Analysis of Canadian Federal Election Platforms (2015)


I finally finished reading the election platforms (for Conservatives, Greens, Liberals, and NDP). I suspect that this makes me more informed than most people, but (unfortunately) still not informed enough to know who to vote for. It also made me wish they would get them out earlier. I had originally planned to make a big web page comparing them, but it would probably take a long time. So, unless someone wants me to, I probably won't.

Instead, you get a short (i.e. long) form:
  1. The Conservatives have the most readable platform per unit length, but it is also the longest (about twice the runner-up). The Liberal's is the clearest and most direct (although it has fuzzy parts). The Green's is the most pleasant to read, although I am starting to think they have a longer on-line one.

    The Greens released their platform on September 8th, the Liberals on October 5th, and the Conservatives and NDP on October 8th. Here, I like the Green way best.

  2. The Conservative platform is basically that they will keep doing what they have been doing. I think it is mostly current government policy restated, so it is often hard to tell which of their policies the other parties agree with implicitly.

  3. The Green Party will not form the government. In fact, the only way I can imaging them having any power is if they form an essential part of a coalition. For example, if they get 2 seats (what they currently have), the Conservatives get 168, and the two team up (giving them a combined majority of 170 / 338).

  4. Platform summaries:
    1. Conservatives: Their (mostly economic) record. We have done well, but there is danger coming. We will have low taxes, balanced budgets, and a strong economy. From that everything else follows. Let us stay in power or the other guys will wreck everything.
    2. Greens: Splendid isolationism. Let's isolate Canada from the rest of the world as much as possible and build our own hippyish Utopia. We will improve everything by focusing on real human goods like health, community, environment (ecological and social), and spending time with loved ones. This will make people happier than focusing on stand-in measurements like GDP.
    3. Liberals: Stimulus. The Conservatives are wrecking everything and the country is worse and worse off. Elect us and we will fix everything. Mostly by borrowing money for new government programs that we are calling infrastructure regardless of actual program goal.
    4. NDP: Wealth redistribution. Things in Canada used to be great. Then the Liberals messed it up. Then the Conservatives didn't fix it. But we will, and without deficits. Also, here are a whole bunch of targeted policies for interest groups.

  5. There is a huge discrepancy in the Conservative's record, depending on who you ask. The Conservatives like saying they have done the most and best at things others say they did horribly at. The nasty thing about statistics is that both stated claims can be true at the same time. A few examples:
    1. Environmental: The Conservatives say they are the only government to ever cut greenhouse gas emissions, and they have made Canada a world leader in clean energy. The other parties say they blew the green technology advantage we had a decade ago and have done (next to) nothing for the environment.
    2. Health Care: The Conservatives say that they have raised health care spending by 70% over 10 years in power. The other parties accuse them of drastic cuts. The 70% comes out to a 5% annual increase which, when compared to inflation, doesn't seem like a lot. Presumably the other parties would have raised it more.
    3. Military: The Conservatives claim that they have updated the military and restored it to effective operation after the Liberals spent a decade neglecting it. The other parties say that the Conservatives wrecked it.

  6. For issue voters:
    1. The Conservatives are against abortion and do not fund it internationally. They fund health care for new mothers and their children instead. The NDP will devote more money to abortion nationally and fund it abroad. The Liberals will probably fund it abroad, or at least that is what I get from "the full range of reproductive health services" (p. 65).
    2. The NDP wants the GLBT[add letters to taste] vote. They list them as a preferred minority for several policies (along with women/girls, the poor, Natives, etc.). They will also pass hate speech laws about "gender identify and gender expression".
    3. The Conservatives stand by Bill C-51 (the government spies on people in case they are terrorists). The NDP and Greens will repeal it. The Liberals are playing the center and want to weaken it but not throw it out entirely.
    4. The Conservatives will hold a free vote on euthanasia. The Greens will "Address... the Supreme Court of Canada decision to allow physician-assisted death" (p.19). The Liberals and NDP don't say, so I assume they will leave it legal.
    5. The Greens and Liberals will legalize marijuana. The NDP will decriminalize it and might legalize it. The Conservatives will keep it illegal.

  7. If you want serious change, vote for the Greens. They claim to no longer be a single issue party and make a good case for it. They want to totally change how the country operates. Our primary-industry economy will be refocused on value-added and service jobs. They will enact a carbon tax (presumably hefty) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. They will make post-secondary education free. They want comprehensive self-governance for the First Nations and will repeal the Indian Act (if a referendum of First Nations people passes). They will replace existing welfare programs with a Guaranteed Living Income and (or maybe including) yearly checks to all citizens over 18 (this is where the carbon tax money goes). They will create a universal child care system. And of course, they will not be elected to do any of this.

    Personally, I don't think this will work. People won't vote for it. If they did, they would vote it out again when it became clear it was leaving them poorer than other people (like the Quiet Revolution in Quebec). Even if it did make people happier and they understood well enough to keep it, the rest of the world would move on. Eventually, some other technologically-superior power would march in and force us to give it up (like China behind the Great Wall). All this is rather sad; it does sound like a very nice place to live. We regret the fall of Eden even now.

    Note: This does not mean I agree with all Green policies.

  8. The Liberal's stimulus is less impressive then it sounds. For one thing, the Conservatives want you to know that they already increased infrastructure spending from $0.6 billion to $5 billion (3 times previous record) over their decade in power, and have existing plans for $84 billion over the next 10 years. All infrastructure by other parties is in addition to this. The Liberals want to spend $60 billion (more) over 10 years, or about $6 billion a year. Except that there is a fair-sized dip in the year before the next election to allow the budget to be balanced, followed by a big increase. And some of the money is for things like recreation and seniors benefits, which don't sound like infrastructure to me. In contrast, the NDP wants to spend a total of $5.8 billion a year (same amount each year) on genuine infrastructure (roads, etc.), transit, transfers to municipalities (who will presumably spend it on infrastructure), and addressing climate change (which the Liberals count). The Greens want to transfer $6.4 billion a year to municipalities (1% of federal budget) to spend as they wish (i.e. on infrastructure). And the Conservatives, of course, think their $84 billion over 10 years already is enough.

  9. Nobody likes our current government system. The Greens and the NDP want to replace our First Past The Post election system (i.e. most votes wins in each riding) with proportionate representation. In its simplest form, this means that you just vote for a party and seats are divided up based on the popular vote. You don't get a candidate for your riding, although this doesn't stop the Greens from promising that all Green candidates will put the good of their respective ridings over political power seeking. The Liberals also want to change the system, although they haven't decided what they want instead. But don't worry -- they promise to have it in place before the next election.

    In contrast, the Conservatives promise a bill to makes anything like this require a referendum. I see their point here: balancing war with ISIS against tax rates is hard enough. I don't think how we choose our government is even the same kind of choice. Any anyway, allowing governments to revise how their successors are chosen whenever they want could turn "we decree we stay in power forever" scary.

    And then there's the Senate. The Conservatives have tried 3 ways to reform it, and are now busily retrying not appointing senators until reform happens. They are proud to report this has save the country $6 million so far, although no reform have happened yet. The Greens will make the senate elected by securing the support of the provinces (where the Conservatives got stuck). The NDP will use the support of the provinces to abolish the senate entirely. The Liberals will change the appointment process somehow, although they again haven't worked out the details. I guess it could work, in which case it might or might not make things better. I wish the Liberals would work out their policies before the election.

  10. Internationally, the Greens, Liberals, and NDP will pull our troops out of the war against ISIS in Syria/Iraq. The Liberals and NDP want to run more peacekeeping missions instead. The Greens aren't saying, but I suspect they just want to stay home. The Conservatives will keep up the bombing, on the grounds that if they stopped things would get even worse.

    The Conservatives will take in 10,000 Syrian refuges over 1 year. The NDP will take in about 10,000 every year. The Liberals and the Greens will take in 25,000 total. Everyone promises more aid.

    The Greens, Liberals, and NDP also agree that Canada should follow UN lead internationally. Maybe we could get our Security Council seat back. Apparently we lost this, and they blame Conservative foreign policy, which probably makes sense. After all, current Conservative policy is to tell the UN to take a hike and go off and fight (or impose sanctions) for things like democracy, religious freedom, and stopping human rights abuses. All good causes, of course, but sometimes coordinated action is useful.

  11. There is a lot about child care, and I have a friend who worries about it a lot, so that will be my last point. Here, every party will give you something. For reference there are about 5.75 million children under 15 in the country. The biggest offer may be the Greens, who will offer universal child care. The main competitor is the NDP, who will offer an additional 1 million spots at no more than $15/day. They don't say if they will do anything to reduce the price of existing ones. The Liberals will do a lot, although again they don't give details. The Conservatives don't approve of child care and will only offer an additional $1000 expense deduction (whatever that is).

    Also of relevance, the Conservatives will leave their income splitting for families policy in place, while all other parties will cancel it. This is essentially a tax break for stay-at-home parents. Note however, that the Liberals will increase the benefits for parents (i.e. send them more money) by more than this, while also simplifying the system (which is complicated). The NDP will increase parental leave, while the Conservatives will make it more flexible, but not increase the total payout. The other parties leave that alone.

    Overall, the Greens and NDP want the government to raise the children while their mothers enter the formal workforce. Admittedly, a fair fraction would be child care providers, but they would be in the formal labour market, so they would pay taxes and increase GDP. I actually find this rather odd for the Green Party, but oh well. I guess it's good politics. The Conservatives are trying to nudge mothers into staying home and raise their own children through tax incentives. I assume they don't say it outright to avoid a feminist backlash. The Liberals just want to give parents (especially poor ones) enough money to do whatever they want.

And yes, that was the short version. All right, the medium version. But there are plenty of other things I could say. The Conservative policy of using (non-refundable) tax breaks for everything means that the poor often don't get the benefit. There is stuff about seniors, and stuff about corporate tax rates. What should we do about the mess the First Nations are in? The questions go on and on. And I still don't know who to vote for.


I got this response from the friend I mentioned caring a lot about child care:
I do care a lot about the childcare, since children are our future, but there have been many studies that have brought a high concern to how children develop while in daycare. IMHO the best thing is for the government to pay 1 parent to stay home for the first 5 years of a child's life, and offer better child support funds to parents who either remain at home, or who work part-time as the child grows up. Universal childcare is NOT the answer, as there is now significant evidence that many children who were "socialized" or raised in a daycare, end up having many serious and crippling issues by the time they reach thier teens... Which is starting to open up understanding on why suiside and shootings are happening so much more frequently... Children are ment to be raised and "poured into" endlessly by thier parents, but instead are the subject of peer criticism and conflict starting at the tender age of 1. How and where is a child supposed to find safety, security, and identity if thier own parents are not able to provide it? Really, the daycare system is the modern-day orphanage.... And there is so much evidence in literature and history that points to orphanage children becoming the "scum" of the next generation.... Even in places that do thier best, the adults are still only able to be the police in a child-governed state. This kind of system is not a "investment" in any sense of the word. There is a great quote in the movie A Cinderella Story: "If you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?"
My responses to this were:
  1. I agree with you about child care being bad. Remember?

    Also, here's a link:

  2. I continue to disagree with you about whether the government should pay parents to look after children. In a large part because I think it is unnecessary. Given the choice and necessary resources, I think parents would largely choose to look after their own children. (link updated 2017-04-21)

    Note that these statistics are based on what people would choose with limited finances. Given more money, I expect that even more would prefer to care for their own children.

  3. For a really long analysis of the arguments for and against child care, see:

  4. You only get to choose between the options offered by the existing parties. That is what I was listing here.

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