The federal Liberals are poised to debate a wide range of policy ideas, including proposals for universal basic income and national standards for long-term care, at a convention this week that will lay out direction for the party ahead of a possible federal election.
The convention is taking place at a critical moment for the Liberals, who are preparing for the prospect of a forthcoming campaign less than two years into their minority mandate. The Trudeau government is also in the midst of grappling with challenges including a third wave of COVID-19, questions about the speed of inoculations and plans to boost the economy now in a recession. The Liberals maintain they do not want an election and are focused on their pandemic response.
Due to the pandemic, the convention is being conducted entirely online. It will take place from Thursday until Saturday and will include a range of speakers, including former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney on Friday.
“We would all much prefer to be able to hold an event like this in person,” said Braeden Caley, senior director of communications for the Liberals.
“Conventions are a really great opportunity for people to come together and see familiar faces and meet new faces of people who are involved in the party from coast-to-coast-to-coast. But doing it virtually and entirely online has presented a new opportunity for people to get involved with fewer barriers to participation.”
A resolution set to be discussed at the convention is a proposal to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on basic income, including a review of projects and studies completed by experts. COVID-19 has exposed serious gaps in federal and provincial safety nets, the proposal states.
The resolution also suggests exploring the idea of streamlined federal income supports, while maintaining those available for distinct needs and adjusting for regional considerations. It also suggests the party work with provinces, territories and Indigenous people to develop and implement a basic income guarantee.
Another resolution proposes that the government work with provincial and territorial governments, as well as stakeholders, to establish enforceable national standards for all long-term care facilities. Long-term care homes have been gravely affected by the pandemic, where many residents have become ill with the virus and have died.
The resolution proposes new federal legislation be introduced to protect long-term care as an insured service that is adequately funded and that funding be conditional on transparency and adhering to the national standards.
During the Speech from the Throne in September, the government pledged it would work with the provinces and territories to set new standards for long-term care to ensure seniors get necessary support and it would take additional action to ensure people stay in their homes longer. The federal NDP has called for the development of national care standards for home care and long-term care that could be brought into the Canada Health Act.
Another resolution, brought forward by the Young Liberals of Canada, proposes high-speed rail as an affordable and efficient means of transportation and notes that Canada remains the only G7 nation without a high-speed rail link. The proposal calls for the creation of a trans-Canada rail line that would replace current infrastructure along the Trans-Canada Highway.
In June, 2019, then transportation minister Marc Garneau and then infrastructure minister François-Philippe Champagne said the federal government and the Canada Infrastructure Bank would commit $71.1-million to further explore VIA Rail Canada’s proposal for high frequency rail in the Quebec City-Toronto corridor. The high-frequency-rail proposal would use standard locomotives on dedicated passenger rail lines and does not meet the definition of high-speed rail.
The convention will be the largest in the history of the Liberal Party, Mr. Caley said, adding 4,000 people are expected to take part. More than 60 per cent of attendees are taking part in their first convention, he added.
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.