A debate primer: Where the parties stand on the issues

Compiled by KIRSTEN SMITH, CARLY WEEKS and KRYSTLE CHOW
Published on the CanWest News Service wire, in the Ottawa Citizen (pg. A6), and in the Vancouver Sun (pg. A6).
Dec. 15, 2005

OTTAWA – Debate issues: Prior to tonight’s debate, the parties have been advised of six issues where they might be questioned. However, only four topics will be chosen for discussion during the debate.

CHILD-CARE

NDP: Promised $8.7 billion over four years to a non-profit child-care system, which would create 275,000 spaces. Also promised to create a new child-care act focused on quality, non-profit child care. NDP would increase federal child tax credit by $1,000 over four years to help low-income families.

CONSERVATIVES: Day-care package includes yearly $1,200 allowance for children under six and $250 million to help employers and communities create an estimated 125,000 new child-care spaces in the workplace or community associations. Total cost is $10.9 billion over five years.

LIBERAL: Promised to invest at least $6 billion to finance the national child-care program through to 2015. This is in addition to the $5 billion over five years the Liberals had already promised to go toward child-care while the Liberal government was in power.

BLOC: For child care, as in many of its social policies, the Bloc’s aim is to convince the government to hand over more money to Quebec, without strings attached, so the province can run its own programs.

ENVIRONMENT

NDP: Promised to create a tough new clean air, clean water and polluter-pay act. The party would also introduce a home-retrofit plan to reduce energy consumption and home-heating costs. The NDP would stand by the commitments to reduce greenhouse gases outlined in the Kyoto protocol.

LIBERAL: Promised to aggressively push ahead with cutting emissions to meet the Kyoto goals. Before the government fell, the Liberals announced a $4-billion plan to meet Kyoto targets.

CONSERVATIVE: The only major federal party that hasn’t promised to forge ahead with Kyoto. Conservative environment critic Bob Mills said the targets aren’t achievable and that the Tories would instead push a “made-in-Canada” plan focusing on clear air.

BLOC: The Bloc is calling for greater adherence to the Kyoto principles on climate change plus more emphasis on conservation policies.

NATIONAL UNITY

CONSERVATIVE: The party said it won’t use the debate over Quebec sovereignty to win votes because a referendum isn’t likely to happen. Leader Stephen Harper says the Liberals are not the party to defend national unity because they polarized the Quebec vote with the sponsorship scandal.

LIBERAL: Declared this a “referendum election” in Quebec. Liberal Leader Paul Martin said the Bloc Quebecois has made a pact with the Parti Quebecois as the first step to a referendum. Liberals are urging Quebecers to put the sponsorship scandal behind them and vote for federalism.

NDP: Since the Bloc Quebecois are separatists and the Liberals created the sponsorship scandal, the NDP says Quebecers should vote for its party because it’s a “federalist alternative” to the tarnished Grits.

BLOC: The party’s raison d’etre is to see Quebec separate from Canada. This election, the Bloc is hoping to score a psychological coup for the independence movement by winning more than 50 per cent of the vote in Quebec.

ECONOMY

LIBERAL: The Liberal party is emphasizing its past success in balancing the budget and in creating 500,000 new jobs. The key thrusts of its economic plan, outlined in its Nov. 14 mini-budget, include $30 billion in individual and corporate tax cuts and $10 billion for investments in training and post-secondary education.

CONSERVATIVES: They say the country’s economic growth is sluggish because of the Liberals’ high tax policies. The party is promising to immediately cut the GST to six per cent, and then to five per cent within the next five years. The Tories also support tax incentives to young Canadians for apprenticeships.

NDP: It points to its rewrite of the Liberal budget last spring as an example of how it can provide the country with a balanced budget. It is aiming to fund $1.6 billion of affordable housing, put $1.5 billion towards education, and $900 million towards the environment.

BLOC: Its central concern is that Quebec does not get its fair share from the federal government. It says Ottawa is not using the taxes it collects in Quebec for programs that are priorities for that province. It also argues that federal spending on the administration of programs is out of control.

FOREIGN POLICY

LIBERAL: During the last few months Liberals have taken a hard line against the United States over long-running trade disputes. Then last week at a conference on climate change Paul Martin singled out the Americans as bad guys for not supporting the Kyoto protocol. This led to a public rebuke by the American ambassador. Martin is adamant he will continue to defend Canada’s interests. The Liberals do not want Canadian troops in Iraq but try not to condemn American actions there.

CONSERVATIVE: Leader Stephen Harper is perceived as very close to the Bush White House and in a letter to the Washington Times this week described himself as a “friend of the United States.” The letter envisioned collaboration on issues like trade disputes and climate change. The Conservatives initially supported the war in Iraq but Harper now says troops will not go there.

NDP: It has proposed an export tax on energy as a form of retaliation for the softwood dispute. The NDP have been steadfast against the war in Iraq and any Canadian involvement there.

BLOC: It has internationalist tendencies and a serious interest in an independent Quebec playing a role on the world stage. It supported both the Canadian involvement in Afghanistan and the government’s decision to sit-out engagement in Iraq. The Bloc’s platform calls for healthy ties with the U.S., but no commitment to support every initiative of the Bush administration.

GOVERNANCE AND ETHICS

LIBERAL: The party accepted the findings of Justice John Gomery in early November and supports the RCMP investigations into Quebec advertising companies. Prime Minister Paul Martin banished party members implicated in the sponsorship scandal and the party reimbursed the Treasury $1.14 million that may have found its way to the Liberal party. The government has reformed its contracting policies, launched criminal suits to recover money, appointed the commission of inquiry, passed whistleblower-protection legislation, and implemented changes to improve transparency and accountability.

CONSERVATIVE: They proposed a Federal Accountability Act with tighter bans on donations to political parties, much tougher lobbying rules; more power to the auditor general and the ethics commissioner; and creation of a director of public prosecutions that would protect criminal prosecutions from political interference.

NDP: The party has a seven-point plan to counter ethical abuses and cronyism. It also calls for fixed election dates, adding a proportional representation aspect to the current first-past-the-post voting system and requiring MPs who switch parties to resign and run in a byelection. The NDP wants stronger Access to Information laws and tighter rules for leadership campaigns.

BLOC: It has been outspoken in its outrage over the Gomery scandal and is demanding the Liberals reveal names of party members in Quebec who benefitted from the sponsorship fiasco.

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