What is the Ballot Question That Voters Will Answer?

The 162-page Conservative platform includes many statements that might be more expected from the Liberals or the NDP.

For example:

“… a comprehensive jobs plan that starts with taking immediate action to help the hardest-hit sectors – those where women have suffered disproportionately.”

“…give workers a real voice and the support they need against major multinational corporations. We will give workers a seat at the table by requiring federally regulated employers with over 1,000 employees or $100 million in annual revenue to include worker representation on their boards of directors.”

“…will change legislation to ensure that pensioners have priority over corporate elites in bankruptcy or restructuring.”

“Affording a home – to rent, let alone to buy is slipping out of reach of Canadians across our country…we will implement a plan to build 1 million homes in the next three years.”

“Canada must not ignore the reality of climate change. It is already affecting our ecosystems, hurting our communities, and damaging our infrastructure.”

“Make foreign multinationals and big tech companies pay their fair share.”

The platform claims to provide “Detailed Plans” for 22 topics including economic recovery; health care; tackling climate change; affordability of housing, food, internet and cellphone, banking; and strengthening cultural industries.

Some of them would be better described as detailed discussions together with an indication of the direction the Conservatives would take, and an occasional swipe at how the Liberals have performed. Many of the topics focus on supports for women.

There are areas where the platform takes a distinctive stance.

To rebuild the economy they will pay 25% of the pay for net new hires for up to six months. That can grow to 50% for those out of work for longer periods. They will subsidize customers’ food and beverage spending Monday to Wednesday.

This seems unnecessary at a time when hospitality operators are having a tough time filling available positions.

On climate change, they agree with the Paris goals but prefer a regulatory approach rather than a carbon tax. Their plan has been described as serious and credible by independent observers.

Canada can only directly affect its 2% of global emissions. The Conservatives will also help other countries meet Paris goals by developing and sharing zero-carbon nuclear technologies to displace fossil fuels.

They will substantially increase child-based benefits especially for low and middle-income families, rather than subsidizing 10 dollar-a-day care for those who are able to access it. They also are adding to supports for low-income workers and extending CPP and EI protection to gig workers.

On health care, the promise is to boost the Canada Health Transfer to provinces by 6% a year, well ahead of inflation, with no strings attached about how it is to be spent. That would add $60 billion over ten years.

Trudeau has been reluctant to expand the transfer and always stipulates where any new money is to go. Thus, on Monday, he said that a $9 billion addition of which $6 billion was directed at waitlists and $3 billion would be provided to hire 7,500 doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners.

That the provinces are short of doctors and other health care professionals is not a reluctance to pay them, it is the difficulty in finding qualified candidates. Where the extra 7,500 would come from is a mystery. Would Trudeau withhold the funding until they were found?

The Conservative platform notes that the $354 billion deficit for the fiscal year ending March 31 included $250 billion of special COVID support measures and $70 billion from drops in tax revenue and extra costs for employment insurance and other social programs. These should disappear post-COVID.

The structural deficit that can be expected to continue is $30 billion, growing with inflation when the economy is normal. To that, must be added the cost of O’Toole’s promises. He expects that with disciplined spending and economic growth, the budget can be brought into balance in a decade.

The numbers have been sent to the Parliamentary Budget Office whose costing will be included in the platform when it is ready. Even with the benefit of low borrowing costs, it will be difficult to make the numbers work.

In the bigger picture, that will not matter much. The whole idea of pursuing balanced budgets seems to be offensive to both the NDP and the Liberals. Thus a platform that might have been viewed as left of centre in an earlier era is the one to the right of the others in this contest.

Canadians’ are neither excited nor offended by O’Toole. Liberal efforts to paint him as an ogre on issues such as vaccine mandates, health care spending, or affordable housing have not been successful. Thus the ballot question they will address is whether they want a few more years of Trudeau.


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