Canadian Federal Election 2015 – Who to vote for.

Tomorrow is election day here in Canada!  This would not be much of current events site if the election passed and no endorsements had been given out.  Today we decide which party is the least bad choice to run Canada for the next four years.

Process:

I am now going to review the work of the Conservatives over the last 10 years or so focusing on their time with a majority. I will then read through the platforms of the two other major parties and write my thoughts as they come. Finally, I will post this with no real editing as there is very little time left today and this is already going to be a long process.  Please forgive the inevitable errors in the below text.

Incumbent: Conservative Party of Canada  cpoc-logo

Here is their platform.

The thing about being the incumbent, especially when you have been in power for 10 years, is that any promises of spending or big projects ring hollow.  If there has been no movement toward a program in the last 10 years why should we believe that anything will change if you are re-elected.

It is also important to understand that the incumbent will be the easiest to criticize because they have time in power to judge rather than just a set of goals and plans.

The Good

Cutting the GST by 2% – This one was a monster. In 2006 the Conservatives knocked 2% off the GST(now harmonized to HST in many provinces). Every point of GST adds an estimated $7-9 billion to the government coffers.  GST was a regressive tax, meaning it had a larger effect on lower income earners.

It was the Mulroney Conservatives that introduced the GST during a recession.  Inflation went to 7%, unemployment to 12% and the conservative party was almost entirely destroyed – they held on to 2 seats. Liberals ran on a platform that included killing the GST but after winning the election, kept it in place.

Tax Free Savings Accounts – People often overlook how big a deal the TFSA was when introduced. Originally $5,000 a year, now $10,000.  Allows an easy savings alternative to Canadians without all the tax headaches of RRSPs.  Money invested with your TFSA gains interest tax free and you can take it out during retirement tax free.  A properly conservative concept implemented perfectly.

Financial Crisis – The other parties have talked a lot about our deficits but the Conservatives did exactly what you were supposed to do in tough economic times as a government.  They were spending. There are dozens of countries that followed the “tighten your belt” mantra with terrible outcomes.  Governments are not households. This was exactly the right move and Canada did well during the aftermath of the 2008 crash as a result.

Overall Tax LevelsFrom the Parliamentary Budget Office who everyone accuses Harper of hating:

In total, cumulative changes have reduced federal tax revenue by $30 billion, or 12 per cent. These changes have been progressive, overall. Low- and middle-income earners have benefited more, in relative terms, than higher income earners.”

 The Bad

Balanced budget obsession –  The conservatives hung their hat on a commitment to  balance the budget. They did everything they had to including asset sales to bring in a balanced budget on time. Again, governments are not households.  They can run deficits for longer periods of time without as much worry. With borrowing rates at historic lows their obsession over a balanced budget seems more like good politics than good governance.

Insisting we are not in a recession when we are. Everyone except Joe Oliver knows that we had two quarters of what the economists like to call negative growth. Non-economists sometimes call this shrinking.

Icebreakers – In 2005 the conservatives promised that if they were elected they would purchase 3 heavy icebreakers so that Canada military and science teams could operate effectively in the Arctic.  In 2007 that dropped to 6-8 patrol boats and 1 ice breaker.  To date we have 0 new icebreakers. Currently our largest icebreaker is about 60 years old.

Mapping the sea floor in the arctic is important because those maps are used in international resource agreements.  If there are resources in the arctic we need those maps to stake a claim.  Even if you are against Arctic resource extraction you would have to agree that it is better for Canada to have those rights rather than Russia.

Painting everything in black and white – The conservative party thinks people are apathetic (they are right) and dumb (they are wrong) so they like to present their ideas in a black and white terms. When suggestions are made that nuance exists in an argument, they are dismissed.

“can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” – Vic Toews, Public Safety Minister talking about a bill that would require telecom companies to give up identifying information on clients if asked by the police.

Tough on Crime – Mandatory minimum sentences are a terrible idea.  In 2004 the Conservatives ran an ad that said Paul Martin was not tough enough on crime and so he supported child pornagraphers.

G20 Summit – A billion dollars.  Fake lakes, gazebos, illegal arrests, police brutality.

Killing the Long Form Census – A terrible idea.  At the time Tony Clement (Industry Minister) stated this action was backed by StatsCan.  The head of StatsCan resigned in protest.

C51 – Broadly worded, poorly thought out, dangerous legislation.

Not answering questions in question period – This is more a problem with our entire political system but it is the conservatives that take advantage of the fact that there is nothing that actually forces you to answer questions in the House of Commons. You can just simply say whatever you want.   

Only watch that video if you want to get angry about how useless the question period actually is. All that heckling,yelling and stomping makes them all look like a bunch of idiot children.

Mike Duffy – “My friends knew about the bribe,  my senior advisors knew about the bribe, they all talked about me knowing about the bribe but I had no idea.” – Stephen Harper (not a real quotation)

Omnibus Bills – How do you get through legislation that no one wants?  Attach it to a budget!  That way if the opposition parties vote it down it was THEM that called the election, not you.  Shitty governance and smart but shitty politics.

Climate – Canada needs to do more here.  The conservatives didn’t have to come right out and say that climate change is real because I know they love their oil patches but they could have at least not been totally against the thought of looking into it.

 Neutral 

F35 Program – Love them or hate them Canada needs new fighters if we want to play at the international level.  Here is the post in support of the program during the 2011 election but since the process has been shrouded in secrecy and lies it goes into the neutral pile.

Canadian Wheat Board AbolitionJury is still out on this one. Read my 2012 post about it. 

Trans Pacific Partnership – We do not have the full text of this deal yet.  This is a massive international trade agreement.  It goes ahead with or without Canada so it is important that we had a seat at the table.  The secrecy around this whole process is very concerning.

Income Splitting – This does nothing for me but if you are a married couple and one partner makes a lot more than the other then I guess you will like this.

 The Challengers 

It is much more difficult to do this list on the challengers. I will use their platforms as the basis for the lists but anything they have said is fair game. Platforms are tough because lots of the ideas are nice to think about but they are often paid for by “closing loopholes” or some other vague notion of revenue generation.  If there is a change of governing expect a 1.5 month delay between the when they take power and the announcement of Oh the other guys left it way worse than we thought it was. And that is the queue to start reneging on election promises.

Since there are always things like more jobs! Kickstart the economy! Better Healthcare! in all of the platforms we will try to stick with ideas that are unique to a party.

 

Challenger #1: New Democratic Party (NDP) ndp_logo

Here is their platform.

Riding a wave of Anti-Bloc Quebecois sentiment during the last election the NDP managed to become the official opposition. This surprised everyone, even the NDP.  This time they believe they can win. Let’s take a look at their platform.

The Good 

Youth Unemployment – “Create 40,000 jobs and co-op placements and internships for youth.”  Youth unemployment is north of 10% so this is a good idea.  Although if a government could just create 40,000 jobs out of nowhere I assume they would have tried by now.  Also, why not just create more jobs all around? This squeaks into the good pile.

5 extra weeks of parental Leave – New parents get 9 months right now, what’s another 5 weeks?

Small Business Tax – Cutting from 11% to 9%.  Very un-NDP of them.  A good idea.

Repealing Bill C-51 – Good idea. Something needs to be created to replace it but this is not good legislation.

Simplify access to government export services – This is rather vague but it is a good idea.

Reinvesting in the Canadian Space Agency – Great idea.

Introduce Green Bonds – Surprised I had not heard of this until now.  This is a good idea.  It sounds like private venture capital going into green projects.

Phasing out interest on all federal student loans – A good idea but it could be argued that with lower (no) interest rates people would qualify for more funds on their loans which universities will realize and raise their tuition rates.  Why not introduce education bonds?  People can buy bonds at low interest rates that fund student loans. No federal government needed.

Bill C-475 – Although I think it is corporate suicide these days to try to cover up a data breach this law would make it illegal as well.

Office of the Parliamentary Science Officer – A new position to “to ensure that parliamentarians have the best possible access to science-based analysis.”  Sounds good.

The Bad 

Restoring Home Mail Delivery –  Bad idea.  Many communities have been using super boxes for years.  If they do bring it back maybe they can reduce the number of delivery days so you get all your crappy fliers on just Tuesday and Fridays.

Returning the retirement age from 67 to 65 – People are living much longer, a two year increase makes sense.

TPP – NDP is against the TPP in its current form.  Although they have not read it.  Canada has to be a part of it. This is straight up pandering to their union supporters.  There is no doubt the NDP would be fiercely protectionist in any trade deal.  Protectionism rarely works.

Directing the CRTC to crack down on excessive cell phone roaming charges –  this is a really good campaign idea in 2007.

Bank Fees – “Cracking down on excessive ATM fees and ensuring Canadians can access a low-interest credit card.”  Hard to be against this. Wording is strange here though.  “a low-interest credit card”?  Just one? Like a government credit card company?  why not “access to low-interest credit cards”?  Having read further it appears they will make sure there are “no frills” credit cards with prime +5% interest rates available.  Not sure what the market for these looks like. People that have good enough credit for a prime+5% credit card would probably just use a line of credit.  Also why 5%?  Why not 4 or 6?

Further in the details they have a graph that shows household debt and how horrible it is. So they want to give people low interest credit cards to help with excessive debt?  This just got bumped to bad idea.

TFSA Rollback – They will reverse the increase from $5k to $10k a year on the TFSA.  Yes, it likely benefits the rich the most but it is still the best way for any Canadian to save for retirement.

Using the US as a measure for corporate tax rates – Most of the big corporations have billions of dollars in offshore companies in Ireland or other low tax jurisdictions because the taxes are so high in the US.  Saying we will raise taxes because we would  still be below the US is nonsensical argument.

Immediately moving to restore the long-form census – No brainer.

General Spending – Hard to separate out the billion and billion of dollars that they have listed in this document.  There is no way they could implement all of this and still go after their promised balanced budget.  More healthcare, more military, more schools, cheaper school,  more infrastructure, more money for women’s right, more funds for aboriginals, more foreign aid. Something will have to give. With all this new spending here are the projections for debt to GDP ratio under an NDP.

ndp fiscal plan

 Neutral 

$15 a day child care – Child care is expensive.  It is a massive burden on families that want to continue to have both parents work full-time. This is a good idea but it is expensive.  It would probably go into the good category as idea on its own but people without kids subsidize people that do so it gets a neutral.

$15 Federal Minimum Wage – A good idea but it gets bumped to neutral because of their dishonest representation of it.  They are fully allowing people to think it will be an across the board $15 minimum wage but it only applies to federal workers.   Real minimum wages are implemented by the provinces.

2,500 new police officers – They specifically mention the RCMP.  The RCMP is already having problems getting quality candidates.  They have thousands of open slots they are trying to fill, adding 2,500 more won’t help anything.  I like the sentiment though so Neutral.

Review the F35They claim that they will review the process but I think that once they get into it they will realize this is the only option.  It would be a mistake start a whole new procurement process.

Challenger #2: Liberal PartyLibLogo

Here is their Platform

After losing power and then failing to maintain its position even as the official opposition the Liberal party thinks they have a shot at a majority with their new leader.

 The Good 

Tax Cuts – People making between $44,700 and $89,401 a year will get a 1.5% tax cut.

Jobs for young people – Sure.  Same as the NDP. Whatever trick they do to create these jobs they should definitely try the same trick for non-young people.

Removing all GST on new capital investments in affordable rental housing – Had not heard of this one until now.  This is a sensible approach. Incentivize the market, don’t direct it.

Immediately restore the mandatory long-form census – No brainer.

Infrastructure Spending – The announcement of a massive increase in infrastructure spending by the Liberals and an acknowledgement of their planned deficits was a turning point in the election.  It was the first major differentiator between the NDP and Liberals.   Good idea.

Infrastructure Bank – Along the same theme as the previous point obviously.  This is a good idea.  Maybe my city can fix some extra potholes with some low cost loans.

Flexible parental benefits – Allow parents to take parental leave in smaller chunks rather than all at once.  Good idea.

Eliminate the First past the post system – Great idea. My post on it here.  This one will be tricky but worth doing.  It is also in the best interest of the Liberals and NDP as it would eliminate the split vote problem they have when battling a united political right.

Reform the House Had not heard of this one until now.  It is a great idea.

  •  A question period directly for the Prime Minister and accountability to actually answer questions.
  • Free votes in the Liberal caucus outside of election promises and confidence votes. This one could be abused when they warp was is and is not an election promise.
  •    No more omnibus bills.

Chief Science Officer – Like the NDP, this is a good idea.

Marijuana – Legalize it, regulate it, tax it.  Money to be made on taxes. Money to be saved on law enforcement and jails.  This should have been done years ago.

 The Bad 

Tax IncreasePeople making over $200,000 will pay an extra 4%. The effective marginal tax rate on someone making $200,000 is currently 47.97%.  With this increase it will be 51.97%.  So for every dollar this person makes over $200,00 they keep 48 cents.  Not sure that works to “bring back fairness

Returning the retirement age from 67 to 65 – Like the NDP. People are living much longer, a two year increase makes sense.

General Spending – Similar to the NDP.  More education, more jobs, less poverty, more money for mental health, transit, etc, etc.  Just more money all around.  Not well costed although the weed tax could be a new revenue source.

Tax Benefit for Teachers for School Supplies – Terrible idea.  You are subsidizing individual purchases of school supplies where massive volume discounts could be taken advantage of.  This is essentially giving a free pass to inefficient school boards that don’t buy enough school supplies. If you want more supplies in schools, give the money to the schools.

This is also the perfect program for fraud.  Teachers are the group that claim that they need to have their sick days paid out because otherwise all the teachers would fake being sick to get the days off.  There is no doubt in my mind that teachers would use this tax credit inappropriately.  AND it’s a refundable credit. Do I need a new category for extra bad idea?

Save home mail delivery – Same as the NDP. I don’t want to pay millions of dollars for government workers to deliver flyers and junk mail daily. Bad idea.

F-35 – My post from 2011 on F35s here. The Liberals must have short memories.  When they came to power after Mulroney they kept an election promise to cancel the purchase of new helicopters to replace our aging fleet of Sea Kings.  The cancellation cost $500 million dollars in 1993.  Equivalent to about $740 million now.  They said they would get a better deal somewhere else with an bid process.  Sound familiar?  We still don’t have replacement helicopters.  Canceling these jets would be a mistake.  This one alone is almost a show stopper for me because the Liberals should know better.

One more thing. This case is a bit different because we have not yet committed to buy any F-35s, we simply agreed to pay for some of the development.  This means that we should not see any massive cancellation fees. The strange part  is that the new “open bid” process will not include the F35 as a possible candidate. It makes no sense.

Neutral 

Income Splitting – Liberals will repeal this. Again, this does nothing for me but if you are a married couple and one partner makes a lot more than the other then you will not like this change. The difference from the NDP here is that they will not end this program for seniors.

Increase the maximum Canada Student Grant – This is for low income families.  an extra $3k a year in grants, not loans.  This is a good idea but does not solve the larger issue of the cost of education so it gets neutral.

Carbon Market – This is a dangerous one.  Yes it is good that we put a price on carbon. The main problem arises if we are the only ones that do it.  Then all of our industries are paying extra and we lose our competitiveness internationally.  Neutral.  If we go to the Paris climate talks with a good plan and everyone else agrees then we can safely move this to a good idea.

C-51 – Supported Harper on bill C-51 but now says that he will repeal the worst parts of it. We shall see.

 Conclusion and Endorsement: 

In Canada we don’t vote for a Leader, we vote for a local party member but really we are voting for a party.  However, the elections races always focus so heavily on the leaders it is hard to put it out of our mind.  Am I choosing between Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau or Conservative, NDP and Liberal?  This year I have to believe I am voting for a party because none of the leaders appeal to me.

The Conservative party has lost it’s  way.  They are not even clear what their objectives are anymore. People want fiscal conservatism not social cynicism.  They lie, cheat and steal but worse they wreck Canada’s image abroad.  Historic lows on foreign aid, sabotaging climate talks and cold relations with our closest allies.

They also made a massive political error not following the Liberals’ move to the left during this election. The Liberals were so far left all the Conservatives had to do was move to the middle and they could have held on.  Conservatives are out.

To steal a line from the Joker, I think if the NDP got a majority they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Their platform is not solid.  Their tendency toward protectionism is economic suicide. I just don’t see how they can spend everything they have planned.  Also, I don’t trust them to keep costs low in the long run.  I think they will buckle under union pressure; both public sector and manufacturing leading to increased fixed costs and hurt our international competitiveness.  NDP is out.

So this has been a long day of reading and comparing. I now find myself rocking back and forth in my chair repeating to myself that I vote for parties, not leaders.  I think Justin Trudeau was the right person to add a little energy to a stagnant party but I don’t think he was the right choice to lead a ruling party.

When I watch the debates I can’t stand his breathless speaking style.  They have coached him so much that he can barely speak. His canned responses come so rapid fire that he can barely finish one before he moves to the next.

I cannot picture him sitting across a table from Vladimir Putin.

Here is a clip of him telling Peter Kent he is a piece of shit in the House of Commons.

Here is a clip of him throwing himself down a set of stairs, as a gag.

Both of these clips were when he had his terrible mustache which he no longer has. So there’s that.  I am the last person to say that a person need be historically perfect to run for office but that first clip is IN the house of commons. Not exactly a crazy night out with university buddies.

My hope is that the team he had around him will force him to grow into a proper leader with a distinct personality.  My fear is that he will regress to leftist populism and run this country into the ground like Wynne in Ontario.

So based on the promises of House of Commons reform, infrastructure spending, legalizing weed, and eliminating the first-past the post system it is with a heavy heart that I give the official Webernet endorsement to the Liberal Party.

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