The two hour election debate Monday night marked the first time all six leaders shared a stage and admittedly, at times it devolved into a confusing free-for-all. However, it also had moments of clarity where the key themes of the election were illuminated.
Beneath the battle of the scripted one-liners, the debate revealed that the federal election campaign has come down to two broad themes: making life more affordable and tackling the threat of climate change.
And while it may not have been clear from the rigidly structured debate, there are considerable policy differences between the parties in these areas – particularly between the policies being put forward by the Conservative Party of Mr. Scheer and those being put forward by the Liberals, NDP, Greens and the Bloc.
The Liberal, NDP and Green parties have already released their election platforms and some if not all of their costing materials. The Conservative Party has detailed some of its major promises, and a full platform is expected to be released by midweek.
Moreover, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) has produced reports on many of the campaign commitments from at least four of the major parties, documenting just how much each of the promises will cost federal coffers if they are enacted.
Here’s a list of some of the major promises on affordability and climate change from each of the four main parties vying for votes in English Canada.
Where the parties stand on affordability
The big Liberal affordability platform item is a tax cut implemented by raising the basic personal exemption limit over the next four years until the first $15,000 of income is tax-free for most Canadians, which will save the average taxpayer roughly $292 a year.
For seniors, the Liberals are promising to increase Old Age Security payments for those 75 years and older and enhance Canada Pension Plan (CPP) survivor benefits for single seniors.
The Liberals have proposed $6 billion in new spending for health care with the goal of giving every person in Canada access to a family doctor.
For new parents, the Liberals are promising to make all maternity and parental employment insurance (EI) benefits tax-free at source. They will also make the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) more generous in the first year of a child’s life.
For students, the Liberal plan includes a boost to post-secondary grants so that they’re worth up to $1,200 more a year.
For workers, the Liberal plan includes a federal minimum wage boost to $15 an hour and a new Career Insurance Benefit that will supplement existing EI payments when someone loses their job.
They’ve also promised to make the First-Time Home Buyers Incentive more easily accessible for people living in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria.
More Liberal platform planks can be found at Liberal platform: A Real Plan for the Middle Class ,
The Conservative Party is promising a universal tax cut that will cost federal coffers about $6 billion a year in foregone revenue. The cut will be broad-based and save virtually every taxpayer hundreds of dollars each year by lowering the tax rate on taxable income under $47,630 to 13.75 per cent from 15 per cent.
Based on the party’s calculations, the average single taxpayer would save about $444 a year. A two-income couple earning an average salary would save about $850 a year.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is also promising to renew tax credits that were put in place by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper and then killed by the Liberal government in the last Parliament.
Scheer would reinstate the federal tax credit for transit passes, which, according to party estimates, would save a family of four transit users in the Greater Toronto Area nearly $1,000 a year.
He would also bring back the children’s fitness tax credit and the children’s arts tax credit to help offset the costs associated with programs for kids.
The Conservatives have promised a non-refundable tax credit on maternity and parental leave Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. They’ve also vowed to remove the federal GST from sales of home heating fuels.
To make home ownership more affordable, Scheer has promised 30-year amortization on mortgages for first-time home buyers — a longer loan period that could lead to smaller payments up front — and he’s promised to review the “stress test” that has made it more difficult for some would-be borrowers to get financing.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has promised “a new deal for the people,” a plan he says will close gaps in the country’s social safety net to help those families who are struggling the most.
Among his proposals is a plan to institute national pharmacare program that would make drugs available through the same card you use for doctors and hospitals. This would be a multibillion-dollar plan that the party says will save families more than $500 a year.
While the Liberals have committed funds for some sort of pharmacare solution down the line, Singh has said an NDP government would bring about such a drug plan right away, in 2020.
Singh is also promising to expand medicare to include dental services.
A New Democrat government led by Singh would also create 500,000 units of affordable housing in the next 10 years.
Singh has also said an NDP government would spend $10 billion over the next four years to create 500,000 new child-care spaces in Canada.
To pay for this ambitious agenda, the NDP would increase the tax rate on individual income over $210,000 to 35% from 33%,
New Democrats also propose hiking the rate for capital gains inclusion from 50 to 75 per cent, which means paying more income tax on profits from stocks or the sale of properties other than a primary residence.
They would also impose a one per cent wealth tax on the “super rich” — the tax would apply to that portion of an individual’s wealth over $20 million.
They would raise corporate taxes to 18% (from 15%). The party would maintain the current small business tax rate of 9%.
Other NDP personal income tax measures include:
- A 15% foreign buyers tax on purchases of residential property by foreign corporations or people who are not citizens or permanent residents.
- Doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to a maximum credit of $1,500 from $750
- Ending the stock option deduction.
More NDP platform planks can be found at NDP platform: A New Deal for People.
The Green Party is also promising to institute national pharmacare, a promise it says will cost some $27 billion a year.
The Green plan also proposes eliminating tuition fees by offering $10 billion in post-secondary and trade school support so that all Canadian college and university students can go to school without paying any fees.
To pay for the promises, the Green Party has said it would eliminate fossil fuel subsidies worth several billion dollars annually, including those for liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil and gas projects and coal mining exploration and development.
The Greens are also promising to impose a financial transactions tax of 0.5 per cent to collect nearly $18 billion in 2024-2025.
The sources of new tax revenue for the Greens include several items that overlap with the NDP platform, such as a higher corporate tax rate from 15 to 21 per cent, imposing a wealth tax, and ending tax breaks like the stock-option deduction that generally benefit high-income Canadians.
Where the parties stand on climate change
Other than affordability, all major political parties (with the possible exception of he Conservatives) are trying to convince voters they have the best prescription to help in the global fight on climate change.
Here’s a description of what each is party is offering so far:
A key component of the Liberal actions is the federal carbon price, which kicked in this year and sets a minimum price on greenhouse gas emissions across the country — in several cases over the objections of conservative provincial governments (such as those led by Doug Ford and Jason Kenney) that argue the policy will hurt their economies and kill jobs. The current price includes a levy on fuels and a separate system for heavy industries, in which they pay for emissions above thresholds based on specific sectors averages.
The Liberals have also called for the end of coal-fired electricity generation across Canada by 2030 — with an exception for Nova Scotia, which agreed to declining cap on emissions — as they pledge to ensure the power grid is supplied with 90 per cent non-emitting energy sources before that year.
The Liberals also plan to gradually require cleaner fuel and bring in regulations — delayed by three years in 2017 — to restrict methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
The Liberals also point to billions earmarked for infrastructure and public transit, as well as the creation of $5,000 rebates to encourage people to buy zero-emission vehicles as the government aims to have all vehicle purchases in Canada be non carbon-emitting by 2040.
According to the government’s own projections, current Liberal policies aren’t enough to get to their emissions commitment.
The Conservatives have not promised any specific emissions reductions, yet argue their policies would give Canada its “best chance” at achieving the Liberal government’s target — first set when Stephen Harper was prime minister — of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The first thing a Conservative government would do is scrap the federal government’s carbon price-and-rebate system, which sets a minimum price to deter greenhouse gas emissions across the country. That price rises every year until 2022, when it is expected to increase the cost of gasoline by about 11 cents per litre.
The Conservatives propose alternatives they claim will be gentler on the economy and better at reducing emissions. The party would replace the carbon price with a new requirement for heavy emitters to spend unspecified amounts on green technology research and development. The Conservatives would spend $900 million per year on tax rebates for home retrofits worth between $1,000 and $20,000, introduce a business tax credit for income generated from green tech that is patented in Canada, and put $250 million into a venture capital fund for green tech companies that the Conservatives say would attract another $1 billion in private sector funding.
The Conservatives would also scrap the Liberal government’s incoming clean fuel standards — which will knock up the price of fuel on top of increases from the carbon price — in favour of new, unspecified rules to ensure fuels used in Canada become less dirty.
They also pledge to push for Canada to take credit for emissions reductions in other countries, if cleaner Canadian energy such as liquified natural gas replaces dirtier energy sources such as coal.
Unlike the Conservatives, the party says it will continue with the Liberal plan that prices carbon emissions, roll back existing carbon tax breaks for major polluters, and end oil and gas subsidies. Under the NDP plan, all electricity in Canada would be “net carbon-free” by 2030 and produced by 100 per cent “non-emitting sources” by 2050.
The New Democrats say they offer $5,000 incentives and waive federal tax for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles. By 2040, the NDP wants all new car sales to be zero-emission vehicles. The NDP would also transition all federal vehicles to electric by 2025, including Canada Post vehicles, and aim to power all federal buildings with renewable energy by 2030.
Nationally, the party would aim to retrofit all existing housing stock with energy efficiency upgrades by 2050 and strengthen the national building code aiming for all new homes to be net-zero energy ready by 2030.
The Green Party would legislate their emissions target and establish a cross-party cabinet focused on achieving those reductions.
The Greens say they would not approve any new pipelines, coal, oil or gas projects. Existing oil and gas operations would continue, but production would decline, with bitumen production phased out between 2030 and 2035. The party says it would ban hydraulic fracturing and stop all oil and gas subsidies.
The Greens say they would immediately cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and redirect funding towards the renewable energy transition. A spokesperson for the party said the existing Trans Mountain pipeline would continue operating over the next decade.
The Green’s say they would develop a national electrical grid strategy to reach their target of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030.
The Greens promise grants and zero-interest loans for energy efficiency retrofits for homes and businesses, and plan to work with provinces and territories to ensure all new construction is net-zero by 2030.
On transportation, the party promised major investments in passenger rail, light rail, and electric buses working towards zero-carbon public transportation by 2040. The Greens would also exempt all zero-emissions vehicles from the federal sales tax, invest in expanded charging infrastructure, and ban the sale of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2030.
With their voting base in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Conservatives are taking a considerably more hands-off approach to the oil patch, and to climate change initiatives more generally, than the other main parties.
On the question of affordability, the Conservatives are also taking a different tack than the other main parties by offering some broadly based tax reductions. They are also bringing back many of the targeted tax credits that characterized the Harper government.
In general, the Liberals, NDP and Greens see the solution to affordability more in terms of expanding social programs with the NDP and Greens being more ambitious than the Liberals in their child care, pharmacare and dental care proposals.
The Liberals do have an element of tax reduction in their affordability strategy but it is more targeted towards low and middle income earners than the Conservatives tax cuts.