Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders’ debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.
The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.
The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canada’s disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.
“We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that don’t get addressed,” Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.”
Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canada’s disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.
They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.
The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.
The Green party did not respond to request for comment, and the People’s Party of Canada said its platform contained “no policy related to disabled persons.”
The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.
The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.
Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.
“The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures,” reads the NDP’s response. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.”
The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.” Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.
The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.
“Canada’s approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve,” Peters said. “Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.”
Other disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.
While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.
Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a person’s identity.
Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.
A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.
“That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities,” Haagaard said.
Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.
Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties’ failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.
“What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us,” she said. “Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other words — most of us.”
Elizabeth May is surprisingly cheerful for an environmental crusader worried that the civilization may be on the brink of collapse by the time her 43-year-old daughter reaches May’s own age of 65.
It’s because after being a party of one for eight years in Parliament and only graduating to a party of two earlier this year, the Green party leader says this federal election — her fourth — feels different.
Support is coming in unexpected places, she says forcing her to run something closer to a truly national campaign and visit ridings that weren’t previously on her itinerary.
The polls reflect some of that. May has the highest approval rating of the leaders on the CBC’s Leader Meter.
Her party’s support has nearly doubled in the past year to close to 10 per cent, which would translate into anywhere from one to eight seats with four seats being the consensus prediction.
But the Greens have been here before. They polled at close to 10 per cent in 2010 long before the prospect of a dystopian future drove tens of thousands of Canadians into the streets last month.
Many of those marchers, like the climate strike’s founder Greta Thunberg, are too young to vote and are too young to be surveyed about voting intentions in Canada’s upcoming federal election.
As a politician, May laughingly told The Vancouver Sun’s editorial board that she should be talking about measuring for new curtains in the prime minister’s resident in anticipation of moving in.
But she’s a pragmatist and what is within reach in 2019 is holding the balance of power — or the balance of responsibility, as she describes it — in a minority government.
Unlike the B.C. Green party, May would make no deals to support either the Conservatives or the Liberals.
She’d use her few seats as a club to force the prime minister to either bend policies — especially on the environment — to something closer to the Greens’ platform or she’d bring down the government.
For many, the Greens’ plan is scary, requiring radical and fundamental changes to retool the Canadian economy, its social programs and even individuals’ expectations and habits.
May admits that.
By 2030, her plan would cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent from the 2005 levels, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above global pre-industrial averages. Within a decade, a Green Canada would be fully powered by renewable energy.
Quoting an October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, May says it’s all do-able and that the needed technology already exists to avoid going above 1.5 degrees C.
Citing a National Research Council projection, the Greens’ platform says four million jobs would be created in energy efficiency retrofits compared with the 62,000 Canadians working in oil and gas in 2018.
But May admits some will disappear and talks about a “just transition” for workers that would include more education spending, bridging of some workers to early retirement and a guaranteed livable income, which would replace and build on disability payments, social assistance and income supplements.
“It’s a tough choice and I’m not saying that people will never sacrifice,” May said. “But we’re talking about whether our children are able to have anything above a deteriorating human civilization all around them …
“A functioning human civilization is at risk within the lifetime of my daughter to be able to have basic elements of a functioning human society.”
But if the Greens hold the balance of power in a post-Oct. 21 Parliament, it’s not just the environmental agenda that may influence new legislation.
May frequently references the 1960s minority government of Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson that with support of the NDP (then named the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), which resulted in universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance and the flag (which, bizarrely, was the most controversial).
So beyond an improved climate plan, what do the Greens want? Proportional representation rather than a first-past-the-post voting system has always been high on its list both federally and provincially. The Liberals promised it in 2015 and reneged. A Liberal minority government might be willing to rethink that.
The Greens’ platform calls for decriminalization of drug possession and access to “a safe, screened supply.” The Conservatives have resolutely said no, while the Liberals have said no for now.
May is actively supporting Wilson-Raybould’s bid to win re-election as an Independent in Vancouver-Granville. Wilson-Raybould was forced out of the Liberal Party after she publicly accused Justin Trudeau and his staff of inappropriately pressuring her to stop the prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
The only reason there is a Green candidate in that riding is because running the party’s constitution requires one in every federal riding.
But would May be willing to bring down the new government — Liberal or Conservative — if it agreed to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement?
May could play a pivotal role in forging a better response to the climate emergency and even help return Canada to a leadership role if she can muster the kind of patience, diplomacy and intelligence that NDP leader Tommy Douglas exercised in the 1960s.
And if she can’t? Well, we’ll have another election sooner rather than later and by then, at least some of those climate-striking kids will have reached voting age.
A federal election 2019 platform primer: Brief summaries of where the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens stand on 12 major issues, and highlights of what they are promising Canadians.
Climate change/carbon tax/fossil fuels
The Liberals commit to planting two billion trees in a $3 billion plan to conserve forests, agricultural lands, wetlands and coastal areas. They promise carbon neutrality — balancing emissions against carbon offsets — by 2050 and to halve taxes for companies that develop or manufacture products with zero emissions. They propose interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to make homes more energy efficient and a grant for people who buy carbon neutral homes. They plan to send disadvantaged kids to camp so they’ll learn to love the outdoors.
The Conservatives promise to meet Canada’s Paris commitment to cut emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, but provide few specifics. They would scrap the carbon tax. They believe Canada would make little impact on climate change by reducing emissions at home, so would make Canadian oil and gas cleaner to replace dirtier products from other countries. The parliamentary budget office says the party’s green homes tax credit for energy-saving renovations would cost $1.8 billion over three years.
The NDP promises to help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 C. It would continue carbon pricing and will clamp down on big polluters. It would move government vehicles to electric by 2025. It would retrofit all housing stock in Canada by 2050, giving low-interest loans to homeowners. It says all new buildings would have net-zero emissions by 2030. It would power Canada with net carbon-free electricity by 2030. To pay for these steps, it would redirect the billions spent on oil and gas subsidies.
The Greens pledge $3.2 billion over five years to help keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 C. They would go beyond the Paris targets, promising a 60 per cent cut in carbon emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, and to set emission limits and penalties for industries. By 2030, all of Canada’s electricity would come from renewable sources. The party would fund building retrofits and ensure new construction meets carbon neutral standards by 2030. It would reduce nitrogen fertilizers and support farmers to shift to regenerative farming.
Trans Mountain pipeline
Leader Justin Trudeau made a bargain on the environment and the economy: Cancel the Northern Gateway oil pipeline, approve the Trans Mountain expansion, create a national carbon tax and get concessions from Alberta, including phasing out coal energy and capping oilsands emissions. In 2018, Trudeau bought Trans Mountain for $4.5 billion. A second approval for pipeline expansion was given in June. Said Trudeau: “We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future.”
Leader Andrew Scheer supports the Trans Mountain expansion. But more is needed to encourage oil and gas projects, say Conservatives. That includes repealing the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which overhauled federal environmental assessments of major construction projects, and ending the ban on shipping oil on the B.C. north coast. Scheer would use federal powers to declare a major project in the national interest. Criticizing the Liberal approach, Scheer said: “Not a single inch of new pipeline has been laid.”
Leader Jagmeet Singh wants the Trans Mountain expansion abandoned, saying it will undermine efforts to fight climate change. The NDP also worry about ocean spill risks. Approval of the project ignores violations of Indigenous rights, says the party. In criticizing Liberal approval of the project, Singh said: “While they’re great with symbolic gestures like voting for a climate change emergency, they do the opposite of helping the environment the very next day with the approval of this pipeline expansion.”
Green leader Elizabeth May was arrested in Burnaby in 2018 for protesting the Trans Mountain expansion. “The commitment to build a pipeline in 2018, when we are in climate crisis, is a crime against future generations and I will not be part of it,” said May. The Greens would cancel the project. The party would cut subsidies to fossil fuel industries of several billion dollars a year and would redirect the money toward a transition to renewable energy.
The Liberals promise to help people with annual incomes below $120,000 (and up to $150,000 in high-cost areas such as Vancouver) by taking up to 10 per cent off the price of a home with the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, budgeted at $1.25 billion over three years. This applies to homes up to $789,000 in expensive regions such as Vancouver. The party promises a national anti-speculation tax of one per cent on non-resident, foreign owners; it’s estimated to create revenue of $940 million over four years.
The party promises to change the Liberals’ mortgage stress test to ensure first-time homebuyers aren’t unnecessarily prevented from getting mortgages, and to work toward removing the stress test from mortgage renewals. It would increase amortization periods on insured mortgages to 30 years for first-time homebuyers to lower monthly payments, make surplus federal real estate available for development to increase the supply of housing, and hold a $20-million inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector.
The NDP promises to create 500,000 units of affordable rental housing in the next 10 years, financed by $5 billion in the first 18 months of government, and also to create “fast-start funds” to help communities build co-ops, social, and non-profit housing. It would waive the federal GST on construction of new rentals; reintroduce 30-year terms to CMHC-insured mortgages on entry-level homes; double the homebuyer’s tax credit to $1,500; put a foreign buyer’s tax on sales to non-Canadians.
The Greens would make housing a fundamental human right, and work with provinces to build 25,000 new rental homes and 15,000 rehabilitated units annually for the next 10 years.They promise to: boost funding for new builds by $750 million and for rent assistance by $750 million to help 125,000 rental households; better support provincial and municipal housing projects; provide financing to non-profits to expand housing for seniors, people with special needs and low-income families; restore tax incentives for building rental housing.
Liberals promise to improve the accessibility to and affordability of before- and after-school care for kids in elementary school. The party says it has created thousands of new preschool child care spaces and would create up to 250,000 more for kids ages five to 10. It would improve child care hours for people who work overtime or late shifts. It promises to reduce fees 10 per cent, which could save a family of four around $800 annually. The party has promised new funding of $535 million a year.
The party has not made any campaign announcements about child care. It has promised to make maternity benefits tax-free, which could save an average Canadian $4,000 a year. It would reintroduce a children’s fitness tax credit, allowing parents to claim up to $1,000 a child annually for sports, and a children’s arts and learning tax credit, allowing parents to claim up to $500. The budget office says this would cost $616 million in its first year, increasing annually.
The NDP would enshrine in law a commitment to high-quality public child care. The party notes provinces such as Quebec, B.C. and Alberta have made investments in child care and it promises to “build on that work” by investing $1 billion in 2020 and growing that investment annually, in conjunction with provinces and territories. It gave no specifics for the number of spaces planned, but said affordable child care helps the economy by allowing parents to work.
The Greens say universal child care is crucial for women’s equality and promise to increase funding to at least one per cent of GDP annually, adding an additional $1 billion each year until this level is reached. The party did not say the number of new spaces it would create. It would eliminate GST on construction of new child care spaces. The party plans to boost early educator jobs, locate new facilities along transit routes and strengthen parental leave benefits.
In this year’s budget, the Liberals promised $70 million over five years to create a money-laundering task force and support financial intelligence gathering. Another $68.9 million over the next five years was earmarked to strengthen policing. The Liberals also amended the Criminal Code this year to make it easier to prove money laundering. “This is a real problem we are taking seriously,” Trudeau said following a B.C. report that estimated laundering at $46.7 billion in Canada.
Scheer announced that his party would launch a national money-laundering inquiry to “root out” corrupt practices that inflate housing prices. About $20 million would be budgeted for the two-year inquiry, meant to produce recommendations for regulatory and legislative changes and extra enforcement. The inquiry would be able to compel testimony and order disclosure. “We believe this will get to the bottom of the shadowy practices that are going on,” said Scheer.
The NDP announced it would launch a national inquiry to determine why there hasn’t been sufficient investigation into a criminal activity that is “so widespread.” The NDP would create an RCMP anti-money-laundering unit supported with $20 million a year, with $10 million of that earmarked for B.C. The NDP would work with provinces to create a registry to increase transparency about who owns properties. “This is a direct issue the federal government can play a massive role in flagging, identifying and in ending,” said Singh.
The Greens are calling for a public inquiry into what the RCMP and other agencies knew about money laundering in B.C. casinos and why they did not expose the corruption. In the House of Commons this year, May said: “What did the RCMP know, why did they turn a blind eye and are we looking into it?” The party says a crackdown is needed on financial crime, suggesting a special RCMP unit and more resources for investigations and prosecutions.
The Liberals recently named Dominic Barton, a businessman with extensive experience in Asia, as Canada’s ambassador to China. They hope he will reset a relationship that collapsed following Canada’s detaining last December of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S., the arrest of two Canadian citizens in China a few days later and China’s blocking of important Canadian exports. Organizers of an election debate on foreign policy in September cancelled the event after Trudeau dropped out.
In response to China blocking Canadian exports, the Conservatives pledge to pull $250 million in funding from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is headquartered in Beijing. Scheer said he is against using Canadian tax dollars to build infrastructure in countries that China influences. He said the focus of the relationship between Canada and China should be on the two Canadians detained there, and that a reset in that relationship begins with a prime minister who stands up to China.
Jagmeet Singh is calling for the focus of the Canada-China relationship to be on the Canadians detained in China. He said trade with China has focused on free trade that doesn’t benefit workers. He described the Chinese ban on canola, pork and beef exports as being “unfairly targeted by China despite a lack of scientific evidence” and said China is punishing Canadian producers over a diplomatic disagreement. He has called for the Liberals to protect Canadian workers.
May has been critical of the Canada-China Investment Treaty brought in by the Conservatives in 2014. She has said it allows discriminatory practices towards Canadian enterprises and allows for “secret” government-to-government wrangling “in which China’s larger economic weight is likely to lead to all manner of concessions by our government.” The relationship “is imperilled by some rather large forces that are outside of our control. Donald Trump is poking China with a stick and creating a trade war. We’re caught in the middle.”
The Liberals promise to spend $6 billion over four years to ensure every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team. They would also set national standards for access to mental health services, expand access to home care and “take the critical next steps” toward universal pharmacare to include prescription drug coverage. They would increase funding for pediatric cancer research by $30 million in 2020 and create a national Institute for women’s health research to tackle gaps in care.
The Conservatives would continue the health care transfer to provinces and maintain the funding increase of at least three per cent a year. The party would spend $1.5 billion on MRI and CT machines. It would reduce the number of hours required per week on therapy to qualify for the disability tax credit to 10 from 14. The Conservatives have not pledged to introduce universal pharmacare and Scheer has said he doesn’t trust the Liberals to implement it.
The NDP would create a universal pharmacare program starting in late 2020 at a cost of $10 billion. The party would expand public dental care coverage to households making under $70,000, starting in 2020, and copayments for households earning $70,000-$90,000, at a cost of $560 million in the first year, $1.9 billion in the second year and up to $850 million after that. The NDP would fight efforts to privatize health care.
The Greens would change the federal-provincial Health Accord to base health transfer payments on demographics and needs in each province, rather than on GDP growth. The party would Introduce universal pharmacare and free dental care for low-income Canadians and would reduce drug patent protection periods. It would expand mental health and rehabilitation services and access to safe abortion services. It would improve health care for Indigenous Peoples by implementing calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Liberal’s platform on job creation focuses on supports to workers and supports for business. The promises to workers include guaranteed training for apprentices and $100 million in funding for skills upgrading, specifically for work in conducting energy audits, building retrofits and carbon-neutral home construction. To business, the party promises to cut in half corporate taxes for businesses in zero-emission industries, including renewable energy and zero-emission vehicles. It also plans to cut the cost of incorporating a small business.
The Conservatives’ platform includes creating a national energy corridor to carry oil, natural gas and electricity as a means to “create wealth, prosperity and opportunity” for Canadians. The party’s platform also plans support for small business by exempting spouses from new taxes on dividend payments from small businesses, reducing “red tape” in federal regulations by 25 per cent, and enforcing a rule to cut two old regulations for every new regulation introduced on business.
The NDP ties its goal to reduce carbon emissions to its promise to create jobs, estimating that clean energy, sustainable infrastructure and energy-efficient buildings will create 300,000 new jobs. Forestry is singled out, both for the role of forests in climate health and the source of jobs that support rural communities. The party promises to support innovation in value-added manufacturing of forest products and reforestation. It would allow workers to qualify for employment insurance after quitting work to return to school.
Acknowledging job losses in oil and gas production while phasing out fossil fuels, the Greens vow a “just transition” for workers from those sectors into renewable energy and in construction for energy-efficiency retrofits of buildings. The plan includes a fund to support training and a community benefit strategy to maximize local hiring and purchasing. May has also proposed a “robot tax” that employers would pay when they replace workers with artificial intelligence, with the revenue used to retrain workers.
Drug policy/opioid overdose epidemic
The Liberals pledge $700 million in additional funding between 2020 and 2014 to expand access to drug treatment and to combat opioid and meth addictions. The party will help provinces expand community-based services, build more in-patient rehab beds, and “scale up the most effective programs” — such as extending hours for Vancouver’s Insite and other safe consumption sites. It will also make drug treatment court the default option for first-time non-violent offenders charged exclusively with simple possession, to help drug users get quick access to treatment.
A spokeswoman said the party has not yet released its policy, but will “in the coming weeks.” On the campaign trail, leader Andrew Scheer has criticized the Liberals for expanding supervised-injection sites without properly consulting communities. He has told reporters that a Conservative drug policy would focus on getting people off drugs, not “maintaining” a life of addiction. The former Conservative government tried unsuccessfully to have Vancouver’s Insite shut down.
The NDP promises to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency and to work with governments and experts to end “the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction” so people can get help without fear of arrest. The party supports overdose-prevention sites. It would expand access to treatment on demand, launch an investigation into the role of drug companies in opioid overdoses and seek financial compensation for the public costs of the crisis, and “get tough” on traffickers. The platform provides no cost estimates.
The Greens promise $100 million annually to respond to the opioid crisis, plus $1 billion annually for treatment that includes mental health and addictions. The party’s platform promises to declare a national health emergency, plus “Recognize that fentanyl contamination is why deaths are more accurately described as poisonings than overdoses. Drug possession should be decriminalized, ensuring people have access to a screened supply and the medical support they need. … Increase funding to community-based organizations to test drugs and make naloxone kits widely available.”
The Liberals say they will create a national infrastructure fund to support yet-to-be-determined “major nation-building projects.” They would make permanent the federal commitment to fund public transit, and put in an additional $3 billion a year in stable funding on top of gas tax transfers, and require that new federal investments in public transit are used to support zero-emission buses and rail starting in 2023. They would also support the transition to zero-emission fleets for school and transit buses, and encourage businesses to convert their fleets.
The Conservatives have committed to ensuring promised infrastructure projects will proceed, with top priority to infrastructure projects that shorten commute times, like the George Massey Tunnel replacement. They would scrap the $35-billion Canada Infrastructure Bank. They would reintroduce a transit tax credit similar to the one ended in 2017, which will apply to monthly and weekly passes, and some electronic fare cards. It’s estimated that over 10 years, the tax credit will cost the government $2.2 billion.
The NDP would introduce a permanent funding mechanism for public transit. It wants to electrify transit and municipal vehicles by 2030, expand rail service, work with provinces and municipalities toward “fare-free transit” and re-establish rural bus routes formerly covered by Greyhound and expand bus service in rural regions. It would use community benefit agreements for infrastructure projects. To encourage zero-emission vehicle adoption, it would extend federal incentives for vehicles and chargers, waive federal taxes on purchases and expand charging networks.
The Greens would develop a national transportation strategy with the goal of reaching zero-carbon public transportation — rail, light rail and electric buses — across Canada by 2040, and revamp the Canada Infrastructure Bank. They would ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030, require all passenger ferries to convert to electric or hybrid by 2030, exempt new and used zero-emission vehicles from federal sales tax, expand charging stations, implement a passenger rail transportation policy, create a cycling and walking infrastructure fund, and develop “green freight transport program.”
Cost of living
The Liberal plan is to reduce personal income taxes by raising the personal exemption to $15,000 from $12,069, saving the average Canadian $292 and the average middle-class family $585. The party takes aim at cellphone bills, promising that increased competition would reduce them 25 per cent and threatening regulation if that doesn’t happen. The party would increase student grants by $1,200, to reach $4,200 a year. The party’s promises to seniors include increasing old-age-security payments by 10 per cent.
The Conservatives’ tax plan aims straight at cutting the lowest-bracket tax rate to 13.75 per cent from 15 per cent, which the party bills as its “universal tax cut,” saying it will save as much as $440 for individuals or $850 for a two-income family. The party’s plan also includes increasing Registered Education Savings Plan grants to $750 a year from $500 and reviving tax credits for expenses on children’s arts and sports programs and commuter transit passes.
The NDP platform doesn’t include promises to cut taxes but it does seek to reduce cellphone and internet bills and to make post-secondary education more affordable. The party would require carriers to introduce basic internet and cellphone plans, and would order caps on phone and internet bills. The NDP would cap and reduce post-secondary tuition and would eliminate interest on student loans and increase access to student grants. It would work toward making post-secondary education part of the public system.
The Greens call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a “guaranteed livable income” to replace supports such as disability and social assistance payments. The party’s affordability plan also promises universal access to post-secondary education. That means free tuition for Canadian students and forgiving existing student debts held by the federal government. For seniors, the party would increase the Canada Pension Plan’s target for income replacement to 50 per cent of pre-retirement income from 25 per cent.
The Liberals would work with the U.S. to “modernize” the Safe Third Country Agreement. They would increase immigration to 350,000 a year by 2021 — up from 310,000 in 2018 — and would create a program to allow communities, chambers of commerce and labour councils to directly sponsor immigrants, with a minimum of 5,000 spaces. The party would make applying for Canadian citizenship free for permanent residents.
The Conservatives would renegotiate the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires refugee claimants to request protection in the first safe country where they arrive. They would stop border crossings at unofficial points of entry. The Conservatives would improve language training and credential recognition so it is easier for immigrants to use their skills in Canada. The party would promote private sponsorships of refugees and prioritize “people facing true persecution.” They would set immigration levels “consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.”
The NDP would suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement. It would work with provinces to address gaps in settlement services and improve foreign credentials recognition. The NDP would end the cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents, and address backlogs that delay reunification. The party would regulate immigration consultants, give status to caregivers brought to Canada and expedite their reuniting with families. They would set immigration levels to “meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions and ties to Canada.”
The Greens would terminate the Safe Third Country Agreement. The party would include “environmental refugee” as a refugee category. It would create a system to evaluate immigrants’ education to help them get accreditation and jobs. It would also eliminate the temporary foreign workers program, increase immigration to address labour shortages, process the estimated 200,000 people in Canada who don’t have official status, and regulate immigration consultants. The Greens have not announced immigration levels but would “attract immigrants and establish a system that is fair.”
Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart joined Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s Capt. Jonathan Gormick to discuss the epidemic of drug-related deaths, at a press conference in Vancouver on Friday, September 6, 2019. Jason Payne / PNG
Local governments across Canada will press the federal government to increase access to safer drugs, and declare a national health emergency in response to the fentanyl-driven overdose crisis, after a motion by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart was passed Friday.
Stewart’s motion, drafted with his overdose emergency task force, was approved by city council in July. Coun. Rebecca Bligh brought it to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities executive meeting this week.
The motion requires the federation to call on Ottawa to support health authorities, doctors, their professional colleges and provinces to “safely provide regulated opioids and other substances through a free and federally available Pharmacare program.”
The federation will also demand that the federal government declares a national public health emergency and provides exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, so that cities and towns can run pilot programs which prioritize a move toward a “safe” drug supply.
Stewart said Friday that there was some division among the federation’s membership over the motion but it passed following an effective speech by Bligh. He hopes it will “shift the national dialogue toward a safe supply” during the federal election.
He wants the substances act exemptions to allow health professionals with a non-profit organization to distribute diacetylmorphine, which local research has shown can be an effective treatment for chronic, relapsing opioid dependence.
Stewart met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two weeks ago and told him what Vancouver needs in order to replace fentanyl-tainted street drugs with a safer, regulated supply, he said.
“It was a private conversation but I can say that I left the conversation in good spirits,” Stewart said. “I was definitely heard and that was very important.”
Stewart said front line responders are fatigued, people are experiencing multiple overdoses and suffering brain injuries, and the city and province desperately need the federal government to step up.
“We’re going to have to take it to the next level here. We’re reducing overdose deaths but overdoses are increasing. Just not dying isn’t good enough,” he said.
“It’s got to be life and hope for people.”
Karen Ward, a drug user and advocate for others who use drugs, helped with the motion and was pleased the municipalities passed it.
“If a province is a bit hesitant, the idea is that this will give a city the power to take rapid action — and individual doctors, in fact,” she said.
“It’s a necessity to have safe supply at this point because the supply has become so contaminated everywhere.”
Ward said the federation can now send a clear message to Ottawa that municipalities want the power to treat the overdose crisis “like a real” public health emergency.
“This is one way to get them to talk about it, face it squarely and acknowledge this massive disaster, and say look, we need to change our (approach),” she said.
“We need to take it as seriously as possible. It’s a health issue. It’s also a justice issue.”
OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from cabinet this week has stoked long-standing frustration, disappointment and anger among Canada’s veterans, who say they have been ignored and betrayed by the Trudeau government.
The Liberals went out of their way during the last federal election to court former service members, as Justin Trudeau promised to improve service delivery and reinstate a lifelong disability pension for veterans after years of Conservative cuts and inaction.
That pension, first introduced after the First World War, was abolished by the Conservatives with unanimous support in the House of Commons in 2006 and replaced by a suite of rehabilitation programs and financial compensation for injured soldiers.
Since then, the Liberals have run through three veterans affairs ministers in as many years — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould — while making little headway on improving service delivery and breaking their pension promise.
The government has increased some supports and benefits for veterans and unveiled its own so-called Pension for Life program that will roll out in April, but that program has been widely assessed as falling far short of Trudeau’s original pledge.
Our key concern is there’s been a betrayal of the commitment that the prime minister made in the election of 2015
Brian Forbes, chair of the National Council of Veterans Associations
“Our key concern is there’s been a betrayal of the commitment that the prime minister made in the election of 2015,” said Brian Forbes, chair of the National Council of Veterans Associations, which represents more than 60 veteran groups.
“That is felt very strongly in the veterans’ community.”
The Liberals have also been roundly accused of ignoring the various ministerial advisory groups and other mechanisms established after the 2015 election to solicit feedback from the veterans’ community about its needs and concerns.
It’s like the veterans are the last priority in this story. We don’t have a minister of veterans affairs anymore.
Aaron Bedard, an Afghan War veteran from B.C.
“It’s like the veterans are the last priority in this story,” said Aaron Bedard, an Afghan War veteran from B.C., who led an unsuccessful legal battle against the government to reinstate the old disability pension.
“We don’t have a minister of veterans affairs anymore.”
Even before Wilson-Raybould’s departure, some veterans and veterans’ groups had questioned the number of ministers who have handled the portfolio under the Liberals — and what it means about their importance to the government.
Not that the trend has been unique to the Liberals; all told, there have been seven veterans-affairs ministers in the past decade, not counting Sajjan. The Conservatives had three in less than two years, leading up to the last election.
That in itself creates difficulties, says Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada, which helps former service members with mental-health injuries, because new ministers take time to find their footing.
“It just makes it difficult to get the work done,” Maxwell said in an interview earlier this month, before Wilson-Raybould’s resignation.
“That’s something we’ve tracked as a barrier.”
Yet Wilson-Raybould was also different in that many of her predecessors were seen as up-and-comers getting promotions and looking to impress, not senior ministers getting a demotion. While she repeatedly denied that description, insisting that working for veterans was vitally important, it nonetheless stuck with some veterans.
“When you’re saying you’re being demoted and you’re being sent to veterans affairs, it’s a slap in the face for us,” said Daniel Tremblay, an Afghan War veteran from Ottawa who is now struggling with back problems and post-traumatic stress.
“It should be a promotion, not a demotion. That way you know the individual wants to be there and cares for us.”
The Trudeau government is scrambling to contain the damage caused by Wilson-Raybould’s resignation, which followed a Globe and Mail story saying the Prime Minister’s Office had pressured her to intervene in a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin.
Yet her resignation also makes a difficult task for the government even harder, as the Liberals already faced an uphill climb selling their Pension for Life program ahead of this year’s federal election.
It’s difficult to assess how veterans’ concerns affect federal elections given that the community is spread across the country, but anecdotal evidence has suggested many former service members voted Liberal in 2015 — largely because of the disability-pension promise.
That appears almost certain to change in October, though the question is who veterans will actually support. Bedard, who worked with the Liberals in the last election, says the Conservatives have repeatedly reached out to him and others over the past year or so.
Yet others still remember the deep cuts to frontline work at Veterans Affairs Canada that were imposed by Stephen Harper’s government and the Conservatives’ refusal to reinstate the disability pension after a decade in power.
That leaves open the question: Where will veterans turn in 2019?
“The (veterans-affairs) file has been mismanaged for a decade or more,” said Nova Scotia veteran David MacLeod, who was forced to leave the military in 2010 for medical reasons.
“Based on mismanagement alone, I will not be supporting any of the major political parties in the coming election. I’ll support one of the smaller parties or a credible independent candidate.”
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