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Annotated Review of the Parties' Platforms
21/01/2006

The Globe and Mail has, in a two-part series on Friday and Saturday, published a point-form review of the party platforms. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

I think that this is a great resource. I found it hard, at times, to figure out what the various parties stood for on certain issues. So, it's great to find it all in one place. In fact, I think the Globe has done such a great job, I've stolen it. You'll find the Globe's summary below (in more readable form). Almost all the bullets are theirs, but I have added my own comments throughout. You'll find those in italics.

I think it is also quite important to note that there are intangible factors that are nearly as important as the position statements themselves. The Liberals, for example, promise all sorts of nice things, but have a hard time delivering on some of them. They do tend to chart a neutral course down the middle of Canadian public opinion, but their promises are not always what they seem. On the other hand, voters considering the Conservatives need to think about the gap between what Stephen Harper and his party said before this campaign, and what they actually put into their platform. When they get their chance to govern, will they stick to the platform, or to their principles?

Anyway, here goes... Bullets with an asterisk (*) were added by me and not included in the Globe.


The economy:

Liberals:

  • Use the surplus to reduce the federal debt-to-GDP ratio to 20 per cent from 38 per cent by 2020
  • Increase budgets of the research councils by $435-million over five years
  • Commit $1.2-billion to research-performing institutions over five years
  • Transfer $5-billion more to municipalities over five years
  • Invest $1.5-billion in the forest industry to adopt new technology and improve environmental performance
  • Create a Transformative Technologies Program to stimulate private-sector R&D

I've been one of those lefty converts to fiscal responsibility, and I've been not-so-secretly pleased with every Liberal "surprise surplus" that went to debt repayment. A tight budget is one of our nation's strengths.

However, when it comes to Liberal spending promises such as these, my eyes tend to get blurry. They promise dozens of initiatives with spending spread over numerous years, they reannounce them repeatedly and merge them with other promises, and they don't reveal the fine print. Many of these promises might actually lead to great things, but I have Liberal promise fatigue. I have seen too many big announcements produce nothing in the end.

Still, it needs to be said that the Liberals' greatest acheivement has been their management of our budgets and economy. We have one of the best economies and best income statement among the industrialized nations, and we're feeling rather comfortable these days.

Conservatives:

  • Pay down debt by at least $3-billion a year
  • Help the provinces' finances by addressing the "fiscal imbalance" between them and the federal government
  • Limit growth in spending by government departments to the level of inflation plus the percentage increase in population
  • Invest $1-billion over five years to support the softwood industry
  • Add $500-million to farm-support programs
  • Extend the 200-mile offshore fishing limit and "be prepared" to extend custodial management over that new territory
  • Invest $500-million more over five years on university research
  • Match and maintain the gas-tax transfer to municipalities that Paul Martin introduced.*

This talk about the "fiscal imbalance" has raised many concerns about the Conservatives' intentions. If anywhere there was a loophole for a "hidden agenda" to pop out, this would be it. The fiscal imbalance could be addressed by transfering tax points to the provinces while simultaneously cutting transfers for health, education and social spending and/or equalization. This could jeopardize key programs in have-not provinces, and eventually have an adverse effect on Ontario, Alberta and BC as well.

That's what some commentators have said, anyway. On the other hand, the Conservative platform does include this promise: "Maintain the currently projected growth rates for transfers to persons such as elderly benefits and Employment Insurance, and transfers to other levels of government for health, social programs, equalization, and municipal infrastructure." That's pretty clear and would seem to limit any "fiscal imbalance" fiddling to room created by surpluses.

NDP:

  • Maintain annual balanced budgets, but invest more in education and health
  • Investment strategies should be focused on cities and regions
  • Create a national infrastructure financing agency
  • Reduce provincial trade barriers
  • Conduct a public review of the impact of NAFTA on the Canadian economy
  • Develop priority industry strategies in automotive, aerospace, steel, tourism, forestry and shipbuilding
  • Put in place performance requirements to make sure banks are lending fairly to small business
  • Implement the full 5-cent gas-tax transfer to municipalities immediately*

Some good priorities here.

Green:

  • Set up a Parliamentary Budget Office to oversee government spending and revenue generation
  • Set up a Council of the Federation to make sure provinces have enough money to deliver services
  • End all federal subsidies to the fossil-fuel sector
  • Invest (with the provinces) $1.5-billion to build 10,000 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2010
  • Create "green-collar" jobs by encouraging low-emission industries
  • Shift government support from biotechnology and energy-intensive farming to organic food production

I've been a fan of the Green Party and voted for them in the previous two federal elections. They have some good ideas this time, too. Although, as with the NDP, I don't agree with all of it.

Bloc Quebecois:

  • Cut the cost of government to expand the surplus, and increase transfers to the provinces, particularly for education and social programs
  • Increase R&D spending in Quebec to help it boost its technology industry
  • Increase funding of Quebec's furniture industry
  • Provide more support for the forest and mining industries
  • Create a sustainable fishing policy
  • Negotiate with the United States and Mexico to fix weaknesses in NAFTA
  • Increase investments in social housing

Now is as good a time as any to point out that I'm not going to make a comment for each party's position on each topic!

Taxes:

Liberals:

  • Reduce personal taxes by raising personal deductions, cutting the lowest marginal tax rate, and eventually increasing the threshold for the top tax rate to $200,000
  • Reduce the corporate tax rate and phase out the corporate surtax
  • Increase the lifetime capital-gains exemption to $750,000 from $500,000
  • Exempt from taxation the transfer of a fishing business from one generation to the next
  • Reduce employment-insurance premiums
  • Create a "working income-tax benefit" to supplement the earnings of low-income workers

The Liberals are reducing income taxes on low- and middle-income earners and the Conservatives have their GST cut. From the economist's point of view, the Liberal cut may be preferred. On the other hand, the GST cut gives more relief to no-, low-, and middle-income Canadians. Is something backwards here? And what does it say about me that I slightly prefer the Liberal cut?

Conservatives:

  • Reduce the GST to 6 per cent immediately; then to 5 per cent over five years
  • Eliminate the capital-gains tax on proceeds that are reinvested within six months.
  • Eliminate the business surtax, and drop the business tax rate to 19 per cent from 21 per cent by 2010
  • Raise the threshold for the small business tax rate to $400,000 from $300,000
  • Raise the individual pension tax credit to $2,000 from $1,000
  • Exempt the first $500,000 of the value of a fishing property from capital-gains tax when it is transferred within a family
  • Create a $500 tax credit for children's sporting expenses
  • Make transit passes tax deductible*

The capital gains tax deferral is another sleeper policy. Ian Welsh writes: "Possibly the worst idea in the entire platform. What it will do is pump up housing prices (especially along with their subsidy for housing for the middle class and rich), and make sure that the rich are almost never, ever taxed on their investments." On the other hand, Conservative MP Monte Solberg says this will help the economy by allowing people to move investments from less-productive to more-productive assets without being penalized.

I like the transit deduction, an idea supported by all parties other than the Liberals.

NDP:

  • Supports the November personal tax changes, but opposes any tax cut for business
  • Further reduce taxes for lower-income Canadians
  • Maintain the GST at current levels
  • Target tax incentives to environmental technology, renewable energy production and industrial co-generation

This is all good for me. However, I don't understand the inconsistency in opposing the GST cut. (Although, I believe I read elsewhere that the NDP wants to increase the GST tax credit, which is an even better policy for helping lower-income Canadians.)

Green:

  • Cut taxes for people who earn less than $45,000
  • Set up an all-party task force to look at Canadian corporate tax rates versus those in the United States
  • Close loopholes for the use of offshore tax havens
  • Make transit passes tax deductible
  • Reduce taxes on newly formed small businesses
  • Shift taxes on fossil fuels to an earlier stage in the production cycle

The Polluter-Pays Principle is the best way to reduce environmental damage, and is achieved through taxes, fees and fines. It has been part of the Green platform before, and although it isn't mentioned here, I assume it still is.

Bloc:

  • Impose a surtax on the profits of big oil companies
  • Create a new income-tax credit for families with children under 18
  • Abolish the GST on diapers and other products for newborn babies
  • Abolish loopholes that allow investment in offshore tax havens

Defence/Foreign affairs

Liberals:

  • Restructure the military under a unified command structure
  • Enhance the military presence in the North to affirm Canada's sovereignty
  • Increase military strength by 5,000 regular troops and 3,000 reserves
  • Invest $13-billion in defence capacity over five years for new trucks, aircraft, helicopters, etc.
  • Increase troop strength in Afghanistan
  • Press for a permanent United Nations Human Rights Council
  • Push for an international treaty to ban weapons in space
  • Increase overseas development assistance by 8 per cent annually

The Liberal Party has had a weak record on defense, leaving our military in a state where all parties agree that it needs attention. Despite Paul Martin's support of the war in Iraq, I think the Liberals can be trusted to stick to public opinion on such issues. Just as Martin flopped on Star Wars, he would respect the voters on similar issues. It might be crass opportunism, but it means we're less likely to get tied up in a future fiasco.

Conservatives:

  • Increase spending on the armed forces by $5.3-billion over five years
  • Recruit 13,000 more regular troops and 10,000 reserves
  • Increase spending on military bases and housing
  • Increase the capacity to protect Arctic sovereignty
  • Implement a Veterans' Bill of Rights and put in place a veterans' ombudsman
  • Restore a regular army presence in British Columbia
  • Increase spending on overseas development assistance beyond current projections
  • Make Parliament responsible for overseeing foreign policy and overseas military assignments

I don't know who to believe when I see the Liberals touting a number that is more than double the Conservatives when it comes to military spending.

I don't have much problem (if any) with the promises here, but my concern about a Conservative government would be how a Prime Minister Harper would react to events in the foreign sphere. After all, he also wanted to send troops to Iraq. And in Stephen Harper I see that as more of a conviction, than the please-everybody-who-was-annoyed-by-Chretien stance of Paul Martin.

NDP:

  • Total defence spending would not be reduced
  • Main priorities should be protecting Canadian sovereignty and peacekeeping
  • Parliament should review defence agreements such as NORAD
  • Troops should be committed to overseas missions only under the auspices of international peace and security organizations
  • Speed up the cleanup of the Defence Department's chemical dumpsites
  • Speed up the investigation of personnel exposed to Agent Orange and Agent Purple
  • Increase Canada's aid budget to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2015

Green:

  • Declare Canada a military nuclear-free zone
  • Canada should not participate in space-based weapons programs
  • Create a rapid response force for peacekeeping and environmental restoration
  • Create an agency to co-ordinate the work of the departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Canada International Development Agency
  • Increase foreign-aid spending to 0.5 per cent of GDP by 2010 and 0.7 per cent by 2015
  • Propose reform of the United Nations to expand membership and eliminate vetoes

I wouldn't rule out a potential role for Canadian forces in defending our national interests. The world isn't such a friendly place that we can just unilaterally declare that we'll never need to use force.

I do support the notion of increase capacity to aid in international disasters like the tsunami. There's always the small chance that we might need that kind of capability here, too.

Bloc:

  • Allow the Commons defence committee to study any military procurement above $100-million
  • Support the troops and veterans who are victims of post-traumatic stress disorder or the use of Agent Orange
  • Expand foreign aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2015
  • Counter the "worst aspects" of globalization, such as tax havens and flags of convenience

Aboriginal Issues:

I know very little about aboriginal issues, so can't really give informed (or semi-informed) opinions on these policies. However, my impression is that things aren't working as well as they should, and we need change. I suspect that change should require more autonomy but also more responsibilty for native groups.

As far as issues like land claims and restitution for past abuse, I think everyone would want these resolved more quickly.

Liberals:

  • Implement the action plan worked out with aboriginal leaders at the November first ministers conference
  • Work to increase the number of aboriginal high-school and university graduates
  • Increase the number of aboriginal health professionals
  • Expand housing and water services on reserves
  • Increase aboriginal employment levels by 50 per cent over 10 years
  • Introduce legislation to enable first nations to take control of oil and gas and related revenue
  • Spend $2-billion to resolve the residential schools abuse issues

Conservatives:

  • Accept the target set by the first ministers and aboriginal leaders in November
  • Let aboriginal parents choose the schools they want, and have the funding follow them
  • Replace the Indian Act with new legislation that gives aboriginals full legal responsibility for their affairs
  • Settle all outstanding claims, including residential schools claims
  • Compensate aboriginal veterans for their unequal treatment

NDP:

  • Make quick lump-sum payments to compensate for residential schools abuse, and have the prime minister apologize, and create a truth and reconciliation process
  • Establish an independent commission to handle land claims
  • Encourage self-government, and allow enhanced access to capital for community economic development
  • Support indigenous language training
  • Help native women develop healing centres
  • Get the public and private sectors to work together on education and training

Green:

  • Negotiate new hunting, fishing, trapping and logging rights for aboriginal people on traditional lands
  • Phase out the Indian Act and bring in new laws driven by aboriginal priorities
  • Promote aboriginal culture as a fundamental source of Canadian identity
  • Deliver health care, education and other services in a way that incorporates traditional aboriginal practices
  • Set up a federal-provincial task force to investigate the disappearance of aboriginal women

Bloc:

  • Support self-government by aboriginals
  • Provide financing to alleviate infrastructure problems in aboriginal communities, by building new houses and fixing existing ones
  • Negotiate new treaties and agreements with aboriginal nations
  • Establish an inquiry into the management of federal funds that have been transferred to native reserves

Ethics and Governance

Liberals:

  • Submit the final Gomery report to a parliamentary committee for study and advice
  • Engage in dialogue with Canadians to "define the values people want to see in their democratic institutions"
  • The government has already taken major steps, such as creating an independent ethics commissioner, changing disclosure policies for expenses, introducing a Whistleblowers' Act, installing independent comptrollers in every department, and creating transparent nominating processes for key government appointments

This is another area where the intangibles loom large. The Liberals may be talking about setting up the right sorts of processes, but there is recurring evidence in the news that Liberals members have simply been in power so long that they have forgotten how to behave themselves. This is one of the stronger arguments for a new government simply for the sake of change.

Conservatives:

  • Expand the powers of the Auditor-General and the ethics commissioner
  • Prohibit corporate and union donations to parties and candidates, and limit individual donations to $1,000
  • Ban former ministers and top public servants from working as lobbyists for five years
  • Ban the use of trust funds to finance campaigns
  • Require that key watchdogs including the ethics and privacy commissioners, Auditor-General, Chief Electoral Officer and lobbyist registrar be elected by MPs
  • Establish a public appointments commission
  • Create an independent parliamentary budget authority to oversee spending

NDP:

  • Change the electoral system to incorporate both constituency-based MPs and proportional representation
  • Force MPs to resign and run again if they want to switch parties
  • Set fixed election dates
  • Put strict spending caps on party leadership contests
  • Force lobbyists to file annual reports on their political work, and disclose their fees
  • Require senior appointments to be approved by parliamentary committees
  • Expand freedom of information rules to open up access
  • Provide legal protection to whistleblowers, and set up a whistleblower officer with powers of investigation and reporting

One small point here, I think the hype about MPs who switch parties is a bit silly.

Green:

  • Move toward proportional representation starting with a public consultation process
  • Set fixed election dates
  • Lower voting age to 17
  • Reduce the $1,000 candidate deposit.
  • Create a Government Accountability Act to make sure watchdogs are selected at arm's length from those they monitor
  • Give more power to the Auditor-General and the Information Commissioner
  • Create an independent ethics commission
  • Limit political donations to $1,000 per donor with full disclosure, and ban corporate and union donations
  • Institute mandatory ethics training for MPs and their staff

Bloc:

  • Budgets for government agencies and the ethics commissioner should be approved by parliamentary committees
  • Increase disclosure of lobbying activities, and tighten rules that slow government officials from becoming lobbyists
  • Give the Chief Electoral Office the power to appoint election officials, taking it away from the party in power
  • Strengthen protection for whistleblowers
  • Strengthen access-to-information rules
  • Expand the powers of the Information Commissioner and the Auditor-General
  • Let the Quebec government nominate Supreme Court judges from that province

Environment:

Liberals:

  • Honour Canada's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol
  • Develop national air-emission standards and expand air-quality monitoring and reporting
  • Require, within five years, an average of 5 per cent of renewable fuels in gasoline and diesel fuel
  • Implement a 10-year, $1-billion plan to restore ecosystems in the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River basin
  • Spend $150-million over five years to expand national parks and protected areas
  • Improve energy conservation, increase the supply of clean, conventional sources of energy and develop new forms of renewable energy

Again, there is a gap here between what the Liberals say and what they do. They talk about Kyoto but they haven't put together a plan that will really acheive much of anything. This is Martin wanting to please everybody, but we can't achieve a massive change without actually changing anything!

Conservatives:

  • Develop a made-in-Canada plan for greenhouse-gas emissions emphasizing new technology
  • Develop a clean air act to legislate reductions in air pollution
  • Clean up contaminated sites that fall under federal jurisdiction
  • Require 5 per cent renewable fuel in gasoline and diesel fuel
  • Ban inter-basin water transfers

Any plan that isn't working to reduce urban sprawl and decrease automotive emissions isn't going to help with the number of smog days we have in Ontario and elsewhere.

NDP:

  • Set firm targets to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, to 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020
  • Establish national standards and protection for drinking water
  • Create "polluter pays" legislation with mandatory pollution prevention measures
  • Establish a national energy retrofit program for buildings
  • Hike funding for public transit and rail passenger services
  • Require 10 per cent ethanol content in gasoline by 2010
  • Establish tough, mandatory vehicle-emission standards
  • Increase gas-tax transfer to municipalities to five cents a litre
  • Provide financial incentives for solar, wind, water, biomass and other renewable energy
  • Protect large, intact forests and expand national parks

Green:

  • Achieve Kyoto targets and go beyond those goals after 2012
  • Make a massive reinvestment in public transportation
  • Redirect National Research Council and Industry Canada R&D toward renewable and alternative energy
  • Eliminate the use of the most dangerous toxic chemicals by 2008, and clean up toxic sites
  • Prohibit the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes
  • Ban the incineration of imported toxic waste
  • Promote the use of wood waste as a bio-fuel
  • Create standards to ensure the sustainability of forests
  • Ban bulk water exports
  • Stop dumping untreated waste
  • End mining industry subsidies

Bloc:

  • Support the Kyoto Protocol
  • Ensure Kyoto is enforced fairly, so Quebec doesn't have to pay for pollution caused by Alberta's oil industry and Ontario's auto industry
  • Invest in clean-air technology
  • Eliminate the GST on new vehicles that consume less than 5 litres per 100 km
  • Set strict energy-efficiency standards for vehicles, and impose heavy penalties if they are not met

Law and Order

Liberals:

  • Ban ownership of handguns, except for target shooters
  • Invest $135-million over five years for 250 more RCMP officers in community-safety teams
  • Hire 75 more border guards to stop smuggling of firearms
  • Spend $10-million each year for 10 years to increase the number of RCMP officers
  • Spend $50-million on a "gang-prevention fund" for youth at risk
  • Double mandatory minimum penalties for serious gun-related crimes
  • Eliminate conditional sentences for serious crimes
  • Create reverse-onus requirement for bail hearings in firearm offences *

There are some good policies here, but this is another area where I have Liberal fatigue. Banning guns is nice, but it is more of a show for the election than it is a policy that will actually make a difference compared to the state of affairs today. I also support toughening mandatory minimums for gun crime, but the Liberals here leave me feeling quite cynical as they very recently opposed this idea.

Conservatives:

  • Set mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes and repeat offenders
  • End conditional sentences for serious crimes
  • Repeal the "faint-hope clause" that allows people serving life sentences to seek early parole
  • Create reverse-onus requirement for bail hearings in firearm offences
  • Remove right to vote for federal prisoners
  • Cancel the long-gun registry. Use savings for more police
  • Register all sex offenders and dangerous offenders
  • Raise the age of consent to 16
  • Direct $50-million to communities for youth at risk
  • Make anyone older than 14 subject to adult sentencing
  • Prevent the decriminalization of marijuana

NDP:

  • Arm border officers
  • Increase mandatory sentences for gun possession and sale
  • Put a four-year minimum sentence on all weapons offences
  • Try gun-crime offenders older than 16 as adults
  • Strengthen the witness-protection program
  • Implement a reverse-onus test on bail hearings for gun crimes
  • Return proceeds of crime to communities and neighbourhoods
  • Fund community programs to keep youth out of gangs
  • Create new restrictions and offences to combat crystal meth

Oddly similar to the Conservative plan, isn't it?

Green:

  • Promote restorative justice instead of prison for first-time, non-violent offenders
  • Regulate marijuana in a similar fashion to alcohol and tobacco
  • Loosen gun-registry penalties and rules
  • Combat gun smuggling
  • Increase penalties for gun crimes
  • Increase animal-cruelty penalties
  • Increased security must be balanced against individual rights
  • Keep the gun registry in place, but investigate cost overruns in the program
  • Convene a national conference to deal with the problem of tobacco smuggling

Bloc platform on Law and Order seems to be missing from the Globe online.

Social Programs: Children, Health, Education

Liberals:

  • Spend at least $6-billion from 2010 to 2015 to expand the national child-care program
  • Reduce waiting times through a $5.5-billion fund to help the provinces hire more professionals and build capacity
  • Invest $300-million in cancer research
  • Spend $100-million for 1,000 new family doctors
  • Create a Canadian mental health commission
  • Add $4-billion in support for postsecondary education
  • Spend $1-billion on university and college infrastructure
  • Expand benefits to people caring for ill and dying relatives
  • Expand support for people with disabilities, including a registered disabilities savings pllan to shelter savings for future care
  • Help seniors get access to the equity in their homes through reverse mortgages

Conservatives:

  • Give families $1,200 for child care for each child under 6
  • Provide tax credits to employees and non-profit organizations who create child-care spaces
  • Allow a mix of private and public health care delivery, as long as health care remains publicly funded and universally accessible *
  • Set waiting-time reduction targets by end of 2006 and develop a waiting-time guarantee
  • Compensate everyone who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood
  • Spend 1 per cent of federal health funding on physical activity
  • Set up a $26-million, five-year strategy for cancer control
  • Will not "initiate or support any legislation to regulate abortion"
  • Allow a free vote in the Commons on the definition of marriage
  • Spend $100-million more a year to help postsecondary students
  • Appoint a seniors' council to advise government

I've surprised myself by becoming a fan of the Conservative's solution to dealing with health care waiting times. I think they have the best approach, but because so many of their blogging supporters talk are in favour of two-tier health care, I can't stop worrying that that may be what we'll face. However, their press release says clearly: "Plan upholds principles of Canada Health Act; rejects private, parallel system".

NDP:

  • Establish a national child-care program, spending $1.8-billion in the first year and increasing by $250-million a year
  • Appoint a children's commissioner to advocate for rights of children
  • Increase the child-tax benefit by $1,000 a child
  • Stop further privatization of health care by eliminating federal subsidies to a profit-making insurance system
  • Don't cover costs or salaries of doctors in a private system
  • Establish a national prescription drug plan
  • Set up a training fund to get 16,000 more health-care providers in the system
  • Create a Minister for Seniors
  • Expand EI to cover caregivers for one year
  • Expand long-term care facilities for seniors by 40,000 units
  • Build 200,000 affordable and co-op housing units

Green:

  • Create tax incentives so businesses will implement flexible scheduling and on-site day care
  • Stop any shift to two-tier health care
  • Set up a national pharmacare plan
  • Cover chiropractic, acupuncture and herbal medicines under medicare
  • Increase taxes on tobacco, alcohol and junk food
  • Introduce mandatory labelling of foods containing genetically modified organisms
  • Invest $500-million over five years to address inactivity and obesity
  • Create a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy
  • Reduce postsecondary tuition
  • Fund energy-efficient co-ops and affordable housing units
  • Support the development of high-performance athletes

Bloc:

  • Transfer to Quebec all federal savings generated by the province's child-care program
  • Cede to Quebec control over medical research organizations in the province
  • Compensate everyone who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood
  • Allow assisted suicide
  • Increase federal transfers for postsecondary education
  • Increase investment in social housing
  • All old-age payments should be indexed to inflation
  • Establish an independent employment insurance commission to run the EI system
  • Reform employment equity rules
  • Expand investment in affordable and social housing, and transfer control to Quebec

Immigration

This is another topic where I don't have well-formed opinions.

In recent years the topic of professional credentials for immigrants has become more urgent, and all parties are talking about it. However, I remain sceptical, and won't believe in any solution until I see it working.

Liberals:

  • Eliminate the $975 landing fee over two years
  • Provide $1.3-billion over five years for settlement and integration of immigrants
  • Spent $700-million over five years to streamline immigration and reduce backlogs
  • Allow potential immigrants to apply from within Canada
  • Spend $260-million over six years to speed assessment of internationally trained workers
  • Improve family-reunification efforts

Conservatives:

  • Cut $975 landing fee in half
  • Create an agency to assess international credentials and experience, so professionals can get working more quickly
  • Extend automatic citizenship to foreign-born children adopted by Canadian parents

NDP:

  • Abolish the $975 landing fee
  • Allow annual immigration to reach 1 per cent of the population
  • Increase funding for immigrant settlement by 20 per cent
  • Allow one-time sponsorship of one family member
  • Issue full apology to Chinese Canadians for head tax and exclusion policies
  • Abolish immigration minister's power to settle final appeals, and give that power to an independent panel

Green:

  • Remove unnecessary barriers to recognizing professional credentials of immigrants
  • Improve integration of new Canadians
  • Toughen regulation of immigration consultants
  • Review anti-terrorism rules and eliminate security certificates
  • Recognize the 200,000 people living in Canada without official status

Bloc:

  • Establish a better appeal system for refugees
  • Transfer $100-million to Quebec to help its handling of refugees
  • Revise anti-terrorism laws to give accused more rights of appeal
  • Revise security certificate rules to allow a lawyer for the accused to better defend the client's rights
  • Federal policies should support Quebec's efforts to settle immigrants outside major centres

Culture

Liberals:

  • Continue commitments to funding for arts and culture
  • Reintroduce changes to the Copyright Act to protect creators, while dealing with new digital technology
  • Double funding for the Canada Council by 2008
  • Support investment to enrich and protect English and French languages

Conservatives:

  • Establish a francophone secretariat in the Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Ensure the CBC and Radio-Canada "continue to perform their vital role as national public-service broadcasters"
  • Preserve the role of the National Film Board, the Canada Council and other agencies
  • Increase access to international and foreign-language radio, TV
  • Maintain a $440-million commitment to amateur sports

This promise about the CBC is another head-scratcher. It goes against what conservatives have been saying for years. Is this promise a signal that they have decided to compromise with a centre-right platform and government, or are they full of it?

NDP:

  • Allow tax averaging to help Canadian artists
  • Exempt the first $30,000 of copyright and royalty income
  • Increase funding for the Canada Council
  • Direct the CRTC to set standards so broadcasters increase Canadian productions
  • Review and restructure CRTC
  • Ensure Canadian television networks remain Canadian owned
  • Enhance federal film incentives

Green:

  • Set stable funding for the arts at a set percentage of the federal budget
  • Protect Canada's cultural identity in trade negotiations
  • Provide stable base funding for the CBC
  • Direct the CRTC to reserve more bandwidth for independent and non-profit stations
  • Force cinema and video chains to have 20-per-cent Canadian content

Bloc:

  • Modify the licence conditions on the new satellite radio providers
  • Increase funding for the Canada Council
  • Allow tax exemptions for royalties for book authors
  • Abolish the GST on books
  • Increase federal funding for documentary films
  • Allow artists to average income over five years for tax purposes

If you just read the words in the policies, I actually think that there are a lot of good things in all the platforms. But it is a lot more complicated than just those words. What it really comes down to in the end are the intangibles I wrote about up at the top.

You need to evaluate the intangibles with your gut. My gut has been telling me that we really need a change of government. That means that Stephen Harper has to be our next Prime Minister. On the other hand, I wouldn't be ready to trust him with a majority government. Furthermore, he's simply further to the right than I am and I'd like to see him balanced by the other parties. For this reason, I still feel that the best solution for our country at this point is a Harper minority government, with a strong representation of the NDP.


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