Category Archives: Federal Politics

Climate change policies hit corporate push back

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Addresses Paris Climate Change Conference

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Addresses Paris Climate Change Conference. Despite Trudeau’s high profile Paris claim that “Canada is back”, almost all the heavy lifting on the climate change file is being done at the provincial level.

Prime Minister Trudeau received considerable media attention earlier this week in his appearances at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

But beyond the photo-ops starring our telegenic PM, the question still remains as to what exactly Canada is bringing to the table in Paris?

The context

The purpose of the Paris UN conference is to somehow reach an agreement covering the post-2020 period that would require participating countries to set carbon-reduction targets that, while not legally binding on individual countries, will be considered “moral” obligations.

What then is Canada proposing to contribute to the fight against global warming?

On the international front, Trudeau has already announced that Canada will contribute $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, doubling Canada’s current contribution. And in Paris he also reaffirmed a campaign pledge to invest $300 million in research and development on clean technology.

But the far trickier issue is how to reach the domestic emissions targets already established here at home.

Trudeau has committed to reducing Canada’s carbon emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. That’s the same target set by the Conservatives, the difference being that the Liberals regard it as “a floor, not a ceiling.” Most importantly, within 90 days of Paris he plans to host a meeting with the premiers to firm up the specific carbon-pricing policies and investments that will be required to make good on that pledge. Continue reading

Is Canada finally getting a national pharmacare program?

Pharmacare health minister Jane philpott Trudeua

Health Minister Jane Philpott has been tasked by Prime Minister Trudeau with finding solutions to Canada’s prescription drug affordability problem.

Momentum has been building for a national pharmacare program since a June meeting of provincial health ministers.

Canada’s new Health Minister, Jane Philpott, says she plans to be in touch with her provincial counterparts to begin the preliminary work of establishing a new health accord which, according to some health experts, could include at least the broad outlines of a national pharmacare program. The 2004 Health Accord expired March 31st, 2014 after the Harper government refused to renegotiate it.

So what can Canadians expect from their new federal government when it comes to making prescription drugs more affordable?

In contrast to other policy areas, the Liberal election platform planks on pharmacare were strikingly vague.  According to the platform:

“We will improve access to necessary prescription medications. We will join provincial and territorial governments to negotiate better prices for prescription medications and to buy them in bulk – reducing the cost governments pay to purchase drugs.”

Not too many clues here as to where the new Trudeau government might end up on pharmacare. That said, Ontario’s Liberal government  has been a strong provincial advocate for an aggressive approach to drug coverage and was extremely critical of the Harper government’s hands-off approach to the issue. Given the close ties between the two Liberal governments, most observers expect the new federal government to be active in future national pharmacare talks.

That next health ministers meeting is expected to take place on January 21-22, 2016 in Vancouver and federal health Minster Philpott has said she will be attending. Continue reading

Trudeau, Wynne Pension Visions on Very Different Paths

15-10-28 trudeau wynne cpp hug

Despite the big hug and a short-term promise by Trudeau to help implement Ontario’s new pension plan, a look beneath the surface reveals serious obstacles to reconciling Wynne’s and Trudeau’s pension visions.

Prime Minister Elect  Justin Trudeau has promised to do what Stephen Harper pointedly refused to do – help Premier Kathleen Wynne implement Ontario’s new pension plan.

But reconciling Trudeau’s long-term vision of enhancing the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) with Wynne’s “ready-to-go” Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), could prove tricky.

Trudeau to help on short-term implementation issues

The Conservative government refused to change federal regulations to help establish and collect contributions for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), which is due to start collecting premiums in January, 2017.

In fact, the pension issue had become a significant point of conflict between the federal Conservative government and the Ontario Liberal government. During the recent campaign, Mr. Harper went so far as to say that he was “delighted” that his decision not to help Ms. Wynne “is making it more difficult for the Ontario government to proceed.”

But what a difference an election makes! The two Liberal leaders had a brief meeting at Queen’s Park on Tuesday and there appeared to be a complete meeting of the minds on the pension issue – at least in the short term.

According to a statement issued after the meeting, the new federal Liberal government will “direct the Canada Revenue Agency and the Departments of Finance and National Revenue to work with Ontario officials on the registration and administration of the [ORPP].”

Registration refers to the fact that unless a pension plan is registered under the terms of the federal Income Tax Act, employee and employer contributions are not tax deductible. Once registered, pension contributions and investment earnings are tax-exempt until benefits are paid to a retiree.

Administration primarily refers to piggy-backing ORPP premium deductions on the existing CPP payroll contribution infrastructure. Ontario had issued a request for proposal for a third party to help administer the plan because of the outgoing Conservative government’s refusal to co-operate. Now it won’t need that third-party partner, which means the ORPP should be less expensive to operate. Continue reading

Five Key Issues Facing the Trudeau Government

Trudeau

In its first few months, the newly elected Trudeau government will be facing a range of issues including infrastructure, pensions, and a middle class tax cut.

In this post, Canada Fact Check takes a look at five key issues facing the newly elected Trudeau government for the period leading up to, and including, the early-Spring budget.

Infrastructure

The new Liberal government’s top priority will be to quickly implement its high profile infrastructure program.

Trudeau says a Liberal government will run deficits for three straight years and will double spending on infrastructure to stimulate economic growth.

According to a Liberal policy paper, the Liberal fiscal plan would see “a modest short-term deficit” of less than $10 billion for each of the first three years and then a balanced budget by the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The policy paper suggests that over the next decade the Liberals would spend $125 billion on new infrastructure investment — about twice the amount the Conservatives had committed for infrastructure. Much of this new infrastructure would be financed through a new Canada Infrastructure Development Bank.

Liberal infrastructure investments would focus on three areas: public transit, social infrastructure such as affordable housing and child care, and environmental projects like clean energy.

Projects funded would reflect the priorities of the provinces and municipalities. Continue reading

What you need to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

15-10-11 TPP

Current rules under the North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA) require that 62.5 per cent of auto parts come from North America in order to avoid tariffs. Under the TPP, content requirements are lower and this may cost Canadian jobs. A 45-per-cent level will be  required to be considered duty-free for some parts and 40 per cent for other components.

 

 

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ?

Canada, U.S. and Mexico have long had special access to each other’s markets under NAFTA.

Instead of a group of three as under NAFTA, twelve countries would share in the advantages of TPP membership. Broadly speaking, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is similar to NAFTA in that it involves pledges to reduce or eliminate tariffs on a wide range of goods and services. It also sets out rules for resolving disputes and provides a modest attempt to set some minimum employment standards in the twelve member countries.

Could anything stop the implementation of the TPP?

The TPP deal still requires the approval of the U.S. Congress and many Democrats and some Republicans are expressing strong reservations about the deal.

For example, just days after the signing, leading Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she couldn’t support the TPP. Continue reading

Trudeau, Mulcair vow end to Harper Employment Insurance changes

employment insurance photo

Both Trudeau and Mulcair have promised Employment Insurance changes to make it easier for jobless to qualify for unemployment insurance.

Just 36.6% of unemployed workers are receiving Employment Insurance benefits – an all-time low in Canada, according to recent government numbers.

In 1990, 83% of the unemployed received benefits, but coverage declined to 42% in 1998 — when the former Liberal government redesigned the program to make it far less generous. After further changes by the Conservative government in recent years, the beneficiaries-to-unemployed ratio fell below 40% in 2012 for the first time in almost 40 years.

In 2013, the ratio of beneficiaries-to-unemployed dropped to 37% after the government implemented further restrictions, requiring Canadians to accept any job deemed “suitable” — even if it’s unrelated to a worker’s career and comes with a 30% pay cut. In Toronto, the ratio is closer to 20% meaning 80% of Toronto’s unemployed are ineligible for Employment Insurance. Continue reading

Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau clash in debate over taxes and family policy

Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair all have very different family policies.

In last night’s debate, Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair put forward  very different tax and family policies.

In this post, Canada Fact Check examines the different proposals put forward by the three major parties regarding personal taxes and family policy.

The NDP has proposed a $15-a-day national child-care strategy, the Conservatives’ family tax package features income splitting, and the Liberals have released a proposal that creates a new Canada Child Benefit. Continue reading

Trudeau and Mulcair spar on deficits

trudeau mulcair

Trudeau and Mulcair sparring on the deficit partly reflects tactical positioning and partly reflects real policy differences.

With at least one poll suggesting Tom Mulcair’s New Democratic Party is within reach of securing a historic NDP majority government, the debate between the two opposition parties over fiscal policy has become considerably more pointed.

In this post, Canada Fact Check takes a look at the latest polling numbers and then assesses the fiscal positions being staked out by the Liberals and NDP.

First, the most recent polling numbers.

The latest polls

A Forum Research poll for the Toronto Star shows the NDP with enough support to win 174 seats – a slim majority in the expanded 338 seat house. The Liberals now sit in second place with 30 per cent support, while the Conservatives are slipping and have the backing of just 23 per cent.

Regionally, the Forum poll shows the NDP well ahead in four provinces with 54 per cent support in Quebec, 41 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and 39 per cent in British Columbia.

In Ontario, the race appears to be quite a bit tighter with Forum showing the New Democrats leading with 36 per cent, the Liberals in second with 33 per cent and Harper’s Tories at 26 per cent support.

The Liberals lead in the Maritimes and the Conservatives remain ahead in Alberta.

In contrast to the Forum poll, other recent polls have not shown the NDP with sufficient support to secure a majority government. That said, all recently published polls have shown the NDP with at least a slight lead over rival parties. Continue reading

Harper Energy Policies Fail to Create Sustainable Economic Growth

Harper economy platform election

The collapse in world oil prices and the resultant stock market correction, have badly undermined Prime Minister Harper’s plans to turn Canada into an “energy super power”.

In a previous post, Canada Fact Check took a look at the Harper government economic record and began an examination of the three economic legs of the Conservative economic plan: 1) reduced corporate taxes; 2) Canada as an “energy superpower”; and 3) an aggressive approach to balancing the budget rooted in curtailing government spending.

In today’s post, Canada Fact Check assesses the economic impact of the Conservative government’s policies aimed at turning Canada into an “energy super power”.

Canada as an “energy super power”: success or failure?

As Canada’s main stock market dropped more than 2% on Thursday and likely another 2% on Friday, Prime Minister Harper’s dream of making Canada an “energy super power” continued to fade.

How is the stock market correction related to Harper’s Canada as an “energy superpower” project?

Some history may help. Continue reading

Harper Claims On The Economy Not Backed Up By the Numbers

Harper economy

A close look at the numbers reveals that Prime Minister Harper’s economic policies have been largely ineffectual and have contributed to a more polarized labour market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Friday, Statistics Canada released its jobs report for July, 2015 – the first such release during the election period. Employment was up a bit in July as compared to June (+6,600) and the unemployment rate stayed at 6.8% for the sixth straight month.

Compared with a year earlier, employment had increased by 161,000 (or 0.9%), primarily because of the growth in full-time work.

Provincially, employment in Ontario was virtually unchanged in July. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in the province was up by 67,000 (+1.0%) and the unemployment rate fell 1.1 percentage points to 6.4%, the lowest rate since September 2008.

In contrast, in Alberta the unemployment rate increased by 0.3 percentage points to 6.0% in July. Since January of this year, the unemployment rate in the resource dependent province had increased by 1.5 percentage points.

Bottom line: not surprisingly, mainly due to the oil price collapse, central Canada is doing somewhat better than resource-based western Canada on the jobs front. But overall, the Canadian labour market remains sluggish and is performing at a far weaker level than its U. S. counterpart. Continue reading