CANADA VOTES: Which party has the best plan to make life more affordable?

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Published October 11, 2019 at 3:57 am


In the past month since this election campaign started, there seems to have been more focus on the various character flaws and scandals surrounding the leaders, such as the brownface/blackface follies of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau or the Conservative Andrew Scheer’s non-existent career as an insurance broker.

Jagmeet Singh, the NDP leader, has been rolling out various policy positions but the focus has been on his handling of “racist” comments about his turban, which he handled with grace and class, although many suggest he shouldn’t have had to handle things like that at all.

Many have decried the lack of attention on what the parties are actually proposing to do if they form government come October 21. But the two main issues that have emerged as important ones in voters’ minds has been climate change and affordability of everyday life.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what exactly each party is proposing to address the issues of affordability. The links to the parties’ platforms or news releases about policy are linked below each section.

Conservative Party

Using the slogan “it’s time for you to get ahead,”, during his various policy announcements over the campaign Andrew Scheer said a Tory government would make life more affordable by implementing policies such as:

  • Loosening the mortgage qualification stress test so first-time homebuyers aren’t prevented from accessing mortgages, although critics say that would open up the risk of having a 2008 style housing market meltdown that led to the Great Recession.

  • Re-introduce a 30-year mortgage from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for first-time buyers to help lower monthly payments.

  • Start an inquiry into money laundering in real estate.

  • Make surplus federal land available for housing developments.

  • Remove the GST from home heating, which the Tories estimate will save an average household $107.

  • Make maternity benefits tax free, which would provide savings of $4,000.

  • A public transit tax credit for any public transit pass in Canada (the Liberals cancelled the transit pass tax credit from the former Conservative government).

  • A ‘universal’ tax cut on the lowest federal income tax bracket, which the Tories say will save an average working couple about $850.

  • A Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, saving parents up to $150 and a Children’s Arts and Learning Tax credit worth up to $75.

  • Allow more Canadians to qualify for the disability tax credit by reducing the number of hours spent per week on life-sustaining therapy needed to qualify, from 14 hours to 10, and expanding the definition for that therapy.

Liberal Party

The governing Liberals have constantly talked about “the middle class and those looking hard to join it,” for years and have tied their policies about affordability towards areas like housing, middle-class tax cuts and childcare.

For housing, the Liberals have proposed raising the maximum eligible home price to qualify for the first time homebuyers incentive from $505,000 to $769,000 across Canada, which would provide a 10 per cent tax cut off a home.

They also want to add a one per cent National Housing Speculation Tax on vacant homes owned by non-resident and non-Canadians and track foreign ownership through Stats Canada and CMHC.

Other measures that the Trudeau Liberals have proposed to make life more affordable include:

  • Not taxing the first $15,000 of income you earn up to $147,667 a year or less starting in 2023, which he says would save average Canadians $292 and save families $585.

  • Cutting cell phone bills by 25 per cent.

  • Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

  • Extend employment insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks.

  • Increase the Canada Student Grants by 40 per cent.

  • Extend a student-loan-repayment grace period from six months to two years.

  • Increase the threshold at which recent graduates would have to start repaying loans to $35,000 of income, up from $25,000.

  • Increase the Canada Child Care benefit by 15 per cent for kids under one year old, up to $1,000.

  • Removing federal taxes on EI payments for maternity and parental leave.

  • Create 250,000 childcare spots for children under 10, which will cost an estimated $535 million per year. The Liberals say this would translate to savings of $800 a year for a family with two children and would lower fees by 10 per cent.

  • Increase Old Age Security by 10 per cent after age 75, which the Liberals say would lift 20,000 seniors out of poverty.

  • “Move forward” with a National Pharmacare plan, although the Liberals have promised similar plans in elections dating back to the 1990s.

New Democratic Party

The NDP under Jagmeet Singh has framed its campaign around its traditional notions that the other two main parties (the Liberals and Conservatives) are basically the same and that they are the only party that would stand up for workers and ‘ordinary Canadians, not big corporations.’

The NDP have also framed their policies on the affordability issue, on areas such as housing and childcare:

  • Provide rent subsidies up to $5,000 for families paying more than 30 per cent of their pre-tax income toward housing.

  • Build 500,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years, spending $5 billion within the first 1.5 years.

  • Waive federal GST/HST on affordable housing construction.

  • Also support reintroducing a 30-year mortgage from the CMHC.

  • Double the Home Buyers Tax Credit to $1,500.

  • Impose of 15 per cent National Foreign Buyer’s Tax for non-resident non-Canadians.

  • Put $1 billion into childcare in 2020 and grow that annually.

  • Spend $10 billion over the next four years to create 500,000 new child-care spaces.

  • Establish free or low-cost childcare for all Canadian families by 2030, with the daily fee topping out at about $10 per child.

They’ve also said an NDP government would expand the services covered under the Canada Health Act, such as including dental care, free mental health services, eye and hearing care and touted their own ‘Pharmacare for All’ national pharmacare plan.

Other affordability measures the NDP said they would implement, but have been criticized as just tax hikes, are:

  • Launch a national basic income pilot program and continue Ontario’s program, which was cancelled under the Ford government.

  • A one per cent wealth tax on those earning over $20 million.

  • Boost capital gains including rate from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.

  • Increase tax rate for people making over $210,000 from 33 per cent to 35 per cent.

  • Close tax loopholes for the wealthy.

Green Party

The Greens have focused their affordability strategy on taxing corporations and making housing more affordable. The party has touted how they have a fully costed platform with numbers backed up by the Parliamentary Budget Office.

  • Set up a federal tax commission to analyze the system for fairness and reform system to deal with the modern economy.

  • End offshore tax dodging by giving the Canada Revenue Agency funding tools to chase tax dodgers.

  • Force e-commerce companies like Amazon and Google to register locally and pay sales taxes.

  • Increase corporate tax rates to match the U.S. from 15 to 21 per cent.

  • Build 25,000 new housing units and renovate 15,000 units every year for the next 10 years.

  • Increase housing co-investment fund by $750 million for new builds.

  • Fund non-profit housing organizations that are building housing for seniors, those with special needs and low-income families.

  • Change the mandate of the CMHC to focus on developing affordable non-market and co-ops.

  • A Guaranteed Livable Income as the workforce becomes automated.

  • Establish a $15 national minimum wage.

  • Work with cities to set a municipal minimum wage to reflect the local costs of living.

  • Increase the tax credit for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers.

  • Update bankruptcy laws to protect workers’ pensions from corporate shutdowns.

People’s Party

This upstart populist party was started up by former Conservative MP and leadership contender Maxime Bernier, and their platform contains a number of areas ranging from ending the Multiculturalism Act, curtailing immigration levels and ending supply management.

The PPC don’t have policies specifically addressing affordability, but they have sections discussing their views on the budget and the economy, such as:

  • Get rid of the deficit in two years through spending cuts and fiscal prudence. Spending cuts will include: corporate welfare ($5B-$10B), foreign development aid ($5B), CBC ($1B), equalization payments, and funding for programs which are provincial or municipal responsibilities.
  • Simplifying the tax system to end targeted tax measures that are inefficient and serve no compelling public policy purpose.
  • Cut personal income taxes after the deficit has been eliminated, over the course of several budgets, as the fiscal room is found to allow it. The objective will be to lower taxes for all Canadians by raising the basic personal exemption to $15,000 (from $12,069 in 2019) and reducing the number of tax brackets from five to two, with incomes from $15,001 to $100,000 taxed at 15 per cent, and income over $100,000 taxed at 25 per cent.
  • Abolish the personal capital gains tax by decreasing the inclusion rate from the current 50 per cent down to 0 per cent.
  • Eliminate all corporate subsidies and other inefficient government interventions (bailouts of failing companies, regional development grants, conditional loans and loan guarantees with an implicit subsidy, tax credits, etc.) that unfairly support some companies or business sectors. This will generate savings of between $5 billion and $10 billion a year.
  • Gradually reduce over the course of one mandate the corporate income tax rate from its current 15 per cent down to 10 per cent. When completed, this measure will make about $9.5 billion available to businesses, allowing them to increase salaries or invest in productivity improvements.

It is my hope that this brief summation of the political parties’ viewpoints on the crucial issue of affordability in Canada provides you, the voters, some idea of who to vote for on October 21. 

Which party do you think has the best plan for Canadians?

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