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Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole all are good choices, depending on the voters' priorities.POOL/Reuters

After weeks of campaigning, polls show the Liberals and Conservatives in a tight race, with the NDP in a stronger-than-usual third place. Now you must decide how to cast your ballot. Here is some advice, based on issues you might care about most.

Child-care matters: In their last budget, the Liberals introduced a comprehensive, and very expensive, national child-care program, which will eventually result in $10-a-day spaces across the country, at an annual cost of more than $8-billion. The more modest Conservative plan would pay qualifying parents through a refundable tax credit. Over all, the Liberal plan is more comprehensive. If affordable child care is your top priority, vote Liberal.

Budgets don’t balance themselves: There is general agreement that the federal government needed to borrow heavily to support workers and businesses during the pandemic. But the Liberals have been running deficits since they first took office in 2015, and prefer big, new spending programs (see child care, above) to restraint. The Conservatives would take a decade to eliminate the deficit, but at least they care about balancing the books. If sound federal finances matter to you, vote Conservative.

If climate change is all that matters: Both the Liberals and Conservatives would fight global warming by putting a price on carbon. But energy economist Mark Jaccard at Simon Fraser University judges the Liberal plan more effective and, in any case, the program is already well entrenched. If you believe all other issues pale before the climate emergency, vote Liberal.

Canada’s 2021 federal-election platform guide: compare where the parties stand on top issues

Helping the precariat: The Conservatives propose requiring employers to contribute the equivalent of Employment Insurance and pension payments to workers on contract. Each portable Employee Savings Account would move with the worker from one job to the next. If you’re a Gen Z or millennial worker in despair over landing a secure job with full benefits, this may be your best bet. Vote Conservative.

Pharmacare ever? The New Democrats are deeply committed to universal pharmacare. The Conservatives have no appetite for such a thing, while the Liberals tinker with pilots and reports. If Monday’s election results in a hung Parliament, the NDP could push for progress on pharmacare as a condition of support. If this is a major priority for you, vote NDP.

Reconciliation ever? The Liberals have made some progress on Indigenous reconciliation, but Indigenous leaders remain deeply dissatisfied. While the Conservatives promise to do better, their record in government suggests otherwise. Only the NDP has made reconciliation a core commitment in their election campaign. If this issue is at the top of your list, vote NDP.

When will I own a home? The pandemic worsened a housing shortage created by rising demand and restricted supply. The NDP plan focuses heavily on subsidized and rental housing; the Conservatives offer incentives to increase the market-based supply, while the Liberals offer a mix of incentives and regulations. Over all, if you think you’ll need government help to pay the rent, vote NDP. If you want market-based prices to come down, vote Conservative. If you want more incentives for first-time purchasers and new rules to prevent predatory buying and lending, vote Liberal.

Show us your papers: The Liberals want to expand mandatory vaccinations to include all federal government workers and airplane and train travellers. They would also help fund provincial vaccine passports. The Conservatives prefer to encourage rather than enforce. If you believe people should be required to get their shots or lose their job, vote Liberal.

Show us the money: The Conservatives promise to increase annual health transfers to provinces by 6 per cent. The Liberals would also increase funding, but attach strings. If you believe Ottawa should give the provinces what they need and then let them get on with the job, vote Conservative.

Canada is a pretty lucky country. From this desk, either Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau or Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole could be trusted to provide competent, responsible government. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet have shown the ability to make a minority Parliament work while holding the government to account.

A vote for any of them would be a good choice.

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