Election 2015: The issues at stake

Grant Bachand | Contributor

School is back up and we find ourselves right in the middle of a federal election. This election seems to be a very competitive one with no one party polling decisively ahead of the others. Nanos polling by CTV has indicated that all the parties are in a tie, and it is very likely that the election will be a tight one. BC is being looked at as the place where the winner of the election will be decided, whereas in past elections the winner has already been decided before BC polls are closed or counted. It is important that as voters we are well educated in the parties and what their vision to help the country is. Here you will find a breakdown of all the parties and give you an idea of what their campaign promises are.

The Conservative Party of Canada

Let’s start with the Conservative Party of Canada, the current governing party. The merger of the Canadian Alliance Party and the Progressive Conservative Party in 2003 created the modern Conservatives, unifying the right, as the Liberals and New Democratic Party have kept the left divided. This party has been in power since 2006 when they defeated the Liberals led by Paul Martin. In that time they have seen a war in Afghanistan and a major recession in 2008. The Conservatives have confronted many issues that faced Canada, however some of the decisions that they have made have angered some Canadians like the decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2011 and the passing of Bill C-51. They have also done things that have helped Canadians such as, introducing the Tax Free Savings Account, which is a great savings tool for young Canadians.

The Conservatives have been hammering home the idea that now is not the time to rock the boat. They say only they have the experience and knowhow to navigate this treacherous time. With Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, a falling Canadian dollar and an uncertain global economy, the Conservatives are hoping to show that change is not what Canada needs. A balanced budget has been one of the main pillars of the Conservative platform for many elections; they are toting that the budget is balanced and it is because of strong conservative policies. However, if the budget is truly balanced this has yet to been seen. The balanced budget was achieved not solely by cuts in spending or increases in revenue, but the one time sale of General Motors shares that government had as part of its investment portfolio. After the election the deficit may return.

So what are the conservatives promising us with this election? Some of their best hits are here such as, strong fiscal choices to keep the budget balanced. They also drive home the idea of paying less taxes and keeping more money in the private person’s pocket. The CPC has promised to cut taxes on EI and other payroll taxes by 2017. This would effectively leave more money on your paycheque, though it also leaves less money in EI and CPP benefits as well. One of the more controversial positions has been the income-splitting program for families with children under the age of 18. This would be up to $50,000 annually.

How does it work? Say we have a couple, Jim and Jill. Jim, who makes $100,000 a year and
his wife Jill, she makes $30,000. Jim, under the old tax system has to pay tax on his whole $100,000 income and Jill has to pay on her whole $30,000 income. At the end of the year they would pay $23,794.89 in taxes. Under the new system Jim can transfer some of his money to Jill so they both have to pay taxes on $65,000 in income each. This would lower the amount the family has to pay in taxes to $20,141.86 saving the family $3,653.03 in taxes.

The Conservatives have made many more promises such as resurrecting the “life means life” legislation, which would ensure prisoners who are given life in prison, stay in prison for
their whole lives. They would also spend $200 million to improve high-speed and broadband Internet in rural areas. Government contribution to RESPs will be raised so that families earning up to $44,000 would get $200 for the first $500 put away for a child’s higher education plan each year. Families earning $88,000 would receive $100 on the first $500 each year.

The Conservatives have a compelling platform, and they have been the governing party for a long time. That though may not be enough to help them get another government, due to high levels of voter dissatisfaction with them and people asking for change in government. The only question now is if change does come what will it look like.

The Liberal Party of Canada

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has attacked the Conservatives constantly about their performance as the governing party. They have spoken about the deficits the Conservatives have run with little to no growth in the economy. The idea of deficits is not something they are shying away from; they are the only ones out of all the major parties to say they will run deficits. Which is a risky move because the word “deficit” has been considered a dirty word for elections.

Major deficit spending has been used to stimulate the economy in the past, by investing in infrastructure; the Harper Government used deficit spending in 2008 during the financial crisis. Like a play out of FDR’s playbook, but this Keynesian move may not be enough. Some economists do say that the economy needs to grow, though infrastructure investments are not seen by all as the best way to achieve this. As the CBC has reported infrastructure investments take a long time to get underway and growth to the economy is needed right away. This means that the move by the Liberals to grow the economy many not happen for years after the election.

The Liberals have other things on their platform such as electoral reform, legalization of marijuana, creation of a new tax bracket for high earning Canadians and the amendment of Bill C-51’s problematic areas. The main target of the Liberals is the middle class of Canadians. Their rhetoric so far in this election has been for the wealthiest of Canadians to do more
so that poor and middle class Canadians get more help. This may help the majority of Canadians, however some are skeptical that the money that will be created by taxing more on wealthy Canadian isn’t going to be enough to pay for everything the Liberals is promising.

Lowering the taxes on “middle class” Canadians is another pillar in the platform, if you make between $44,701-$89,401 a year, if the Liberals win, expect your taxes to go from 22% to 20.5%. Though if you make over $200,000 a year the Liberals want to create a new tax bracket for you where you will pay 33% on your income. The same income splitting tax credit the Conservatives talked about, the Liberals will do away with. They claim the income splitting only helps the richest of Canadians and does nothing for poor and single Canadians.

The Liberals want to create investments in clean technologies, in forestry, fisheries, mining energy and farming of around $200 million a year. Also another $100 million in organizations that promote clean technology firms. This idea is to bolster the economy and move the country towards greener goals. Working along with the provinces to help reach lower emission rates and focus on climate change oriented goals will be part of the Liberals main goals in terms of the environment.

Justin Trudeau has worked at making the government more open and reducing power of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Liberals tote the idea of opener caucus meetings and more regional voices in federal politics. He wishes to move away from the style Harper has used during his time as Prime Minister, which has been very controlled and non-transparent. Trudeau has accused the PMO’s office of being too strong and he looks back to his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau as the starting point of this build up of power. Trudeau frequently sights an example of this dedication to this idea as the releasing of Liberal Senators from party lines and removal from caucus.

The New Democratic Party of Canada

The Liberal party now fights with the New Democratic Party for the left’s vote and if polls are any indication of elections, the Liberals could be playing opposition or even move back to be the governing party.

The NDP have certainly evolved over the years, moving from a third party, to official opposition, to possibly being the governing party. The NDP who for many elections were seen as a “half ” party are certainly showing their muscles in this election. With the leadership of Thomas Mulcair the NDP are dominating in the polls. In Quebec, they are polling way ahead of any other parties Liberals and Bloc and here in BC they are fighting with the Liberals for leadership in the polls.

One of the main pillars of the their plan is a $15 an hour minimum wage increase. This wage increase would be mandated to all federally regulated entities so this includes banks, insurance corporations, government organizations, and certain provincial organizations. The hope is that once the federal government makes this change it will force the private economy to follow suit and all minimum wages will go up. The NDP will work with the provinces to ensure that they also follow suit and raise their wages as well, though that could be a long term goal and not obtained for sometime after the election.

The NDP also want to lower taxes on Small Business to encourage that sector to grow. A reduction in small business taxes is expected to build the sector that tends to be a community centric sector. This tax cut comes with a tax hike on large corporations. They want to raise the tax rates to “pre-Harper” levels, which is expected to not price Canadian products out of the market but also increase government revenues enough to pay for many of their social program ideas. Programs like a national child care program, and investments in infrastructure and income supplements to poor seniors.

Thomas Mulcair has said that the NDP will have a balanced budget in the first year of their mandate. Whether the budget is balanced depends on the extent of the current recession and the government’s ability to turn things around right off the bat. A balanced budget is always good for an election but it actually happening is another issue entirely.

Understanding our political parties is the first step to making an informed vote on October 19th. The best thing you can do to ensure that you vote for the party that best represents your values is to understand what is important to you and research the different parties and what they stand for. Regardless who wins this year’s elections is bound to be an important one, ultimately impacting Canadian society.