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Canada election: 5 economic issues to watch for this campaign

Global News with Melanee Thomas 11 September 2019

 

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau officially launched his bid for re-election Wednesday in a campaign that will focus on his government’s record over the last four years and what parties are offering voters to make life more affordable.

Trudeau’s Liberals will pitch Canadians on his government’s accomplishments, including the creation of the Canada Child Benefit and record-low unemployment levels.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will spend the 40-day campaign pitching their own visions outlining how they plan to do better than the Liberal government when it comes to spurring the economy and tackling issues like climate change.

Here are some of the economic issues voters should watch for during this campaign.

Climate change and the economy

The effects of climate change are already being felt from coast to coast and that issue has emerged as a key one among voters.

The four main parties are offering different paths forward on how to deal with one of the most pressing threats to Canadian society.

The Liberals will build on their plan that prices carbon at $20 a tonne. That prices will rise $10 each year to $50 a tonne in 2022. The Trudeau government has seen fierce pushback from several provinces and the parliamentary budget officer has warned that Canada will fall short of reaching its Paris climate accord targets under the plan.

Following a push from Conservative premiers in Alberta and Ontario, Scheer has said he will eliminate the carbon tax altogether. Instead, he is proposing tax incentives to target large emitters as part of his $2.5-billion climate plan, touted as “tech not taxes.”

The NDP is calling for $15 billion in federal investments in environmental initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which they say would create 300,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, May’s Greens are promising to transition fossil fuel workers to jobs in the renewable energy sector, which includes job retraining programs and massive cleanup projects designed to create employment. The plan also calls for a carbon price for all emitters that will keep increasing until a transition to renewable energy is complete.

Melanee Thomas, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, said Scheer could struggle on this issue as his plan doesn’t set any targets for greenhouse gas reductions, and voters who have climate change top of might turn to the other parties.

“It’ll be interesting to see how people who — on the environment — think that the Liberals haven’t gone far enough, how will they choose between, say, the NDP versus the Greens?” Thomas said.

Pipelines and Alberta

The oil and gas sector is Alberta’s largest industry and voters there have been pushing to build pipelines to get more oil to global markets.

The Trudeau government ultimately bought the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan to help complete the project despite objections from First Nations and the B.C. government.

The Conservatives want to move ahead with the pipeline and have also promised to kill Bill C-69, which the federal government introduced to overhaul Canada’s regulatory process for large resource projects.

The NDP and Greens have vowed to kill the pipeline outright.

“What the Liberals need to do is to say that they are credible actors on the economy and credible actors on the environment,” Thomas said. “And that’s a bit of a difficult needle to thread.”

Jobs, jobs, jobs

The middle class was a major talking point for candidates in 2015 and it will likely be heard again at campaign stops as leaders crisscross the country.

The Liberals come into this election on a jobs high. Unemployment is at a record low and there are more than a million more Canadians working now than when Trudeau became prime minister.

However, Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos, said the Liberals will have to convince voters that things have gotten better over the last four years despite ongoing economic worries.

“Some people aren’t feeling like they’re doing well financially, so there is a bit of a disconnect,” he said.

The other three parties are selling voters on the idea that things could be better. Scheer is pledging lower taxes and “more money in your wallet” while Singh is promising 300,000 new jobs as part of his party’s climate change plan.

Child care

The Canada Child Benefit has been a key part of the Liberals’ policies aimed at “the middle class and those working hard to join it.” The benefits have given roughly $23.7 billion to about 3.7 million Canadians and their families, according to the government. The Liberals recently announced the maximum benefit will increase to $6,639 for each child under the age of six and $5,602 for each child between the ages of six and 17.

Scheer says he will make maternity and paternal benefits “tax-free,” providing a non-refundable tax credit of 15 per cent, and include a corresponding credit to apply in Quebec.

The NDP is planning to invest $1 billion in affordable child care in 2020 with plans to grow that investment annually. The Greens have yet to release any specific plans in this area.

Tackling wireless bills

Rising cellphone and internet bills will be a popular target of campaigns this election.

The NDP has announced it would impose a “price cap” on monthly bills that it estimates will save households about $10 a month for each service.

The Liberals are preparing a campaign pledge to reduce cellphone and internet costs either through a cap on monthly bills or by requiring major service providers to offer mobile virtual network operators

The Greens have pledged to “mandate affordable cellphone plans,” but have not provided any specifics yet. The Conservatives have not released a plan but say more details will be available in the coming weeks.

Melanee Thomas is a political science professor at the University of Calgary.