“It’s the economy, stupid” is an infamous political catchphrase coined by Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign strategist James Carville. It implies that the most important issue during electoral campaigns is the economy. Therefore, in order to attract voters, different political parties have to present detailed economic platforms. The 2019 federal campaign has proved to be no different, with each party dedicating a large portion of their platforms to economic issues.
The Liberal party’s platform asks voters to give the government another four years to continue what it sees as the “real progress” it has made since 2015. The platform is divided into seven chapters, two directly relating to the economy. The first one, “Building A Strong Middle Class,” includes many economic promises. These include making sure people do not pay taxes on the first $15,000 they earn, create a First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, place a national tax on vacant residential properties owned by non-Canadians who do not live in the country, and an increase in the Canada Child Benefit.
The second chapter, “Investing in Good, Middle-Class Jobs,” promises the creation of the Canada Entrepreneur Account to provide entrepreneurs with funds to start businesses, lower taxes for small and medium-sized businesses, and for clean tech businesses. The platform also includes benefits for farmers who have been hurt by free trade agreements and help for Canadian exporters. The seventh and last chapter, “A Responsible Fiscal Plan,” includes a plan to make taxes “more fair” by reviewing government spending and tax expenditures, modernize anti-avoidance rules, enhancing whistleblower programs and cracking down on loopholes.
While, in their platform, the Liberals present a rosy picture of the economy during their four years in power, the Conservatives clearly disagree. Included in the platform’s preface is a warning that voters “cannot trust Justin Trudeau to help you get ahead.” The first chapter of the platform, entitled “More Money in Your Pocket for You,” presents many policies in order to achieve that promise. These include removing the carbon tax, creating a Universal Tax Cut (reducing the tax rate on income under $47,630 from 15 per cent to 13.75 per cent), making maternity benefits tax-free, increasing the Age Credit, having a tax credits for children’s arts, fitness, and learning, and creating the Green Home Renovation Tax Credit.
The second chapter, “More Good Jobs,” promises to repeal the Liberal government’s tax increases, review the tax system, end the ban on shipping traffic in British Columbia and eliminate barriers for inter-province trade, among others. Other promises in the remaining chapters include creating a single tax return for Quebec, diversifying the country’s trade partners, and balance the budget within five years.
Like the Conservatives, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is critical of the Trudeau government’s economic record. However, unlike the Conservatives, the party does not see tax cuts as the solution. Rather, in its “New Deal for People,” the NDP presents many ambitious economic investments and policies. The party proposes a Foreign Buyer’s tax on the sales of homes to those who are neither citizens nor permanent residents, doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit, increasing the income replacement rate of the Employment Insurance, and creating a Fair Gasoline Prices Watchdog.
The second chapter of the platform, “Building an economy that works better for more people,” promises the creation of 300,000 jobs while addressing the climate crisis and streamlining the access to government export services to make it easier to break into foreign markets. Furthermore, the NDP platform promises “fair trade” (which the platform defines as protecting Canadian workers and standing up against unfair tariffs) and transparency in trade negotiations. The party also plans to modernize the Investment Canada Act and create iCanada, a one-stop-shop within the federal government to attract investors.
The platform also includes promises for new and progressive tax sources, closing loopholes to limit tax evasion, and to raise the corporate tax to its pre-2010 rate. Other tax promises include an increase in the top marginal tax rate and a wealth tax for wealth over 20 million.
The Bloc Québécois’ platform, only available in French, is unsurprisingly targeted towards Quebecers’ economic interests. Economic promises include campaign finance reform to limit individual donations to $500, taxing web giants like Netflix, and more protections and help for flagship Quebec companies. Furthermore, the platform criticizes three recent free trade deals (USMCA, TPP, and CETA) and promises to protect supply management from future trade deals. It also proposes multiple policies to help develop Quebec rural regions and, like the Conservatives, a single tax return for the province.
The Green Party’s platform contains one chapter dedicated solely to the economy, “Transitioning to a Green Economy.” As its title implies, the multiple proposals combine economic and climate policies to transition Canada to a green economy. The platform promises protections for those who work in fossil fuel sectors and will lose their jobs, implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers, and creating a Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund.
Regarding taxes, a Green government would establish a Federal Tax Commission to analyze the tax system, close loopholes (like the stock option loophole), taxing funds hidden in tax havens, create a financial transactions tax of 0.5 per cent (modelled on the French tax), raise the corporate tax, create a wealth tax, and eliminate the 50 per cent corporate meals and entertainment expense deduction. Other economic policies include reforming the World Trade Organization and renegotiate some trade and investment agreements.
The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) explicitly presents itself as the only fiscally responsible party. It promises to balance the budget in two years by cutting spending in corporate welfare, foreign development aid, the CBC, and equalization payments. Once the deficit is eliminated, the party promises to abolish the personal capital gains tax (which is currently 50%) and reducing the number of income tax brackets from five to two. Furthermore, the PPC promises to reduce the corporate tax by five per cent.
The party’s platform also includes promises to reassert the leadership of the federal government regarding inter-provincial trade, and to appoint a Minister of Internal Trade. The last major economic promises are to reduce equalization payments to only provinces with the greatest need and to establish a parliamentary committee to review the current formula.
If Carville was right, many Canadian voters should vote on October 21st based on the different economic platforms summarized in this article. While some promises overlap from one party to another, each one has also presented unique promises to attract voters. In less than a week, we will see whether the Liberal Party was able to convince enough voters to trust their economic plans for another mandate, or if another party proved more appealing.
This article is part of a week-long series on the parties and their platforms ahead of the 2019 Canadian general election. See here for the rest of our election coverage. For information on how to vote on October 21st, click here.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Cover photo designed by Lauren Hill.