The best of all policies: my wish for the ideal platform

I’m often asked which opposition party, with a potential to win the election, has the better platform when it comes to tackling climate change and inequality – the two great inconvenient truths of our time, and the focus of much of our work at CCPA. (I’m leaving out from this comparison the Conservatives, who have thus far proposed nothing meaningful in this campaign to address either of these urgent issues, and the Greens, who have some very good policies with respect to both, but who have no chance of forming government.)

So here’s the thing. When it comes to those core issues, both the NDP and Liberal plans have their strengths (and weaknesses). And neither have released their full platforms at the time of this writing.

Both have a dog’s breakfast of positions on tarsands pipelines. Both parties are strongly opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline, but highly confusing when it comes to Energy East and Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain. The NDP is stronger against Keystone XL.

They are both sounding pretty good on carbon pricing, and are offering a modest grab-bag of other climate action policies. (Stay tuned for more CCPA platform analysis in the coming weeks.)

The Liberals have a better position on raising personal income taxes for the rich, but are proposing to offset much of this with a cut to the middle tax bracket (on incomes between $45-89K) that is expensive and unnecessary, and also benefits upper-income people. Effectively, their tax package mostly shuffles income within the top 20% of income earners (for more on the distribution of the Liberal’s proposed tax rate changes, see this post from CCPA senior economist David Macdonald).

The Liberals have sensibly chosen not to run on cutting the small business tax rate, a silly and cynical NDP proposal that will have no economic benefit and would give a tax cut to wealthy lawyers, doctors and other high-earners who structure their income as a business. The NDP, however, have a better and much-needed position on raising the general corporate income tax rate.

Both wisely promise to scrap income-splitting for families with children, and would redeploy those tax resources in better ways. And both have said they would not increase the contribution ceiling for Tax Free Savings Accounts (as the Conservatives recently did in a brash gift to the wealthy).

The Liberals have a better position on scrapping the mis-named Universal Child Care Benefit and turning it into a targeted Child Benefit, while the NDP have a much stronger position on building a true national child care program, with fees capped at $15 a day.

The NDP are rightly proposing to re-establish a federal minimum wage, which the Liberals have oddly opposed. Both parties have proposed worthwhile infrastructure plans that would provide a boost to job creation.

The Liberals have made some important announcements with respect to tackling Aboriginal poverty, while the NDP have done similarly for seniors’ poverty.

And no doubt we’ll hear more specifics from both parties in the days to come (so far, online details are thin).

For those wanting to see what a truly ambitious and comprehensive plan to tackle inequality would look like, check out the CCPA’s new platform to end inequality.

On overall fiscal policy, the NDP, in a ridiculous grab for the center, have committed to a balanced budget from the get-go. This is an economically and socially foolhardy promise given the state of the economy and the likelihood of an inherited deficit from the Conservative government (according to the Parliamentary Budget Office). And it makes no sense to promise a balanced budget when there is such a desperate need to invest public dollars to meet our climate obligations (transit, green infrastructure, renewable energy, etc.) and deal with social needs from affordable housing to seniors care. That said, hearing the party of Paul Martin disparage austerity is a bit rich.

Of course if there were a minority government outcome, all the parties would be “liberated” from the most ill-conceived elements of their platforms, and instead would have to bargain hard for their preferred ideas. Then the next government could cobble together a new program that draws upon the best from all platforms, the result of which could be the start of a real agenda to address climate and inequality.

Seth Klein is Director of CCPA’s BC Office. Follow Seth on Twitter @SethDKlein.


  1. Leaving out the Greens because they have “no chance of forming government” is rather short-sighted. As long as they’re dismissed as having no chance, of course they never will under our FPP electoral system which encourages “strategic voting” and disadvantages parties that actually have significant support but people are afraid to actually vote for them.

    If their policies were promoted rather than disregarded as not having a shot, then — funny thing — they might have a shot. Maybe not government, not yet, but maybe the opposition. Or in a minority government situation, having just a few seats grants a whole lot of power in close votes and gives a smaller party a louder voice for implementing changes according to their platform, representing the will of the Canadians who voted for them.

    In other words — focusing on the platforms of the 2 main non-contenders (lib and ndp) is logical enough. But if the Greens actually come the closest to your ideal platform, that should be noted, trumpeted, and shouted to the world. Two elections ago, nobody thought the NDP stood a chance in hell of ever forming government. Not long before that, they barely were even holding on to official party status and were as under-represented in Parliament as the Greens are now. And now look at them — they stand a real solid shot of winning this election. That could be the Greens in a couple of election cycles.

    But not if they’re dismissed even by the organizations that have the most to gain from Greens earning more power. By doing so, you’re dooming yourselves (or at least contributing to the doom) to the same back-and-forth between the nearly-identical main parties we’ve had all along. If you truly want a new vision for an ‘ideal platform’ on the environment and equality, it’s never going to happen if you continue to only talk about the old guard parties.

  2. “The Greens…have no chance of forming government.” Ignoring the Greens and their “very good policies” is one way of helping ensure that they do not have a chance of forming government. Granting your assumption, however, they do have a chance of playing an important role in a coalition government, and that possibility, which you point out, means their “very good policies” deserve exposure as much as those of the other parties.

  3. It’s unfortunate that the media continues to sideline the Green Party entirely in discussions like this; that lack of coverage of their policies is precisely the reason why support for them remains so small, and why millions of voters remain uninformed about what one of the options on their ballot stands for. When we’re discussing climate change in particular, it needs to be noted that neither the Liberal proposals nor the NDP ones come anywhere close to doing what climate science insists is absolutely necessary to avoid a global catastrophe. With the science regularly indicating that the time frame for urgent action is absolutely imminent, if it’s not too late already, whenever we engage in the climate change policy discussion by considering the relative merits of two different plans that are both guaranteed to roast all of our grandchildren, while casually sidelining any discussion of what is necessary to avoid that, we’re doing worse than shuffling the Titanic’s deck chairs — we might as well be rooting for the iceberg.

    1. thanks, Seth. It is really important to look at Green Party ideas, particularly a commitment to collaboration and co-operation, which is the point of your article.

  4. Thank you for committing to including the greens in future discussions! I can understand excluding them from consideration for prime minister, but in an article about how great coalitions are, the greens should be more than a footnote!

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