VANCOUVER—The choice in Monday’s federal election is clear.
At least that’s what party leaders have been telling Canadians for the past 40 days. Over the course of the election, federal parties have been making their pitch to Canadians on their plans for the environment, health care, affordability, the economy and plenty more.
It can be overwhelming, we get it. But don’t feel bad if you haven’t had time to pore over the nitty-gritty about what each party is offering. The Star’s Ottawa bureau has produced a last-minute cheat sheet for voters who have yet to make up their minds.
First and foremost: know where you’re voting and know what identification you need to cast your vote. Elections Canada has an easy-to-use search for voters to quickly find their polling station, and a checklist of acceptable identification.
Once you’re clear on that, here’s what the parties are pitching:
The Environment: The central focus of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on environmental issues is to scrap the Liberal government’s price on carbon emissions. In its place, they would put a cap on emissions for heavy emitters, and companies that pollute beyond that cap would be forced to invest in research and development for emissions-reducing technology. The Conservatives would also ban dumping raw sewage into waterways. Scheer says the Conservative plan is Canada’s best chance to reach its 2030 emission targets under the Paris Accord — but an analysis by Simon Fraser University professor Mark Jaccard suggests emissions would actually increase under their policies.
Affordability: Scheer has proposed a personal income tax cut for earnings under $47,630, lowering the rate from 15 per cent to 13.5 per cent. The Conservatives would also reintroduce some Harper-era boutique tax credits: a public transit tax credit, tax credits for children’s sports and arts lessons, and a home renovation tax credit. Scheer has also committed to removing the GST on home heating bills.
Housing: Unlike their main two rivals, the Conservatives are not proposing building more affordable housing. Instead, they would extend the amortization period for mortgages to a maximum of 30 years, allowing buyers to pay off their mortgage over a longer period of time with lower monthly payments. Scheer has also proposed reducing the rules around the mortgage “stress test,” which would make it easier to borrow. They would also (temporarily) reintroduce home retrofit tax credits.
Balancing the budget: The Conservatives are the only party proposing to balance the federal books — albeit over five years. To do that, Scheer’s plan is to cut foreign aid by $1.5 billion a year, cut corporate grants by another $1.5 billion annually, tax tech giants, freeze hiring in the public service, and make a number of unspecified cuts to government operations totalling $14.4 billion over five years, and push back $18 billion in infrastructure funding from 12 years to 15 years.
Government ethics: Scheer would launch a judicial inquiry into the Liberals’ handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair, introduce steeper fines for politicians violating ethics rules, and give more power to the federal ethics watchdog. Scheer has also proposed strengthening protections for public service whistleblowers, offering more assurances that they’d be protected from reprisal in the workplace.
Affordability: The Liberals would implement a broad tax cut by raising the basic personal amount, a non-refundable tax credit, to $15,000 from $12,000. That will save the average family nearly $600 a year, according to the Liberals. The benefit of the change will be reduced for those making more than $147,667 and eliminated altogether for those earning more than $210,371. The tax change is one of several affordability measures that also include increased Old Age Security benefits for those over 75 and more to help students, with an extra $1,200 in Canada Student Grants and relaxed requirements to pay back loans.
Help for parents: The party would boost the Canada child benefit by 15 per cent for each child under the age of one and making maternity benefits tax-free. The Liberals credit the child benefit, introduced in their first budget, with helping lift an estimated 900,000 Canadians out of poverty, including 300,000 children.
Climate change: The Liberals have boasted continued action on environmental initiatives, notably on climate change. The Liberals imposed carbon pricing on provinces that didn’t have such a plan and now take credit for a pan-Canadian strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, though the federal initiative is opposed by several provinces including Ontario. The platform also includes a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050, a promise to plant two billion trees and strengthening existing rules to cut emissions from the country’s big emitters.
Pharmacare: The party’s platform says a Liberal government would take the “critical next steps to implement national universal pharmacare so that all Canadians have the drug coverage they need at an affordable price. The platform does not put a timeline on making that a reality or a price tag.
Gun control: The Liberals have promised to tighten gun control, including bringing in a ban on all military-style assault rifles. The Liberals also propose giving municipalities the power to ban handguns though that falls short of the nationwide ban sought by some gun control advocates and municipal officials. The platform also promises $250 million over five years earmarked to help cities combat gun crime.
Health and dental care: The NDP plans to spend $10 billion in 2020 to start a universal pharmacare program, and $5 billion over the next five years on public dental coverage for Canadians who earn less than $70,000 per year. Then the party says it would use savings from the bulk-buying power of national pharmacare to expand the public health-care system in new areas over the next 10 years, including mental health, addictions services, and vision and hearing care.
Climate change: The party would earmark $15 billion to fight climate change, with $6.5 billion going to new public transit and $3 billion to a fund for green developments. It would give out $15,000 rebates for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles that are made-in-Canada, increase the federal carbon price for heavy emitters, cancel government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and stop the multibillion-dollar expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.
Housing: The NDP vows to pour $17 billion on top of billions in federal spending already earmarked for affordable housing. This would help build 500,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade, the party says. It would also provide $5,000 subsidies each year to people who spend more than a third of their income on rent.
Tax the rich: To help cover tens of billions of dollars in new spending, the NDP is promising the to hike the corporate income tax rate from 15 to 18 per cent, and increase the top personal income tax bracket — more than $210,000 per year — from 33 to 35 per cent. It would also increase the portion of capital gains earnings subject to personal income tax, and introduce a “super wealth tax” of 1 per cent on the portion of an individual’s fortune — assets like stocks and private property — that exceeds $20 million.
Cap cellphone and internet bills: Accusing “big telecom” companies of gouging Canadians, the party wants to place a hard cap on cellphone and internet bills, claiming this could save families $250 per year. It would also force companies to provide “affordable, unlimited data plans” for cellphone coverage so people don’t get dinged with surprise surcharges on their monthly bills.
Aggressively reduce emissions: The Greens would double Canada’s emissions target for 2030 — to 60 per cent below 2005 levels — as it takes on what party leader Elizabeth May has called the “climate emergency.” It would ban all new fossil fuel development and phase out Alberta’s oilsands by 2035, spend $550 million per year to retrofit all buildings in Canada over the next decade, and ensure the country’s electrical grid uses 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. The Greens are also the only party vowing to increase the national minimum carbon price after 2022.
Guaranteed minimum income: While the Greens would spend $400 million per year supporting workers forced to leave the fossil fuel industry, the party wants to transform Canada’s social safety net to be based on a “guaranteed livable income.” The party says it would negotiate this with the provinces, but it would be designed to replace a suite of programs such as employment insurance and provincial support programs.
Pharmacare and dental care: The Greens would crank open the federal coffers to rapidly set up a national pharmacare program across the country by spending $145 billion over five years. The party would also extend public coverage to provide dental care for low-income Canadians.
Increase taxes: The Greens expect to rake in tens of billions in new revenues by hiking the corporate income tax rate by twice as much as the NDP, from 15 to 21 per cent. The party would also create a new 0.5 per cent tax on financial transactions, slap a new 5 per cent tax on commercial bank profits, and introduce a 1 per cent tax on the portion of a family’s wealth that exceeds $20 million — similar to the NDP’s “super wealth tax” proposal.
Eliminate post-secondary tuition: In time for the 2020 school year, the Greens vow to make college, university and technical schools tuition-free by increasing education funding to provinces and territories by more than $10 billion per year. The party would also forgive outstanding student debt for people earning less than $70,000 per year.
Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga
Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier
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