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As Canada’s economy takes a hit, here’s where the parties stand on key economic issues

From left to right, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper

The Globe and Mail is hosting a debate on the economy among the leaders of the three main political parties on Thursday at 8 pm (ET). Click here for more details.

Recession or not, Canada's economy is in a rut.

Party leaders are telling Canadians on the campaign trail that they have the best plan to spur growth, create jobs and set the country up to be competitive over the long term.

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While none of the three major parties has yet released a detailed election platform, all have outlined many of their key economic plans.

More than half way into the 78-day election campaign, here's where the parties stand on key economic issues as they prepare for an English-language leaders debate Thursday in Calgary hosted by The Globe and Mail that will focus on the economy.

Taxation

Conservatives: Conservative Leader Stephen Harper likes to boast, accurately, that federal taxes are lower now than they've been in more than 50 years. Keeping taxes low is the central theme of the Conservatives' stay-the-course message. Last year they announced billions in new tax cuts, including income splitting for families with children under 18. They also brought in more generous Universal Child Care Benefit payments. The 2015 budget promised to cut the small-business tax rate from 11 to 9 per cent by 2019.

The Conservatives would cut employment insurance premiums from $1.88 per $100 of insurable earnings to $1.49 in 2017.

Liberals:The Liberals are the only major party promising to change personal tax rates. They would introduce a new tax rate of 33 per cent on income over $200,000. That would help fund a tax cut on income between $44,701 and $89,401, where the rate would drop to 20.5 per cent from 22 per cent.

The Liberals would also launch a "Canada Child Benefit," which would repackage and expand existing programs such as the Universal Child Care Benefit. The change would fund larger monthly payments to families at lower incomes by providing less generous benefits to higher income families.

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The Liberals would also cancel income splitting for families but would maintain it for seniors. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau supports lowering the small-business tax rate, but has faced criticism from the Conservatives and NDP for saying measures would be required to ensure the small-business tax system isn't used by high-income Canadians as a way of avoiding taxes. The Liberals promise to reduce EI premiums to $1.65 in 2017 while also expanding EI benefits.

NDP:The NDP says it won't touch personal income taxes and will cut the small-business tax rate to 9 per cent within two years. The NDP would raise the corporate tax rate, but NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has said only that the new rate would be below what the average rate has been under the Conservatives. He is promising to release a full platform before the Sept. 17 leaders debate.

The NDP would also cancel income splitting for families but maintain it for seniors.

Infrastructure

Conservatives: The Conservatives topped up their long-term infrastructure program in the 2015 budget with a new public transit fund, which would ramp up to $1-billion per year in 2019-2020. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, annual federal spending on infrastructure grew from $1.7-billion in 2007-08 to about $5-billion a year now.

Liberals:The Liberals made a major policy splash near the midway point of the campaign, announcing they would run three years of deficits to finance a major spike in infrastructure spending. The party is promising $60-billion in new spending over 10 years on roads, bridges, transit and other projects. Mr. Trudeau said municipalities would set the priorities as to what gets built.

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NDP:The NDP is promising to increase transfers to municipalities and boost transit funding all while balancing the books. The federal gas tax transfer, which municipalities can use as they wish, would be gradually increased over the existing annual level of $2.1-billion. In the fourth year of an NDP government, the transfer would be worth $3.7-billion. The NDP would also spend slightly more on transit than the Conservatives over the next two years, rising to $1.3-billion a year by the fourth year, which is $300-million more than the Tories. In addition, the NDP is promising a one-time $500-million incentive for new affordable housing and annual funding for existing affordable housing programs that would grow to $650-million a year.

Energy

Conservatives: With oil prices plummeting, Mr. Harper has argued that temporary swings in the energy sector can be expected. He continues to advocate for new energy pipelines to bring Alberta crude to global markets and warns against Liberal and NDP environmental policies, which he predicts will hurt the economy.

Liberals:The Liberals ran into trouble in 2008 with a campaign centred on a detailed "Green Shift" policy based on carbon taxes and tax breaks. This time, the party said key details on energy and climate change policy will come after the election based on discussions with the provinces. Mr. Trudeau has promised federal cash for the provinces to help them implement their climate-change plans. He promises to meet with the provinces to discuss energy issues if elected. The party promises to encourage renewable energy use across Canada.

NDP:NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair often accuses the Conservatives of placing too much focus on the energy sector, to the detriment of other sectors such as manufacturing. Mr. Mulcair said he will bring in stronger environmental regulations and those rules will determine whether an NDP government approves projects such as the Energy East pipeline.

Manufacturing

Conservatives: Manufacturers are the darlings of this election campaign. With a low dollar and a struggling energy sector, there is a lot of pressure on manufacturers to boost economic growth. Leaders are regularly holding events and photo ops at manufacturing plants. Mr. Harper is promising an Advanced Manufacturing Hub will be set up in Burlington, Ont., and an Investment and Trade Promotion Office that will look to attract international manufacturing investment.

Liberals:The Liberals have not yet announced their manufacturing platform. But they have warned that the NDP plans to raise the corporate tax rate will make it harder for Canada to attract manufacturing jobs.

NDP:Mr. Mulcair says he will be a personal champion of Canada's manufacturing sector. He said this means he will personally attend international trade shows to encourage multinational companies to increase their manufacturing presence in Canada. He has also promised an innovation tax credit for manufactures at a cost of $40-million per year.

Bottom line

Conservatives: The Conservatives are promising to post a small surplus in the current 2015-16 fiscal year and to continue running surpluses. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has warned that federal finances are on track for a small deficit this year because of lower-than-expected economic growth.

Liberals:The Liberals are promising to balance the books in 2019 after three years of deficits that would help pay for infrastructure spending. The party insists that Canada's debt as a share of the economy will continue to decline over that period. It also promises that the size of annual deficits will not exceed $10-billion.

NDP:The NDP promises to balance the books during its first full fiscal year in power, which would be 2016-17. The party says ending tax breaks for people who are compensated with stock options are among the measures that will bring in the additional revenue required to cover the cost of the NDP's spending promises.

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