East or South?
In fact, based on the 4 platforms I've read (or tried to read, in the case of the Liberal one), I'll probably vote NDP this time around. In terms of policy, I rank the Greens and NDP pretty close and, ring or no ring, Svend Robinson is a much stronger candidate, in my opinion, than Jared Evans.
Some thoughts on the Conservative platform:
Positives: Their policies for making government cleaner (Standing Up for Accountability) probably go too far, but they are an improvement over the current situation.
I also support gradually reducing the GST, and the magnitude of their tax cuts seems reasonable.
Their health care policies (maintaining the status quo, while putting some pressure on the provinces to reduce wait times) are reasonable as well.
Increased support for the military (compared to levels for the last couple of decades is a good idea, and it makes sense to have an army presence in B.C. (primarily to respond to natural disasters) and the military certainly seems overdue for a rebalancing of more front line personnel, fewer officers. One thing I'm not sure about is whether putting so much money into expanding the number of troops in the army is the best use of resources, but I'm no military expert.
Extending Canada's claim to cover the entire fishing banks off the East Coast makes sense as well.
Negatives: Almost too numerous to list.
The income redistribution measures (GST cut, reductions to capital gains taxes, reduced corporate taxes, reduced taxes for seniors on retirement funds, money for parents with small children, transit tax deduction) are almost certainly going to provide far more benefit to the wealthy than the poor, exacerbating income inequality and likely causing further deterioration in Canada's overall and child poverty rates.
Electing Senators without reforming the Senate first is a bad idea. So is reforming the Senate for that matter.
One thing I would have hoped the Conservatives could be counted on to do would be to scrap the wasteful and out of jurisdiction 'regional development programs' which randomly distribute money to all parts of the country except Southern Ontario, but political expediency means they pledge to maintain these programs.
The obsession with crime (roughly 15% of the entire platform) is written as if criminals were inhuman demons of some sort and is filled with costly measures which will do little to reduce crime but will cause a lot of hardship, and will reduce judges ability to apply their discretion and which perpetuate a misguided war on drugs.
The environment - what environment? I almost missed the paragraph on the environment tucked in near the back of the platform. There are a couple of useful policies here such as a Clean Air Act to reduce Nitrogen Oxides and Sulphur Dioxide and penalties for bilge oil dumping. But mostly the message of the Conservative platform is that if environmental protection is important to you, don't vote Conservative.
Message received. I like how Harper has said that he wants to back out of Kyoto, and the platform says that the Conservative will develop a plan to deal with green house gases in coordination with other major industrial countries (uh, like all the major industrial countries that signed Kyoto?).
I'm no agricultural expert but the plan to make the wheat board voluntary sounds like a terrible plan to me, perfectly exemplifying the right-wing's total failure to understand the concept of collective action problems.
While there is some money for research, there is a lot of focus on established resource industries (forestry, agricultural, fishing, etc.), and very little on crucial industrial industries (Auto, Aerospace) or on future technological/cultural industries.
Nothing about electoral reform. Considering what our dysfunctional electoral system has put the various right wing parties through over the last 12 years, you'd think this might be on their list of priorities, but I guess either the dream of unfettered majority rule, or the realization that they are heavily outnumbered by left wing parties, prevents the Conservatives from pursuing this.
Some thoughts on the NDP platform:
Negatives: The usual, with respect to the NDP. I find the general antipathy towards private business and the misguided notion that profits are 'a waste' troubling. While I don't support tax cuts in all situations, I think that the federal government could afford to cut taxes further, and there are very few tax cuts in the NDP platform, although, to be fair, just maintaining the recently announced Liberal cut to the lowest marginal rate and increase in the basic personal exemption, is a significant commitment (which the Conservatives aren't making). The general approach of spending money on government programs in every area worries me, as does the NDP's record of opposing paying down the debt (although their proposed 'budget' does include some small amounts debt repayment.
Also, the focus on 'identifiable groups' such as women, the disabled, minorities, etc. seems excessive at times to the point of undermining the concept of all Canadians as equal individuals.
In addition, I see too much spending on students, especially since this spending doesn't seem to be targetted to prevent it from acting as a transfer of wealth from the lower, and lower middle class to the upper and upper middle class.
To some extent, the NDP shares the Conservative approach of spending more time on resource issues than on industrial / technological industries, although the NDP does have a broader focus, for sure.
Similarly, there are many areas where I think the NDP is trying throw money at everything rather than broadly redistributing income and then letting people decide for themselves what to spend on. For example, the idea of having the CMHC underwrite low interest mortgages for affordable housing seems unwise and overly bureaucratic.
Positives: A national pharmacare plan is one area where it makes sense for the federal government to be involved due to economies of scale and purchasing power. Similarly, opposing the 'evergreening' of patented medication will save on health costs.
The plan on climate change is a pretty good one, including support for the expansion of an east-west power grid, tougher emission requirements for cars and appliances and subsidies for green power. It would benefit from more use of market mechanisms such as carbon taxes or emissions trading systems.
Little things like requiring labelling of genetically modified foods also benefit the consumer.
Like the Conservatives, the NDP are proposing a number of sensible rules to make government appointments more merit based, to make government officials more independent and to strengthen oversight institutions like the auditor general. Unlike the Conservatives, the NDP also supports abolishing the Senate and bringing in electoral reform. I'm not that fussed on the the issue of abolishing the senate vs. leaving it in place as it is now but either approach is far superior to making it any one or more of elected, equal or effective.
Increasing the child tax benefit is good, simple policy.
Speaking more generally, a quick summary of the platforms would be to say that the NDP wants Canada to be more like Northern Europe:
* higher tax rate
* government sponsored child care
* low tuition
* significant income redistribution
* liberal social policies
* emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation over punishment and deterrence
* significant measures to protect the environment
* proportional electoral system
* commitment to international treaties and organizations
* stronger role of central government
* emphasis on collective fairness (fair trade, fair markets, etc.)
* little emphasis on military spending
while the Conservative want Canada to be more like the U.S.:
* lower tax rate
* no government child care
* lower level of government worries about tuition
* opposition to gay marriage
* war on drugs
* emphasis on punishment and deterrence over prevention and rehabilitation
* limited measures to protect the environment
* first past the post electoral system
* less party discipline
* more authority for parliament
* protection of private property in the constitution
* elected, equal, effective senate
* little or no redistribution of income to the poor
* emphasis on individual freedom (free choice, free trade, free markets, etc.)
* heavy emphasis on military spending
I don't have anything against America, it's a great country with great people, but, given a choice between living like a bit more like a Scandinavian or living like a bit more like an American, I know what choice I'd make.
The NDP have released a costing for their platform, it would be nice to see something similar for the other parties - anyone know if that is available?