While social policy is sometimes overlooked, it is the backbone of a strong representative government. Therefore, it is important that voters are mindful of the social policy proposals of each party this election.
The Liberal Party is proposing to make student loans interest-free for two years after graduation and advocating that graduates will not have to pay until they earn over $35,000 annually. The Liberals also would boost the maximum Canada Student Grants for full-time students from the current $3,000 to $4,200.
Scheer’s Conservatives have advocated for a boost to the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) that would raise contributions from 20 per cent to 30 per cent for every dollar invested, up to $2,500 a year. As such, this change would increase the annual maximum grant to $750, a $250 raise from the current $500. This move is likely to appeal to parents who utilize the program to save for their children’s education over a ten-to-fifteen year period.
The New Democratic Party (the NDP), one of the more progressive parties, promises to work in collaboration with provinces and territories to place caps on tuition, and more ideally, reduce tuition. As well, the party plans to eliminate federal interest rates on student loans and inject more financial stimuli into the Canada Student Grants.
The Bloc Québécois, in regards to education, would mandate larger transfer payments to provinces and territories to be used towards education, as well as to finance more university research.
The Green Party would mirror the free education stance the NDP has adopted. However, they would go a step further by pledging to forgive any existing federal student debt, something that could appeal to both parents and students alike.
Lastly, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) believes that the federal government has too much influence in the field and believes it an exclusively provincial jurisdiction. However, the PPC has failed to produce a policy within their platform to address education.
The Liberal Party would increase the Canada Child Benefit by 15 per cent for families with children under the age of one. The Child Benefit is arguably the most successful policy achievement under Trudeau’s Liberals, with it boosting the economy overall, and lifting almost 300,000 children out of poverty. On a similar note, Trudeau’s Liberals are promising up to 250,000 new child care spaces for before and after school child care programs. Lastly, regarding the fees of these services, the Liberals are advocating to cut them by 10 per cent.
The Conservative Party would work to maintain Liberal initiatives, continuing policies like the Canadian Child Benefit. The Conservatives also promise to increase social transfer payments by at least three per cent every year, aiding provinces and territories in financing child care and early learning programs.
The NDP promises to pledge $1 billion to affordable, not-for-profit child care services, beginning in 2020, followed by subsequent increments in the years following. Similarly the NDP is pledging to create 500,000 new child care spaces over a four-year mandate.
In regards to child care, the Bloc Québécois has not released a policy pertaining to this issue. This is most likely due to the fact that in Quebec, the province has had an extensive and generally well-respected subsidized child-care program for over twenty years.
May’s Green Party would increase child care funding per year until it reaches at least one per cent of GDP ($17 billion) annually. Through this, the Green Party would work with the provinces, territories, and First Nations groups to establish and fund a national universal child care program. Specifically, this program would emphasize creating child-care spaces in workplaces, something currently lacking in Canada.
Similarly to education, the People’s Party has not released a policy on childcare.
The Liberals have pledged to take “critical” next steps toward a national pharmacare, though does not elaborate on what these “next steps” are. Through collaboration between federal and provincial/territorial governments, the Liberals also promise to work to ensure that every Canadian has basic healthcare access. As well, the Liberals would set “clear national standards” for access to mental health services. The Liberals have pledged $6 billion over the next four years for this mandate, through both federal and provincial monetary contributions. The Liberals also plan to double the Child Disability Benefit.
Unlike the Liberals, the Conservatives have no plan in instating any form of pharmacare. Instead, their main goal is to work on covering those not already covered as part of employment benefits. Likewise, a Conservative government would increase funding to the Canada Health Transfer by 3 per cent, as per the current formula. As well, the Conservatives would maintain the additional Shared Health Priorities funding for mental health and home care for provinces.
The NDP promises to expand the current healthcare model to include mental health, dental, eye, and hearing coverage. Similar to the Liberals, the NDP proposes the implementation of a “pharmacare for all” plan, covering Health Canada-approved drugs..The NDP would also declare a national public health emergency for the opioid crisis.
The Bloc Québécois has warned Ottawa that if a national pharmacare program is to be implemented, Quebec would require new and increased funding. The Bloc also argues that Quebec should be compensated for the cost of pharmaceutical drugs that, according to Bloc research, will go up significantly following the ratification of the new North American free trade deal.
The Green Party has pledged to increase funding for training of doctors and nurses. Like the Liberals and NDP, the Green Party would extend health care coverage to include universal pharmacare, as well as extending free dental care to low-income Canadians. Similar to the NDP, the Greens would declare a national health emergency regarding opioids, and go even further by creating a national drug education strategy, and regulate the distribution of prescription pharmaceuticals to combat the opioid epidemic.
Once again, the policy development of the PPC is limited in regards to healthcare. That being said, the PPC has indicated that it would make provinces and territories responsible for funding and managing health services by replacing the current system of intergovernmental cash payments with a transfer of tax points of equivalent value. This would provide provinces with autonomy of funding, as well as a responsibility for funding in the future.
While similar in some regards, each party presents a distinct perspective in order to draw support. Though notoriously unglamourous, in preparation of the election on October 21st, voters should take note of the parties various social platforms.
Edited by Evelyne Goulet.
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.