The exhausted parent’s guide to the federal election

No time (or energy) to research who stands for what? That's OK—we did it for you. Our federal election cheat sheet breaks down each party's position on major family issues.

Federal elections are usually about families, and how to woo them. But getting parents’ attention? Not so easy. How are you supposed to get a full understanding of each party’s promises if you can barely manage to get the dog fed and the laundry done between shuttling kids to and from daycare and school and soccer/ballet/tutoring? Take a breath, and take heart: We’ve got you covered. Let this issue-by-issue cheat sheet on where each party stands be your co-pilot en route to the ballot box October 21 (and yes, that’s one more thing to add to your to-do list: VOTE).

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Child care

The nice thing about being part of an important voting block is that each party falls over itself about how it will help make it easier to have a family. Childcare is, after all, a pocketbook issue: The cost of daycare has risen faster than inflation in 61 percent of Canadian cities since 2017, according to a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In Toronto, the average is something like $1,600 a month.

LIBERALS: Shortly after sweeping to power in the last election, the Liberals introduced the Canada Child Benefit, which has provided a max benefit of $6,400 a year per child under age six (about $530 a month) and $5,400 a year per child aged six to 17 (which looks like $450 a month). This election, the party has promised to beef that up by 15 percent for families with a child under age one, meaning those qualifying parents of a new baby will get up to $1000 a month. They’ve also pledged to make maternity and paternity leave benefits tax-free, introduce a 15-week leave for adoptive parents, and said they’d move ahead with Guaranteed Paid Family Leave—a vague promise to give a guaranteed income to new moms or caregivers of children who don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. Instead of offering subsidized childcare for non-school aged kids, the Liberals have squared focus on before and after school care, which has definitely been a blind spot for provinces who manage childcare spaces: They’re pledging to create 250,000 more before and after-school spaces for kids under age 10, with at least 10 percent of those spots reserved for extended-care hours. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also said his government would lower childcare fees by 10 percent nationwide.

CONSERVATIVES: The Conservatives have tipped their hats to the Liberals by promising to keep the Canada Child Benefit if elected. This party’s approach to childcare is typically a bit more hands-off, focused instead on helping parents make choices for their families (hence why they like the idea of sending a parent a cheque every month and letting them decide how to spend it). Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has also promised to waive taxes on maternity leave benefits (the party says it will save a mother who qualifies for the $50,000 benefit about $4,000). Instead of promising more childcare spaces, the Conservatives have pledged an at least three percent annual increase in transfer spending to the provinces for things like education and healthcare and childcare, so that’s how they’d be indirectly impacting funding for daycare (should the provinces decide to allocate the transfer cash in that way).

NDP: The NDP have the most ambitious childcare plan of all, with a promise to spend $10 billion over the next four years to create 500,000 new childcare spaces. The ultimate goal? To introduce universal childcare in Canada by 2030. At that point, the cost of childcare would cap at $10 a day, like it does in Quebec and in a pilot project currently being carried out in British Columbia. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said new training and fair pay for early childhood educators working in these daycares will be part of the legislation too. This party is also eyeing a rethink of maternity and parental leave, promising to let new parents condense their leaves while still getting the full benefit (the Liberals, over the past four years, encouraged longer leaves, up to 18 months, but with the same amount of money, just spread out).

GREENS: The Greens would like to see through universal childcare by implementing something they’re calling an early learning and childcare (ELCC) system. A Green government would pay the childcare providers and ensure these childcare centres were located on transit routes, so to cut down on gas guzzling vehicles shipping kids to and fro. They’re also pledging to make maternity and paternity leave benefits look a lot more like Quebec’s, with more money, flexibility and inclusivity. If elected, they’d immediately allocate childcare funding to the equivalent of at least one percent GDP annually, which they say will add another $1 billion a year once it’s been in place for awhile. They’d also waive GST on construction costs to build these childcare centres.

 

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Economy

Nobody wants to feel financially stretched, and yet a good economy can’t have Canadians feeling like they’re falling behind—a feeling all four of the major parties are responding to with their messaging on jobs and taxes. They all have different approaches, however, to managing this country’s books.

LIBERALS: The Liberals have had an advantage going into this federal election, given that the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 40 years. The economy is humming along, but that doesn’t necessarily mean life is more affordable. That’s why they said they will raise the basic personal income tax deduction to $15,000 for people earning under $147,000 a year. If you care about balanced budgets to alleviate national debt for future generations, then this might not be the right party for you. The Liberals promised to balance the books by 2019 when elected four years ago, but by the looks of things now, they will probably not get close to balance until 2040, given that this platform includes $9.3 billion in new spending, as the deficit rises to $27.4 billion that same fiscal year.

CONSERVATIVES: It’s Scheer and his party’s goal to keep government out of Canadians’ pockets as much as possible, which helps explain a number of tax credits on offer—for example, they’ll refund up to $150 on back taxes per child up to age 16 if they play sports or are enrolled in fitness classes (half of that if the kid’s more of the artsy type—in that case $75 can be paid back). This is a bit of a throwback to the boutique family-focused tax credits of the Harper era. They’ve also promised a “universal tax cut,” which would trim back the rate on taxable income under $47,630 from 15 to 13.74 percent over three years. The Conservatives have sworn they will balance the books while cutting taxes (one early indicator of how he’ll do this might be his promise to slash foreign aid by 25% and reinvest that money saved into tax cuts).

NDP: The NDP’s big message this election is that the economy is doing well…if you’re rich. Their focus is on making life more affordable for people who need it, so their taxation promises have a lot to do with dinging the affluent. Their plan is to boost capital gains taxes from 50 to 75 percent, meaning there’s more tax to be paid on profits from stocks or property sales than you’d pay, say, on your home. They want to place a one-percenter tax hike on anyone making more than $20 million and raise the nation’s top earners’ personal income tax rate from 33 percent to 35. There are no plans to balance the budget.

GREENS: The Greens would like to move the workforce to a green economy and protect workers from tech disruptions, such as the rise of artificial intelligence, which they say will steal jobs from Canadians (they want to tax tech multinationals like Google, Amazon and Uber). They’re also keen to tax the super-wealthy and “reform” the taxation system so that it’s more equitable, and boost the federal corporate tax rate from 15 to 21 percent.

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Crime

While the overall crime rate has been on the decline in recent years, gang-related homicides in Canada have risen since the last election—increasing from 82 in 2014 to 157 in 2018, according to Statistics Canada. The increase in mass shootings in the United States over the past four years has clearly shaken us north of the border, and ideas for how to avoid a Canadianized version of that madness differ across party lines.

LIBERALS: We’ve heard a lot from the Liberals about gun control in this election so far. Trudeau appeared at the scene of a shooting last summer on Toronto’s Danforth Ave. at which young Liberal Reese Fallon, 18, was killed and promised a ban on semi-automatic assault-style rifles. He also pledged to buy back any of these guns that were bought legally. The party, however, has stopped short of calling for a national handgun ban, which is supported by many mayors in the Greater Toronto Area (handguns were the murder weapon in 63.5 percent of gun-related homicides in 2018). They’ve pledged to distribute $250 million to Canadian municipalities over five years to help them find solutions to gang violence and violent crime. There is also no plan to revive the controversial long-gun registry (probably because western and rural voters did not like it).

CONSERVATIVES: Scheer and his team want to crack down on gangs, including tougher sentences for members and for those who carry out violent attacks. He is also trying to contrast his response to firearms use against Trudeau’s by saying he wouldn’t ban guns, but would instead go after the perpetrators of gun violence. He wants to give ample prison time to those who’ve smuggled guns into Canada, and temporarily seize guns in the possession of anyone in a mental-health crisis. Scheer also wants to give Canadian police forces more tools to help fight guns and gang violence.

NDP: The New Democrats seem to be looking towards the root causes of gangs in their effort to stop gun violence from increasing in Canada. Their plan? $100 million over five years to fund after-school programs, sports and drop-in centres that will be more appealing to teenagers than joining a gang. Singh said his party would also create a new RCMP unit to stop money laundering

GREENS: A Green government would decriminalize drug possession and lower the price of cannabis sold from federal agencies to compete with the black market. Green Party leader Elizabeth May said she would also eliminate mandatory minimum criminal sentences.

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Environment

In an election season marked by young people flooding the streets of cities across the world to protest inaction on climate change, there is one piece of refreshing news: All parties agree that climate change is a serious problem, as do 82 percent of Canadians, according to an August poll from Abacus Research. But each party has a different approach to tackling it (and how to pay for tackling it).

LIBERALS: The carbon tax was a political fail for the Liberals in the 2008 election under then-leader Stéphane Dion. But Trudeau promised to introduce carbon pricing (which taxes polluters, including companies and individual households) if elected in 2015 and so it became law in fall of 2018 under Bill C-74. They’re doubling down on this tax in this election (and still promising the rebate they offered in the 2019 tax season), and swear they will phase out coal by 2030 and get to net-zero emissions by 2050. The Liberals say they will help retrofit 1.5 million Canadian homes to help make them more energy-efficient and climate disaster resistant. Homeowners and landlords who pursue eco-friendly renovations would qualify for an interest-free loan of up to $40,000. They’d also plant two billion trees over a decade and support reforestation efforts. There’s some skepticism as to how serious the Liberals are about making meaningful change: Despite calling a climate emergency in June, they’re nowhere near meeting the Paris Agreement targets they committed to in early 2016. They also bought a pipeline.

CONSERVATIVES: The Conservatives are approaching climate change as a business opportunity—pledging green jobs, clean tech and protection against pollution. They hate the carbon tax, and are in support of a number of Conservative-led provinces, including Ontario, which have taken the feds to court over the tax (these efforts have so far failed). But Scheer is actually not really in favour of cutting a carbon tax, environmental researchers Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Leach told Chatelaine: They’re promising financial penalties on big polluters, which is essentially carbon pricing. They’re also pledging to take Canada’s fight against climate change “global” by saying Canada will get an “emissions credit” for shipping natural gas to China. Experts fear the Conservatives climate plan will not actually reduce emissions.

NDP: The NDP’s plan to tackle climate change also focuses on transforming the economy and creating green jobs. They also promise to set science-based emissions reductions targets for 2030 that will help stabilize the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius. They also specifically mention how they’ll respect Indigenous rights in their efforts to grow a green economy. They’ve committed to getting all new buildings “net-zero ready” by 2030 and drop fossil fuel subsidies immediately. Importantly for families, the NDP plans to amp up public transit funding to make “interested municipalities” offer the service free of charge.

GREENS: Not surprisingly, the Greens have the most ambitious climate change plan of all the parties, though climate experts say it’s also the best thought out. They plan to cut carbon emissions by 2030 (legislating a reduction of emissions to 60 percent below 2005 levels — which might be a teense unrealistic), work with Indigenous leaders and flat-out cancel the Trans-mountain pipeline (no other party has said they would do that). They’d also make electric cars more affordable and renew the National Forest Strategy, a plan that existed from 2003-2008 to help sustain Canada’s canopy. They want to retrofit all buildings in Canada to be energy-efficient and retrain oil and gas workers to work in the new green economy. They also want to treat climate efforts as if it’s all-out war, creating an internal cabinet to tackle the crisis and stop construction of the pipeline.

Read more:
How to raise a green kid without freaking them out
Why I don’t shield my kids from the news

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