in recent years, well below the rate of other developed nations.Canada’s net debt ballooned starting in 2009, rising from $467 billion to nearly $600 billion in a matter of years. Since the federal Liberals took power in 2015, total debt has risen from $628 billion to $671 billion in 2018, according to public data.• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: jesse_snyderEDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect new figures provided by the PBO after it discovered an error in its data.