Americans who always point to Canada as a bastion of liberal and progressive values may have to choose another example - on Tuesday, Jan 24, we could wake up to a different kind of Canada. I encourage everyone to vote, not because it's cool (it's not), but everyone does what's cool, so maybe you should do what is not cool to be cool. OK, that doesn't make too much sense, but here is how I see the issues:
Muslim Issues: Americans may be surprised to know we Canadians have less personal rights than Americans (in theory). The government can pick a Canadian off the street and lock him up for years without a trial under what is known as the 'Security Certificate'. This is a violation of civil liberties that increasingly, and unfairly, targets Muslims. The Conservatives have promised to review the issue, and change it from being decided by a minister to being decided by a panel of judges. The Liberals don't care about the issue. The NDP is the only party that has promised to cancel the ATA and the 'Security Certificates'. There are laws already in place that can be used to provide security for Canadians and protect civil liberties.
Foreign Credentials: Canada poaches off the world for its intellectuals and lets only the best immigrate here. This fails, however, as most professionals find that their degrees are not recognized here and they would have to start from way below on the ladder. All three parties have recognized this issue. The NDP has raised it prominently in their campaigns and stated they would tell immigrants from upfront what their struggles will be like. The Conservatives have promised a national agency to evaluate foreign credentials. The Liberals have offered no plans.
Immigration: This is one area the Liberals shine. They have followed through on multiculturalism and Canada has the most diverse set of immigrants in the world. Letting only the skilled ones in have ensured immigrants here are of the best kind, who want to make life better for themselves and contribute positively to the community. Recently the Liberals have also made it easier for grandparents to come in, and allow international students to work while studying and settle in Canada afterwards. The NDP follow a similar ideology to the Liberals. The Conservatives have not said much about immigration in their campaign, but from past statements and their ads linking crime and immigration, it seems to me that they look at immigrants with a distrustful eye. In my opinion they would restrict immigration and reunion of families.
Foreign Affairs: Under the NDP, Canada would pursue a balanced and middle road in foreign affairs. They have criticized GW Bush immensely, and would respect international organizations like UN. The Liberals say they will do the same, however under Martin, the Liberals have moved a bit to the right. They support Israel's actions in the UN, sent troops to Haiti to remove a ruler, and committed troops to Afghanistan without Parliamentary review (to be clear Canada needs to be there, but it should have Parliament's approval). The Conservatives would join any foreign military affair the Americans would undertake. They would have been in Iraq.
Same sex and minority rights: The NDP is for minority rights. The Liberals are mostly for, but few of them (such as Tom Wappel and the Sikh Liberals in GTA) are very socially conservative. The Conservatives seem to base such issues as 'morality', and look to their religious values for guidance. As such, they would be against SSM, and some of them have in the past spoken out against abortion.
Environment: The NDP seems to have the most pro-environment agenda of the three. They would respect Kyoto and last election the Sierra club chose their platform over the Green party. The Liberals have signed the Kyoto treaty but our emissions have risen (greater than USA) and we have had numerous 'boil-water' advisories in rural communities. The Conservatives follow the Republicans in denouncing Kyoto, but have no effectual ideas of their own.
Tax & Economy: The Liberals have the best tax plan of all. They have cut income taxes already, and have promised to cut it further. However they have enough to commit to surpluses and pay down the debt. The economy under the Liberals for the last 12 years have been the best amongst the G7, and we have not had a depression. Unemployment is at its lowest. The NDP has stated they would not favour tax hikes but would not cut them either. The Conservatives have promised to raise income taxes. They would cut GST and give a host of other tax cuts, but there is fear that it would lead to US-style deficits. I don't see their GST benefiting poor people as they get GST rebates anyways. To me, it appears their policies are designed to improve the rich.
Crime: A surprise here, the socialist NDP has actually promised a tough-on-crime platform. However they will also continue social programs to prevent crime. It appears to me the Liberals do not want to acknowledge crime exists, instead pointing to exclusion (when the gunmen left in a BMW). Conservatives have a tough-on-crime attitude as well (and most likely to deliver), but they appear to ignore social programs.
I would encourage all Canadians to study the issues, ignore the media commentary and soundbites, and vote accordingly on Monday. Each vote literally counts in Canada, as the party you vote for gets $1.75 per vote for its funds. If you don't vote, you let others speak for you.
Tags: Canada Elections