With five parties vying for Canadians votes -- the Bloc of course restricted to the province of Quebec where they will likely to retain or at least be in contention for approximately one sixth of the seats available in Canada -- there are a lot of narratives to pay attention to.
Starting with Michael Ignatieff who today will offer more money for middle-class families as he announces the third major plank in a platform he is funding with the $6-billion he says will be saved by reversing corporate tax cuts. This announcement, at a pharmacy in Vancouver, follows his $1-billion pledge Tuesday for the so-called “Learning Passport.” He is also expected to make two more significant announcements this week which will form the five major planks of his platform, all involving help for middle class families.
He also announced on Wednesday morning a new program that would allow Canadians to top up their retirement savings through the Canada Pension Plan. The Liberal Leader is calling it the “Secure Retirement Option” and it would, according to a Liberal background document, allow Canadians to save an extra 5 to 10 per cent of their pay in a retirement fund “backed by the CPP.” Since 75 % of Canadians in the private sector do not have pension plans this... would serve as a new, tax deductible public savings option and would be in addition to what they already put in CPP. The program would be portable and individual will be able to put money into the Secure Retirement Option with the limits the same as what is now allowable for RRSP contributions.
In addition the Liberals would increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $700-million which is aimed at helping low-income seniors; especially women and those with disabilities. And the Liberals said they would enhance and improve basic CPP benefits.
The Liberals were clearly ready for this election and are in the midst of rolling out what is clearly an ambitious and so far, impressive platform. Good for them!
The NDP are busily rolling out their platform as well and Jack Layton said while visiting Oshawa that he wouldn't reward companies that ship jobs to the States or overseas but instead target investment to create jobs at home and reward the job creators. Further, he announced that he intended to cut the small business tax rate to 9 per cent from 11 per cent. To pay for tis he said he'd boost the corporate tax rate to the 2008 level of 19.5 per cent from its current 16.5 per cent.
There was some surprising news for the NDP in southwestern Ontario where Ryan Dolby, who was running for the NDP in Elgin-Middlesex-London, announced his decision Wednesday morning to drop out of the race and support the Liberals saying a vote for Michael Ignatieff’s party was the best way to prevent the Conservatives and Stephen Harper from winning a majority. Layton was nonplussed by it all saying they would have a candidate to replace Mr. Dolby in 48 hours.
The Green Party has what it calls a Smart Economy plan that calls for... a sustainable and resilient economic model based on conservation and renewable resources, a model that advances the common good and ensures quality of life for all Canadians. Sadly, Ms. May has so far been excluded from the debate but she does have the support of Jack Layton who says he wishes he knew what the criteria for participation are as the decision is made behind closed doors and the rules, so far as he can discern, are arbitrary. If you want to support her right to participate, go sign the petition.
Harper continues to have a rough time as yet another questionable campaign worker has sent Harper scrambling to distance himself from a tainted political organizer who found a home in a local candidate’s campaign. It was announced the Guilio Maturi was no longer a volunteer on the campaign, Mr. Harper said during a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont. Then Conservative officials announced Mr. Harper would no longer take questions on local campaigns. Can't you feel the democratic process at work when the Tories speak?
Harper was sticking to the rock-bottom price estimate for the F-35 Stealth Fighters that the GAO says are vastly under-priced. Perhaps Harper is hoping endless repetition of the low-balled price will convince Canadians to ignore what Canada's parliamentary budget watchdog, Kevin Page, has said was a far more accurate estimate of the price. Some $29.3-billion over 30 years to reflect what he considers the full life cycle of the new planes.
As for the Bloc, so far Mr. Duceppe has spent the first five days of the campaign hanging in and around ridings in Montreal behaving like he has hardly a care in the world. It’s not entirely clear the Bloc was ready for the election call. The buses weren’t rolling until Monday, and much of Tuesday was spent shooting ads. Maybe they don't feel as urgent a need as some others. It's hard to know whether to describe this as confidence or arrogance. We'll soon know.