October 5, 2015 2:29 pm
Updated: October 16, 2015 3:17 pm

What you need to know about the Liberal election platform

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau holds up his party's platform at a press conference in Waterloo, Ont. on Monday, October 5, 2015.

Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press
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Liberal leader Justin Trudeau released his party’s full election platform Monday morning.

It’s a comprehensive 88-page document, outlining many different policies – and happens to be the first complete platform released by the top three parties this election. (The Greens released theirs in early September.)

Here’s what the Liberal party is promising on some of the big issues:

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More money for poor parents; no money for rich ones

The party plans to replace the Conservatives’ Universal Child Care Benefit with their own “Canada Child Benefit”.

The Liberal child benefit will scale with income, whereas the Conservative program and the $15-a-day child care promised by the NDP (to be rolled out by 2023) would apply to everyone.

According to the Liberal platform a one-child family with an income of $90,000 will get $3,245 per year, compared to $2,125 under the Conservative program. Families with combined incomes of $200,000 will get nothing.

The party’s reasoning is that by taking away this benefit from wealthier people who don’t need it, they can give more to lower-income families. Economists say this is a more efficient way of helping people who need it the most. It doesn’t address the shortage of childcare spaces that exists in many Canadian communities, however.

Lower taxes for some, higher taxes for others

The Liberals would cut income taxes for people earning between $44,700 and $89,401 to 20.5 per cent from 22 per cent, and pay for it by raising taxes on people earning more than $200,000 per year from 29 per cent to 33 per cent – creating a new tax bracket for that group. They would also cancel the Conservatives’ $2.4 billion-a-year income-splitting program for parents of young children, which the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said will disproportionately benefit wealthy families.

Health:

A Liberal government would invest $3 billion over four years into home care services.

That’s a significant investment, says Michel Grignon, head of McMaster University’s Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis. Right now, Canada’s provinces spend a total of $4 billion a year on home care.

“Would that be enough? Depends on how much is transferred from residential care or [alternate level of care] beds in hospitals,” he said in an email.

“However, this is substantial however we look at it (and, I would add, welcomed, as home care is underfunded in Canada and individuals sometimes end up in residential care because it is better covered, not because they prefer it).”

They want to negotiate a new health accord with the provinces and collaborate with provincial governments on bulk drug purchases and a potential National Disabilities Act. They’ve said they want to make prescription drugs cheaper but haven’t committed to a universal pharmacare program. Though it’s not in the platform, Trudeau has promised to renegotiate the Canada Health Transfer – but not necessarily maintain the 6 per cent annual increase that was diminished by the federal government.

Of course, what they can do in this regard depends heavily on whether provinces buy in.

Seniors:

The Liberals restore the eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 65 from 67 and increase seniors’ guaranteed income supplement by 10 per cent. As Canada’s senior population grows, this promise could be pricey.

Infrastructure:

The Liberals want to invest $20 billion in public transit over 10 years, almost $20 billion more over 10 years for affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, early learning and recreational facilities; and $6 billion for green infrastructure over four years. They would also create various tax incentives and other programs to encourage the construction of both rental market and social housing.

This would amount to about $5 billion more in 2016-17 and 2017-18, dropping to $3.5 billion extra for the two years after that. Funding is broken down evenly between the transit, social and green infrastructure spending categories.

Employment:

The Liberals promise to invest $775 million a year on job and skills development, much of it tied to existing provincial and territorial programs. They also want to repeal Bills C-377 and C-525, which forced labour unions to disclose how they spent money and made changes to how unions are certified.

They say they’d reduce the waiting period for EI benefits from two weeks to one.

Open government:

The Liberals want to eliminate fees (except for the $5 application fee) on federal Access to Information requests and empower the Information Commission to issue orders forcing departments to disclose information. (Right now her orders aren’t binding.)

The Liberals also want to ban “partisan” government ads, creating an Advertising Commissioner who would review ads to ensure that they are non-partisan and represent “a legitimate public service announcement,” though the platform doesn’t explain what exactly that would mean.

They will also limit political party spending between elections (though they don’t give a specific number) and create a committee to review Canada’s plurality voting system and explore other options.

They also plan to restore the Long-Form Census and create a Chief Science Officer, who would “ensure that government science is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions.”

Environment:

The Liberals want to establish national emissions-reduction targets and give provinces money to help them design their own emissions policies – though no specific targets are mentioned.

They’d give existing “clean technology” producers $100 million a year and spend $200 million a year on innovative clean technology in the natural resource sector, though how exactly these are defined is still unclear.

The party will review the environmental assessment process to provide ways for Canadians to express their views and “restore robust oversight” of assessments, and increase the number of protected bodies of water.

First Nations, Inuit and Metis issues:

An additional $300 million a year in First Nations education on top of what the Conservatives have already committed, an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and to enact the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation commission.

The NDP has also pledged to look into the TRC recommendations, though they wouldn’t necessarily adopt all recommendations. The Conservatives have only promised to study the recommendations.

Crime and security:

The Liberals plan to repeal “the problematic elements” of Bill C-51, which they had originally voted for. The platform doesn’t say which elements are considered problematic though.

They’d introduce an all-party national security oversight committee, guarantee that CSIS warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and define “terrorist propaganda” – a particularly controversial part of the legislation – more clearly. They don’t offer a better definition in their platform though.

They won’t re-instate the national long-gun registry but do want “enhanced” background checks for people wanting to buy handguns or restricted firearms. And they’d give local police forces $100 million for guns and gangs task forces.

The Liberals also plan to “legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana.” This means removing marijuana consumption from the Criminal Code, and creating a system of marijuana sales and distribution.

Immigration:

A Liberal government would double the number of immigration applications for parents and grandparents from 5,000 to 10,000 and double the budget for processing family class sponsorships. They would also grant immediate permanent residency to new spouses entering Canada.

They would also admit 25,000 more Syrian refugees immediately and restore temporary federal health benefits to refugees and refugee claimants.

Paying for their promises:

The Liberals are the only party planning to run deficits in order to pay for their investments. They say that these will be less than $10 billion in the next two fiscal years.

The full Liberal platform is available on their website.

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