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On everything from climate change to pharmacare, the parties who want to win your vote on Oct. 21 have sharply different visions for Canada. Here’s a primer on where each of them stand

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Photo illustration (images: The Canadian Press, The Associated Press, The Globe and Mail)/The Canadian Press, The Associated Press, The Globe and Mail

Full platform documentsLiberalsConservativesNDPGreens

Carbon pricing

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  • Liberals: When Justin Trudeau’s government signed on to the 2015 Paris accord, it joined a global consensus that human-caused climate change threatens millions of lives unless emissions are cut aggressively, and now. A federal carbon-pricing program, which took effect early this year, taxes provinces that don’t have equivalent pricing or cap-and-trade regimes, but compensates individuals with rebates. If re-elected, the Liberals will keep raising the per-tonne price – from $20 now to $50 by 2022 – and are aiming for net-zero Canadian emissions by 2050. But the Liberals’ own numbers predict Canada will still fall short of its 2030 targets.
  • Conservatives: Leader Andrew Scheer opposes the carbon-pricing system, vowing that his party would repeal it and instead use tax incentives, levies on large industrial polluters and spending on carbon-capture technology. Modelling of the plan’s impact by Mark Jaccard, a Simon Fraser University researcher who sits on the UN’s advisory panel on climate change, found it would increase emissions between 2020 and 2030.
  • NDP: Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats would keep the Liberals’ basic framework, but cut rebates to the wealthiest Canadians and shift more of the tax burden to industry. An NDP government would also start a Canadian Climate Bank, create an independent office to monitor emissions cuts and spend $15-billion on a massive green overhaul of Canada’s electrical grid, transit systems and housing stock. That last part might create jurisdictional friction with provinces, who run hydro networks and enforce building codes.
  • Greens: Green Leader Elizabeth May says Canada’s targets are too low, and would instead aim for a 60-per-cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. To get there, the Greens say they’d raise the carbon price by $10 annually until 2030; invest even more than the NDP in electrical, transit and housing retrofits; and aim for a zero-emission economy by 2050.

More reading on climate policy

Explainer: Where the main parties stand on climate policy

Video guide: What is carbon pricing anyway?

Facing the risk: Climate impacts that young Canadians will have to contend with


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  • Liberals: To persuade former Alberta premier Rachel Notley to agree to the carbon framework, Mr. Trudeau promised to back the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Edmonton to the B.C. coast. Since then, his government has bought the pipeline system for $4.5-billion and pushed to get it reapproved after a court challenged the National Energy Board to do more Indigenous consultations. British Columbia and many First Nations along the route oppose the project, and Ms. Notley’s successor, Jason Kenney, has threatened aggressive measures to get it finished. Meanwhile, environmentalists say Mr. Trudeau’s support for Trans Mountain undermines Canada’s climate goals – notwithstanding the two billion trees Mr. Trudeau plans to plant with the oil revenue.
  • Conservatives: Mr. Scheer, a political ally of Mr. Kenney’s, also supports Trans Mountain and accuses the Liberals of mishandling the dispute with B.C. He says a Conservative government would fast-track legal challenges to oil pipelines straight to the Supreme Court to get final decisions faster. Meanwhile, he is courting the oil patch with promises to scrap carbon pricing, create a national energy corridor and eliminate Bill C-69, a law requiring more regulators to take human health and the environment into account when approving resource projects.
  • NDP: Mr. Singh wants to cancel the Trans Mountain expansion, end federal subsidies for fossil fuels, shift toward fully electric-powered transit and give Canadians incentives to switch to zero-emission vehicles.
  • Greens: Ms. May, who was once arrested at a demonstration against Trans Mountain, says the Greens would cancel the project and reject any new pipelines, oil and gas drilling or coal mining. They would cancel fossil-fuel subsidies and ban hydraulic-fracking operations. They want existing oil-and-gas projects phased out in the 2030s, by which point they hope to have a 100-per-cent renewable electricity supply.

More reading on energy policy

Gary Mason: No, Mr. Scheer, a national energy corridor will never happen

Interactive: A visual guide to Trans Mountain's impact on tanker traffic

From the archives: How the Trans Mountain deal was done


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  • Liberals: The Liberals’ broadest tax proposal is to raise the basic personal tax-free amount, currently $12,069, to $15,000 by 2023. New revenue would come from a luxury-items tax, eliminating tax breaks for high-income earners and increasing taxes for large companies. The Parliamentary Budget Office review has expressed doubts about whether this will produce as much revenue as the Liberals expect. The Liberal plan would also leave the government in deficit with no timeline for balanced budgets.
  • Conservatives: A proposed “universal tax cut,” costing slightly more than the Liberals’ plan, would cut the tax rate to 13.75 per cent from 15 per cent on annual income between $12,069 and $47,630. The Conservatives also want to restore Harper-era tax breaks that the Liberals deemed too costly and eliminated, such as the credits for public transit and arts and sports education programs for children. Over all, the Conservatives say they would run balanced budgets in five years.
  • NDP: The party’s “new deal for tax fairness” would raise the corporate tax rate to 18 per cent from the current 15 per cent, tax wealth greater than $20-million by 1 per cent and avoid broad tax cuts, such as those the Liberals and Conservatives propose.
  • Greens: The Green platform’s corporate-tax hike is three percentage points higher than the NDP’s, and it proposes the same tax on wealth greater than $20-million. No changes are proposed to personal tax rates. A PBO analysis says it’s highly uncertain how much revenue would be raised by the Greens’ tax increases.

More reading on taxes and deficits

Explainer: Where the main parties stand on taxes and deficits

Heavy lifting: Seven reasons why voters should worry more about big government and red ink

Editorial: Lower taxes or more benefits? Liberals and Conservatives have different answers

Jobs and the economy

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  • Liberals: Currently, wages in federal jobs hew to whatever the local province’s minimum wage is, but the Liberals, as with the NDP and Greens, are proposing a $15-an-hour minimum (though if the provincial wage is higher than that, the Liberals say the highest wage would take precedence). Mr. Trudeau would also introduce a “Canada Training Benefit,” better guarantees for apprenticeship training and a “Career Insurance Benefit” to compensate people laid off when their employers’ business closes.
  • Conservatives: Mr. Scheer has concentrated his job-creation rhetoric on the oil sands, promising that the Trans Mountain pipeline and other new energy ventures will employ tens of thousands of people. He also wants to undo most of the Liberals’ tax changes for small businesses, which were designed to keep high-income earners from exploiting tax laws to pay less.
  • NDP: The New Democrats’ platform promises 300,000 “good jobs” in Canada within four years. That’s 75,000 jobs a year, a modest amount by recent standards (the country’s net gain for August was 81,100 jobs, although that was larger than usual and most new jobs were part time). New Democrats would change employment-insurance rules to give students and workers more job training, pour new money into the auto, aerospace and forestry industries and reaffirm support for supply management in Canada’s international trade deals.
  • Greens: The green retrofits to Canada’s buildings alone will create more than four million jobs, the Green platform says, citing trade-union research. The party also promises a guaranteed livable income, a “just transition” to give oil sands workers new jobs, investment in job training for a green economy and the creation of a Community and Environment Service Corps to employ young people.

More reading on jobs and the economy

Explainer: Where the main parties stand on jobs and EI

Konrad Yakabuski: Winter is coming: Why Canada isn’t prepared for the next recession

Sean Speer: I underestimated what Trump’s ‘forgotten’ workers can do politically. Canadian politicians shouldn’t make the same mistake


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  • Liberals: After commissioning two major fact-finding studies that each concluded Canada needs universal pharmacare, the Liberals embraced the idea – but only up to a point. Mr. Trudeau billed his $6-billion, four-year health plan as a “down payment” on pharmacare, but acknowledged a re-elected Liberal government would have to negotiate with provinces first.
  • Conservatives: Mr. Scheer has opposed national pharmacare in the past. His platform’s only mention of public drug coverage is a pledge to work with provinces and territories to find ways to reduce the cost of “orphan drugs” that treat rare diseases.
  • NDP: Mr. Singh’s plan would enact Canada Health Act-style legislation to make pharmacare happen by the end of 2020, and he’s promised $10-billion a year in federal money. A national formulary would make a list of drugs that would have at least one version available at no cost, or a $5 co-pay for those who want brand-name drugs with available generic equivalents.
  • Greens: As with Mr. Singh, Ms. May wants pharmacare introduced by 2020, but she’s promised to have Ottawa pick up the full tab for the first two years. That would cost about $26.76-billion in 2020-21, rising to nearly $40-billion (including provincial contributions) in 2028-29, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

More reading on pharmacare

Explainer: Where the four main parties stand on pharmacare

Explainer: Where the four main parties stand on opioids and drug policy

Video guide: How could national pharmacare work?

Child care

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  • Liberals: Past Liberal budgets have pledged $7.5-billion over a decade to expand child care across Canada, but universal daycare became a more distant dream when one of Mr. Trudeau’s major partners in the child-care framework – the Ontario Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne – was defeated last year. The federal Liberal platform promises spending that would cut before- and after-school child-care fees by 10 per cent, and increase the Canada Child Benefit by up to $1,000 for children under a year old.
  • Conservatives: Mr. Scheer has pledged to revive two Harper-era refundable tax credits for families enrolling children in sport and artistic learning programs. Only children at the age of 16 and under would be eligible, and the 15-per-cent tax credit would apply to a maximum of $1,000 for sports programs and $500 for arts programs. Mr. Scheer also wants to make employment-insurance benefits tax-free for new parents.
  • NDP: The New Democratic platform calls for “legislation that enshrines Canada’s commitment to high-quality, public child care in law,” singling out Quebec as a model to follow and pledging $1-billion in federal child-care funding in 2020, with annual increases after that.
  • Greens: The Greens plan to work with provinces and First Nations on “a road map to affordable child care for all children,” and would raise federal funding to eventually reach at least 1 per cent of GDP a year. The Greens would also exempt child-care-related construction costs from the GST.

More reading on child care

Explainer: Where the major parties stand on families and child care

Tea Nicola: If we’re serious about getting more women in executive roles, a universal child-care system is crucial

Ontario child-care tax credit to help few low-income families, watchdog says


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  • Liberals: The Trudeau government introduced a mortgage stress test in 2018 to keep price growth in check in Canada’s hot housing markets. The real estate industry has argued that it excludes too many people from owning homes, but Mr. Trudeau is staying put on the stress test, and adding a first-time home-buyer incentive. The Liberals would also crack down on property speculation with a consistent national tax on foreign-owned vacant properties and a joint effort with provinces to combat financial crimes in real estate.
  • Conservatives: Mr. Scheer wants to let home buyers amortize their insured mortgages for 30 years, up from the current limit of 25. That could lower buyers’ monthly costs, but also encourage them to gamble on more expensive properties and end up in deeper debt. The Conservative platform promises to “fix” the stress test, but doesn’t say how, other than to say it should be removed for mortgage renewals. If Mr. Scheer’s fixes weaken the test, some industry analysts fear it could reinflame the housing market.
  • NDP: Mr. Singh says the NDP would create 500,000 affordable housing units over 10 years and waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on new affordable rental units. The NDP would also add to foreign-buyers’ taxes in B.C. and Ontario with a national 15-per-cent tax on home purchases by those who aren’t citizens or permanent residents.
  • Greens: Ms. May wants to create a dedicated federal housing minister to tailor long-term affordable housing solutions to each province, would have new and existing housing redesignated as infrastructure so it can be funded through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and would refocus the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. from commercial lenders to affordable non-market housing. She would also eliminate the first-time home-buyer grant.

More reading on housing policy

Explainer: The parties' housing pledges, and their risks

Rob Carrick: Politicians should keep their hands off stress tests for first-time home buyers

Bill Karsten: The next prime minister can solve Canada’s housing crisis by working with municipal leaders

Indigenous policy

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  • Liberals: Mr. Trudeau, who ran in 2015 on promises of reconciliation, but met resistance from many First Nations over his support for oil pipelines, is doubling down in this election by vowing to hold Canada’s laws to standards set in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Liberals have pledged to eliminate all long-term drinking-water advisories on reserve, of which there are currently more than 50. At the same time, the government says it will appeal a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision urging compensation for Indigenous children unnecessarily brought into the child-welfare system.
  • Conservatives: Similar to the 2015 platform of his predecessor, Stephen Harper – whose environmental policies triggered the Idle No More movement of 2012-13 – Mr. Scheer’s platform focuses on Indigenous economic prosperity, arguing that bureaucracy and outdated Indigenous governance are obstacles to that. Mr. Scheer would also create a dedicated cabinet job for consulting with Indigenous people on major natural-resources projects and “increase support for organizations that facilitate engagement between Indigenous groups and resource development companies.” Like Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Scheer supports Ottawa’s challenge of the human-rights tribunal ruling on Indigenous child welfare.
  • NDP: The New Democrats would set up a “National Council for Reconciliation” to oversee a planned overhaul of natural-resources policy, the child-welfare system, education, infrastructure and health care. The NDP would fully implement UNDRIP. Mr. Singh would also spend $1.8-billion to bring clean water to every Indigenous community.
  • Greens: Ms. May wants to give Indigenous nations a process to opt out of the Indian Act, the law governing most federal-Indigenous relations. The Greens would also set up an independent land-claims arbitrator and implement UNDRIP, the recommendations of a 1996 royal commission on Indigenous issues and the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation report.

More reading on Indigenous issues

Assembly of First Nations sets sights on influencing election campaign policy

Leaders urged to confront inequities for Indigenous kids in care

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond: Liberals prove they don’t value Indigenous kids as much as other children

Foreign policy

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  • Liberals: Mr. Trudeau famously said in 2015 that “Canada is back” after the Harper government frayed ties to many international institutions. But he came under criticism from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for falling short of restoring Canada’s foreign-aid budget to levels under the Harper government. In this election, the Liberals are reaffirming their feminist foreign-assistance policy and increasing aid spending annually toward 2030.
  • Conservatives: The Tories want to focus foreign-aid efforts on poor countries such as Haiti, Afghanistan or the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, but slash the current $6-billion foreign-aid budget by $1.5-billion, a 25-per-cent reduction. Mr. Scheer, who has said he is personally anti-abortion, says those cuts wouldn’t affect Canada’s global pro-choice initiatives.
  • NDP: The New Democrats want to rededicate Canada to global peacekeeping and raise foreign aid to 0.7 per cent of gross national income. They would spend more on health initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and, similar to the Liberals, they say they would make the rights of women and girls a cornerstone of their foreign-policy agenda.
  • Greens: The foreign-policy section of the Greens’ platform mentions no foreign-aid priorities and is much more focused on domestic military affairs. It calls for more resources and training for the military to defend the North as Arctic ice melts, and to “normalize the deployment of military personnel to protect civilians and communities from extreme forest fires, flooding and storms caused by climate change.”

More reading on foreign policy

Doug Saunders: How the next government can reclaim Canada’s place on the international stage

Roland Paris: With tectonic international shifts, our foreign affairs strategy shouldn’t be an afterthought

Colin Robertson: Canada cannot cut foreign aid. We’re already not doing enough


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  • Liberals: Mr. Trudeau walked a fine line during his term in office between welcoming more immigrants, including tens of thousands fleeing Syria’s civil war, and discouraging asylum seekers from crossing the U.S.-Canada border. The most recent Liberal target is 350,000 immigrants by 2021, up from 310,000 in 2018, but the party platform site says only that the party will “move forward with modest and responsible increases to immigration.” It also promises to work with the U.S. government to “modernize” the Safe Third Country Agreement, which includes a loophole leading to the large numbers of border crossers.
  • Conservatives: Earlier this year, Mr. Scheer’s main immigration-policy speech emphasized “fairness, order and compassion," but didn’t set a target number of newcomers, saying only that levels would be “consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.” He also said he’d close the Safe Third Country Agreement loophole and stop unauthorized border crossings, but it’s unclear how.
  • NDP: The New Democrat platform, which also doesn’t set an immigration target, stresses that immigration should match Canadian labour needs and that clearing backlogs for family reunification should be a priority. Mr. Singh, arguing that the United States under President Donald Trump is not a safe country for refugees, would suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement and let asylum seekers claim refugee status at official crossings.
  • Greens: The Greens would increase immigration over all, give foreign professionals easier access to the credentials they need to work here and cancel the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, addressing labour-force shortages with more immigration instead. They would also terminate the Safe Third Country Agreement.

More reading on immigration

Explainer: Where the four main parties stand on immigration

Video guide: What is the Safe Third Country Agreement?

Are asylum seekers crossing into Canada illegally? A look at facts behind the controversy

Quebec’s Bill 21

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  • Liberals: This past spring, Quebec’s government enacted legislation barring certain public servants, including teachers, from wearing religious garments such as turbans, hijabs and niqabs. Premier François Legault argued it was a step forward for official secularism, but to Mr. Trudeau, it was a step backward that enshrined religious discrimination into law. Bill 21 is being challenged in a Quebec court, but the federal government has not intervened, though Mr. Trudeau hasn’t ruled out doing so in the future.
  • Conservatives: Mr. Scheer also opposes Bill 21, but says its legality should be tested in court, and a Conservative government would not intervene against it.
  • NDP: Mr. Singh – whose election ads in Quebec have played up his status as a turban-wearing Sikh with a message of inclusion – thinks Bill 21 is discriminatory, but also says an NDP government would stay out of the court challenge.
  • Greens: Ms. May condemned Bill 21 when it was introduced, but hasn’t instructed Green candidates to do likewise. That’s not uncommon with the Green Party, which is more decentralized than other parties and allows candidates to oppose official policies. The Greens did, however, ask before the election that candidates use caution when talking about the issue.

More reading on Bill 21

Editorial: Quebec passes a terrible law, and for the worst reasons

Sadiya Ansari: For Jagmeet Singh, his identity is a double-edged sword

Konrad Yakabuski: Quebec’s religious symbols ban is Trudeau’s campaign cross to bear

Gun control

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  • Liberals: After 2018′s Danforth shooting in Toronto, Mr. Trudeau assigned one of his cabinet ministers to study a national ban on handguns. Those are the weapons of choice in most Canadian mass shootings, unlike the military-style assault-rifle attacks seen in the U.S. But the gun-control plan Mr. Trudeau unveiled in September instead focuses on banning and buying back assault rifles, leaving any handgun bans to municipalities and provinces. In Toronto, where the mayor and city council support a handgun ban but the Ontario Premier doesn’t, it’s unclear how any ban could succeed under the Liberals’ proposal.
  • Conservatives: Mr. Scheer is the only federal leader to own guns, and has advocated for “honest firearms owners” ever since he ran for his party’s leadership. He has proposed to take away the RCMP’s powers to reclassify guns, and create an ombudsman to act on gun owners’ behalf. In this campaign, his “A Safer Canada” plan proposes new mandatory sentences for gang- and gun-smuggling-related crimes and lifetime firearms bans for those deemed violent offenders.
  • NDP: The NDP’s platform document pledges to “work to keep assault weapons and illegal handguns off our streets, and to tackle gun smuggling and organized crime." It does not propose new types of firearms restrictions, although Mr. Singh has previously supported giving cities more power to ban handguns.
  • Greens: Ms. May has proposed a buyback program for handguns and assault weapons, as well as redirecting Canada Border Service Agency efforts to combat weapons smuggling.

More reading on gun control

Why does any Canadian need a handgun? What the gun control debate is missing

How The Globe tried – and failed – to find the source of Canada’s crime guns

Jose Vivar: As a gangster in Toronto, I was drawn to the lure of the gun. I know what it takes to stop it

Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Shawn McCarthy, Marieke Walsh, Michelle Zilio, Bill Curry, Kelly Grant, Janet McFarland, Evan Annett and The Canadian Press

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