Election 2019: First Look

What do the following statements have in common?

We will end first-past-the-post voting system and explore alternative electoral reform options.

We will end practice of using inappropriate omnibus bills to reduce scrutiny of legislative measures.

For members of the Liberal Caucus, all votes will be free votes except those that implement the Liberal platform, traditional confidence matters, and those that address the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We will run short-term deficits of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years. The 2016 middle class tax cut combined with the new 33% tax bracket will be revenue neutral.

We will (a) guarantee that First Nation communities have a veto over natural resource development in their territories (b) Immediately adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (c) Immediately lift the two percent cap on funding for First Nations programs.

We will not buy the F-35s and immediately launch an open and transparent competition and reduce the procurement budget to replace the current CF-18s.

We will cover the cost of four years of post-secondary education for every veteran… and no veteran has to fight the government for the support and compensation they have earned.

Each of these is among the 44 election promises which have been broken. Another 33 have not been started. That judgment is from TrudeauMeter, an independent non-partisan organization monitoring progress on all 231 promises in the 2015 Liberal platform.

Their conclusion is that 42% of those promises have been met. Some are innocuous (“Establish an all-party national security oversight committee”, “Attend the Paris climate conference”), some are narrow in scope (“Re-open the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John’s”) and others address matters of real substance (reform Senate, cancel Northern Gateway pipeline, legalize marijuana).

Another 25% are “in progress”; some of them are certain to be broken (“Establish a pan-Canadian collaboration on health innovation”). Few of the others will be completed before Canadians vote later this year.

No political party keeps every promise. Sometimes external parties (Donald Trump) are a threat, or unexpected events (global recessions) intervene. Sometimes the agenda is too long for any government to complete.

Voters can understand and forgive that kind of non-fulfillment.

Less forgivable are promises that are thoughtless or, worse, were cynically included for their political appeal, knowing that they would not be met.

Canada’s deficits have ballooned in spite of a robust global economy. Tax experts have known for years that yields from increasing tax rates will disappoint.

Putting UNDRIP into law is impractical, as was acknowledged by then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.

Granting every First Nation veto rights over natural resource projects would kill almost every project in the country and frustrate the aspirations of many First Nations anxious to participate.

Negative promises around first-past-the post voting or buying the F-35 tell us nothing about the party’s plan to get it done. In both cases there wasn’t one.

Accordingly, it will not be as easy in 2019 for Trudeau to get away with breezy assurances that are impossible to fulfill. Voters will be wise to listen carefully to consider whether the 2019 version of the Liberal promises are substantive and realistic.

The same scrutiny must be applied to the Conservatives under leader Andrew Scheer. With no record to defend they can choose the issues on which they focus. So far, there are three.

They staunchly oppose the United Nations Global Compact for Migration, a harmless document that is legally non-binding. It urges countries to provide “safe and regular cross-border movements of people while preventing irregular migration.”

The Tories have the wrong target. Better to criticize the Liberals for failing to prevent or manage irregular migration. Since 2017, 35,000 people have entered the country through unofficial entry points. Only a few hundred have been deported.

On climate change, the Tories are attacking the carbon tax. The real problem is that the tax is too small to make much difference for the planet. The Tories have not revealed their own plan to reduce carbon emissions. It will probably appear late in the game and be likewise inadequate.

The Tories will be more forceful than the Liberals in supporting pipelines. Trudeau has confused aspiration with achievement, frequently declaring that the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will get built, without planning for the entirely predictable opposition by the government of British Columbia and some First Nations groups.

The Tories promise to ensure that it gets built, and to revive the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines.

As for the NDP, they have leadership worries, and a constant risk of being crowded out by the Liberals in the space left of centre. Expect the purists to prevail, resulting in a hard-left platform.


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