By Aaron Gao, Alicia Shen, Edgar Wang, Etsub Yifru, and Yigu Zhou
As Election Day is right around the corner, the MWR executive team is proud to present the highlights of each major party’s history, leader biography, and platform in an unbiased fashion to help the undecided voter make their decision for October 21. This year’s campaign has seen an incredibly tight race between the Liberals and Conservatives for the leadership, while the Bloc is benefitting from substantial gains in Quebec under the leadership of Yves-François Blanchet. Although the charismatic Jagmeet Singh has seen his popularity increase, support for his party has failed to follow suit with only the West Coast, parts of Manitoba and Northern Ontario likely to yield an NDP seat in the House of Commons. The Green Party and People’s Party have not yet seen any significant backing outside their respective leaders’ ridings. No matter the result, the 2019 Federal Election is likely to result in a minority government.
Liberal Party of Canada
Founded in 1867, the same year as the establishment of the Dominion of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada did not have much success in its early years against the Conservative Party led by Sir John A. Macdonald. In 1873, Alexander Mackenzie became the first Liberal prime minister. Subsequently, under the leadership of Wilfrid Laurier beginning in 1887, the Liberal Party’s influence grew and developed into what it is today. The Liberal Party of Canada has provided ten prime ministers, notably Lester Pearson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. After then-Liberal prime minister Paul Martin was defeated in 2006, the party struggled to gain power and suffered multiple defeats to the Conservative Party. However, in the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, led the Liberal Party to a majority government.
Born on December 25, 1971, in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau is the eldest son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his wife Margaret. He spent his early years in the limelight of Canadian politics as his father was prime minister at the time. At the age of six, his parents divorced, and he was subsequently raised by a single father. At the end of his father’s political career, his father, his two younger brothers and he moved to Montreal, where he attended Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf and later McGill University, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Literature. Before following in his father’s footsteps into politics, Trudeau worked a wide range of jobs, including as a teacher, a snowboarding instructor and a bouncer at a nightclub. In 2000, Trudeau gave a moving eulogy at his father’s funeral, adding to the speculation that he would pursue a career in politics. In 2008, he ran as a Liberal candidate for the riding of Papineau and was elected; he was re-elected in 2011 and 2015. In 2013, Justin Trudeau was appointed leader of the Liberal Party of Canada with roughly 80 percent of the votes. During the 2015 federal election, Trudeau led the Liberal Party to victory, winning a 184-seat majority in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Party’s platform focuses on growth for the middle class, a clean and strong economy and stronger gun control. On the issue of the environment, the Liberal Party will continue the environmental measures it has taken since 2015. Firstly, the carbon tax implemented this year will gradually increase from $20 per tonne to $50 by 2020. Additionally, the Liberals plan on gradually eliminating the use of coal by 2030, banning single-use plastics and planting 2 billion trees over the next ten years. Regarding these measures, the Liberal Party hopes for Canada to become a net-zero emissions country by 2050 and to exceed its Paris Climate Agreement goal. Additionally, the Liberals plan on making post-secondary education more affordable and debt loads more manageable. They will increase the maximum Canada Student Grant for low-income to $4,200 per year for full-time students. Furthermore, they will make paying student loans easier: no graduate with student loans will be required to make any repayment until they are earning a minimum of $35,000 per year. With a stronger middle class as one of its main focuses, the Liberal Party plans on investing in middle-class jobs through investing in entrepreneurs, infrastructure and rural communities. More specifically, the Liberals will create the Canada Entrepreneur Account which will provide up to 2,000 hopeful entrepreneurs with as much as $50,000 each to launch their businesses. Indeed, similar to other parties, they will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Lastly, the Liberals will continue to strengthen gun control legislation with a ban on all military-style assault rifles. Their proposed gun control plan includes: implementing buyback programs for all military-assault rifles legally purchased in Canada; allowing municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns and; temporarily suspending firearms licenses for people suspected of posing a danger to others or themselves. However, the Liberal party emphasizes that it will not bring back the long-run registry dissolved by the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper in 2012.
Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP)
The New Democratic Party (French: Nouveau Parti Démocratique) is a social-democratic federal political party in Canada. The party was founded in 1961 out of the merger of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). On the Canadian political scene, the party sits to the left of the Liberal Party. Since 2017, the NDP has been led by Jagmeet Singh. The federal and provincial (or territorial) level NDPs are more integrated than other political parties in Canada and have shared membership (except for the New Democratic Party of Quebec). Often the third- or fourth-largest party in Canada’s House of Commons, the NDP has never been in power at the federal level, but it has attained second-largest party status once.
Current NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was born on January 2, 1979, in Scarborough, Ontario, to Harmeet Kaur and Jagtaran Singh. He started his career as a criminal defence lawyer. In 2015, he became the Deputy Leader of the Ontario New Democrats under Andrea Horwath until 2017. Singh announced he would run for leadership of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada to replace Tom Mulcair which he won. He did not have a seat in the House of Commons until March 2019. Singh has branded himself a progressive and a social democrat. He supports LGBTQ rights.
The New Democrats’ election platform tackles the issues of taxes, healthcare, environment, education, gun control, housing, immigration and eldercare with numbers. The NDP proposes hiking the rate for capital gains inclusion from 50 to 75 percent, which means paying more income tax on profits from stocks or the sale of properties other than a primary residence. They also want to hike the top federal personal income tax rate from 33 to 35 percent and impose a one percent wealth tax on the “super-rich”—those making more than $20 million. The New Democrats would commit $1 billion to affordable, not-for-profit child-care in 2020 and increase it yearly. They plan to build on child-care programs already in place in some provinces, including Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. The party also would like to implement a national school nutrition program—something the Liberals are also considering. The NDP says it wants to reduce emissions by 38 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. To get there, it would spend $15 billion retrofitting buildings and create a “climate bank” to invest in renewable energy and clean technology. It wants to introduce a single-use plastics ban by 2022 and to boost the support fund for communities hit by natural disasters. The party plans to balance the budget “when prudent” but has no target date. That’s a stark contrast to the 2015 campaign when the party promised to run four years of balanced budgets. The NDP’s goal is to work towards free university and college tuition. To get there, they say they’ll work with provinces and territories to put a cap on and reduce tuitions. The party says it will eliminate federal interest rates on student loans and put more money into Canada Student Grants. It also wants to expand the education benefit from veterans and implement a national school nutrition program. The party has not endorsed a national handgun ban but has called for cities to be given the power to ban handguns in their jurisdictions. It also wants to crack down on illegal handguns and assault weapons and target gun smuggling. Following gun violence in 2018, Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Liberals to spend $100 million a year to tackle gang violence. New Democrats say they want to expand the current model to include mental health, dental, eye and hearing coverage. They are also proposing a “Pharmacare for all” plan, covering Health Canada-approved drugs, by late 2020. It would cost an estimated $10 billion annually—cheaper than the plan being looked at by Liberals. The party wants to loosen restrictions on medical assistance in dying and create a national autism strategy. New Democrats want to build 500,000 affordable housing units over 10 years; until then, they propose a rental subsidy. They want to scrap the federal GST/HST for those constructing new affordable units. The party would reintroduce 30-year terms for mortgages insured by the CMHC for first-time buyers and give low-interest loans to retrofit houses. It proposes a 15 percent surtax on foreign buyers. The NDP does not cite a specific number when asked how many immigrants they would accept. The party has stressed the need to tackle applicant backlogs and prioritize family reunification. It promises to regulate the immigration consultant industry and get rid of the Safe Third Country Agreement, which prevents migrants who made claims in the U.S. from making claims in Canada. The party wants to develop an action plan for reconciliation, based around the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It would be overseen by a new national council for reconciliation. New Democrats propose raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Their platform pledges to create 300,000 new jobs in the NDP’s first term. The party also wants to ban unpaid internships if they don’t count for school credit. It would require employers to spend one percent of their payroll on annual employee training. The party promises to create a national seniors strategy, which would include a national strategy for dementia and a prevention plan for elder abuse. It proposes making the Caregiver Tax Credit refundable, to help those who look after seniors. The party says its affordable housing units plan will include accessible units, benefiting seniors.
Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)
The Conservative Party, as we know it today, was formed in 2003 through the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. However, its history dates to the Confederation, when John A. Macdonald’s Liberal-Conservative Party (LC Party)—a direct ancestor of the CPC—ruled from 1867 until 1873, when he was forced to resign after the Pacific Scandal. He nonetheless led the party—now rebranded as the Conservative Party—to a majority government in 1878. Macdonald’s Conservatives were opposed to the free trade principles championed by Alexander Mackenzie’s Liberals and implemented anti-American protectionist strategies such as the National Policy. The business-owners of Ontario and Quebec were much in favour of such measures, although Macdonald’s long reign would be the beginning of an unsteady relationship with Quebecois voters. This schism between Quebec nationalists and English Canada widened during the World Wars due to the CPC’s staunch support of conscription. It was only in 1984 when Brian Mulroney rallied francophones and disillusioned Western voters under the banner of the Progressive-Conservative Party (PC Party) and secured the most significant landslide victory in Parliament history, that the party was once again in touch with the demands of Quebecois voters. Mulroney’s PC’s were very different from Macdonald’s LC’s—some highlights of his mandate include the privatization of Petro-Canada and Air Canada, the signing of two free trade agreements (CUSFTA and NAFTA), the negotiation of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, and a socially progressive agenda. However, the failures of the Accords dealt a significant blow to Quebecois support for the PC Party and led to the creation of the Bloc Québécois, while Mulroney’s progressivism did not sit well with traditionalist Westerners. In response, the Reform Party (later known as the Canadian Alliance) was created in 1987, running under a populist, grassroots-based, and direct democratic platform. The PC’s never won another election.
The 2003 merger consolidated all the dominant right-wing parties into one, increasing voter confidence in the CPC’s ability to form a government. From 2006 to 2015, Stephen Harper led two minority governments and one majority. Harper’s CPC maintained a Canadian presence in Afghanistan until 2011, cut taxes, and helped navigate Canada through the 2007-2008 financial crisis—running a large deficit in the process, effectively ending all hopes of decreasing government debt.
The current leader of the CPC is Andrew Scheer, MP for the riding of Regina-Qu’Appelle. Born and raised in Ottawa, Scheer is a Catholic of part-Romanian descent. He studied history at the University of Ottawa but completed his degree at the University of Regina. He has been consistently elected to Parliament since 2004 and was chosen as Speaker of the House of Commons in 2011, making him the youngest Speaker ever at the age of 32. He won the Conservative leadership by a 2% margin, defeating now-People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier. Despite his many political achievements, Scheer has been criticized by his rivals for being a career politician and lacking an understanding of the average Canadian citizen. He has stated he is personally pro-life and spoke in opposition to same-sex marriage in 2005.
The CPC plans to scrap the federal carbon tax and replace it with emissions limits for companies who will have to invest in green technologies and research if they surpass their maximum. Scheer has also stated that he will reintroduce a tax credit on public transportation and “green home renovations.” Like the Liberals, the CPC will complete the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. A pillar of the CPC’s platform being “leaving more money” in Canadians’ pockets, the party’s platform is promising tax cuts from 15% to 13.75% on the first $47,630 of income earned, eliminating sales taxes on heating bills, and introducing tax incentives for children’s fitness and education programs. A Conservative government would attempt to balance the budget in five years through various cuts and finding new sources of revenue, which includes extending the Liberals’ massive infrastructure project from twelve years to fifteen, a measure that has been criticized because investment in infrastructure is seen as necessary for long-term growth. However, the Conservatives would still proceed with already confirmed projects. The CPC will also decrease public servant spending (but will maintain the current number of government employees), sell off government-owned real estate, cut foreign aid by 25%, reduce corporate welfare payments, and impose a tax on social media giants operating in Canada. Some other noteworthy aspects include a requirement that post-secondary education institutions uphold freedom of speech and academic freedom to receive research grants, opening an inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin case, and extend parole ineligibility to life instead of the current 25 years. Finally, Scheer has stressed several times that a Conservative government would not support or introduce anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
Green Party of Canada
Green as a political colour envisions a universally harmonious future in Canada for the disadvantaged, in an environment of progress and production where economic and biological ecosystems have found an ancient reconciliation. In 1983, a conference was held at Carleton University in Ottawa and the Green Party of Canada landed effectively on the Canadian political scene, attempting to spread the paint. Before the founding of the Green Party, the Green movement centred around sustainable development and practical science emerged along the Canadian shores but was confined within marginal and small enterprises. Then, in the 70s, green thinkers united in a stronger coalition with its own wholesome political representation and vindications and bred the first green movement party in the Northern Hemisphere, in the Maritimes, called the Small Party. Since its first federal election in 1984 led by Dr. Trevor Hancock, the Greens have grown from a 60-candidates grassroots eco-friendly federal party to the major sustainable development defenders’ league, with two seats in the House of Commons and 10% vote in current polls. The Members of Parliament Elizabeth May and Paul Manly stand for the 60s countercultural philosophical values with regards to social justice, environmental policies and economic growth.
The current leader of the Green Party is Elizabeth May, honourary Ph.D. of Mount Saint Vincent University, Mount Allison University, University of New Brunswick, and the Atlantic School of Theology, a Connecticut-born longtime resident of Nova Scotia with a Law background from Dalhousie University. Since her youth, May accumulated a series of media appearances as an ecological-thinking proactive leader, raising her voice and dedicating her resources in protests against the aerial spraying of insecticide and herbicide, uranium mining, mills and such. After college, May worked closely with indigenous people internationally. As Senior Policy Advisor to federal Environment Minister Tom McMillan, May played a crucial role in the creation of national parks and the negotiation of pollution control measures. May became the leader of the Green Party in 2006 and expands its influence ever since by becoming the first Green Member of Parliament in 2011 representing the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
As the only party to have environmental goals corresponding to the IPCC, the Green Party’s 2019 platform can be summarized by “limit[ing] climate change, while leaving nobody behind” (Election Platform 2019, 6). The Green Party outlines its project to transform Canada by 2030 in ties with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The year 2030 is the crucial date that decides the direction of the planet’s future. 2030 is, according to climate scientists worldwide, the imperative half-mark for the elimination of all climate-changing pollution emission by 2050, that is, if we want to put a stop to global warming at all. However ecological-centred such goal must be, getting anywhere near salvaging the ecology from runaway devastation is only possible if action originates from an aligned and united people. Fortunately, resources are available to the Canadian federation to start independently reaching its own standards before a global partnership form to build up the promises for a better future. On a strictly environmental regard, greenhouse gas emission, decline of biodiversity, and soil erosion are the main challenges that May’s team vows to respond with the installment of science-based policies. In broad strokes, campaign promises include the following measures that Greens deem relevant and doable: redirecting investment funds into green energy in lieu of fossil cooperates, banning new pipelines, closing up imports and exports of oil, protection of water and forests guided by indigenous administrative authorities, and efficient mobilization of inactive cooperation funds and speculative real estate into affordable co-op housing. The Greens also envision subsidizing businesses that operate according to zero-waste policies, installment of urban farming and organic food production. The basic aim is to reduce Canada’s energetic and economic dependency of its current diplomatic associates namely the United States and Saudi Arabia, in an effort to mobilize each part of its internal structure to cohesion and complementarity for greener practices. The social justice component of the 2019 platform includes eradication of university tuition and the federal portion of student loans, raise of the minimum hourly wage to 15$, coverage of dental healthcare for low-income families, and doubling the income replacement rate of retirement pension. The funding plan for this grand project lies in the inactive casket of cooperative funds, federal taxes and penalties yet to be collected from the Panama Papers nominees and much anticipated economic opportunities with the eventual starting up on green technologies.
As the leading environmental-oriented party, the Green Party wants electors to see the wildly idealistic Canada as it dares to imagine. The Greens want to face the challenge with integrity, lacking only electors to make an informed decision on whether or not to go through a harsh transition state with them for a valuable cause.
Election Platform 2019: https://www.greenparty.ca/sites/default/files/platform_2019_web_update_oct_6.pdf
IPCC Special Report: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
The Bloc was founded in 1991 by Lucien Bouchard as a coalition of Quebecois Liberal Ministers and Progressive Conservatives who quit their parties, dissatisfied by the results of the Meech Lake Accords. The Bloc positions itself as the voice of Quebec within the federal Parliament. Their political objective isn’t to win the vote and lead the country; the purpose of the block is to defend Quebecois interests amid the Rest of Canada. They have had a successful history, sweeping most of the seats from francophone ridings in Quebec, and being either official opposition or the third biggest party from 1993 to 2011, coinciding with the rise of the NDP. In recent years, its popularity has dropped massively, and the Bloc has since lost its status as an official party. The Bloc campaigned for Quebec sovereignty in 1995 and continues to maintain close ties with the Parti Quebecois.
The Bloc’s current head is Yves-Francois Blanchet, who succeeded Martine Ouellet after the latter’s highly controversial leadership. A large number of BQ MP’s who had previously left the party over conflicts with Ouellet rejoined soon after. Blanchet wasn’t elected leader; he was the only one who announced his candidacy for the party leadership before the deadline and was thus acclaimed by default. Before leading the Bloc, Blanchet was a Minister of Sustainable Development in the National Assembly with the Parti Quebecois from 2012 to 2014 and held various other positions in the party. In his professional career, he’s most well-known for founding a record label company. Accordingly, he has also worked for national committees on culture, especially touching the music industry.
The Bloc’s 2019 platform follows suit with its stated mission. Their primordial concern is the defence of Quebecois interests. As such, it is campaigning to bring environmental laws under provincial jurisdiction, to repeal of Bill 99 and to keep the right to a referendum, and to end federal intervention in provincial spending programs.
On the topic of multiculturalism, the Bloc wants to opt-out of the Law on Multiculturalism and supports the current provincial government on preventing any contestation of the Bill 21’s laicity project.
On the environmental front, the Bloc leverages the difference between resource-rich and green-focused Quebec and the reliance on oil of the rest of Canada and claims that it is currently Quebec that is picking up the tab for policies such as carbon taxing. Notably, it wants a form of “green equalization,” where provinces whose per capita emission rates are above average should pay taxes that will be directed to green projects in provinces with lower levels of pollution. Their stance on the Energy East pipeline project is a hardline “no.”
In terms of economic policy, the Bloc engages itself to keep provincial companies and their jobs away from foreign buyouts. It also promises to defend supply management from its many current detractors, notably in dairy, to protect the tens of thousands of Quebecois jobs concentrated in the rural regions.
People’s Party of Canada
The PPC was founded in 2018 by Maxime Bernier, who had campaigned previously with the Conservatives in 2015. He left the party amid disagreements with the current administration, and notably with Scheer’s leadership. In a letter posted on his personal website, he lamented the compromising of conservative values by the current Conservative Party. He particularly decried the leeway given to monopolies by supply management, the collaboration with the Liberals, and identity politics. In his own words, he wants to “do politics differently.” The PPC is positioned farther to the right than the Conservative Party.
Its current leader is Maxime Bernier. He entered politics in 2007, being elected Conservative MP in the riding of Beauce. Before his departure from the Conservative Party, he held several high-profile positions under the Harper government. He was at times Minister of Industry, a position which garnered him praise, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of State of Tourism and Small Businesses.
The PPC’s platform directly reflects Bernier’s ideas. Its two most attention-catching points deal with the Party’s libertarian bent and their crusade against multiculturalism.
The PPC wants to eliminate the budget deficit by drastically cutting taxes and reducing spending on welfare, foreign development, and equalization payments. It also aims to reduce corporate taxes and cut subsidies to allow the private sector to grow on its own. A similar approach is taken to tackle environmental issues. The PPC dismisses many methods as “alarmist,” and chooses to adopt a laissez-faire attitude that relies on the private sector solving the problem on the market, notably by encouraging green technology. As thus, the PPC will end the carbon tax and withdraw from the Paris Agreements.
On the subjects of culture and identity, the PPC will perform a 180-degree pivot from the Liberals’ current approach. It promises to restrict the number of immigrants and refugees from the current 350,000 to around 100,000. The PPC’s calculations estimate that upwards of $400 million was spent on processing refugee claims in the last year and settling immigrants in general costs taxpayers upwards of $30 billion a year. A similar concern is that of national identity. According to Bernier, the promotion of multiculturalism weakens the cohesion of a Canadian identity. As current Premier Trudeau puts it, Canada is the first “post-nation state.” The PPC would enact measures that preserve what it considers to be “Canadian values,” such as reducing immigration and putting values-screening interviews in place. Finally, the PPC touts free speech, and campaigns to repeal bills such as C-16, which wrote non-binary gender pronouns into the law, and plan to restrict the definition of hate speech.
For information on how and where to vote, please consult Election Canada’s website.