• Ted Fraser

Examining Economic Policy: NDP

This is part two in a three-part series that will present and analyze the economic policies of the Liberals, NDP, and Conservatives.

The NDP’s economic platform is, in many ways, an amalgamation of the Conservatives' low tax agenda and the Liberals' emphasis on infrastructure and jobs. Tom Mulcair promises to balance the budget and maintain personal taxes while simultaneously spending billions of new dollars on a national daycare program, infrastructure, healthcare and job creation.

On the topic of taxes, the perceived leftist New Democratic Party has taken an uncharacteristically conservative stance. They have pledged to maintain personal taxes, cut small-business tax rates from 11% to 9%, but increase taxes on large corporations from 15% to 17%.

This move has generated its fair share of controversy, with opponents stating that during a period of stagnant economic growth and collapsing oil prices, it would not be the right time to increase taxes on the corporations who have already had to lay off thousands of workers to remain in the black. Critics say that, if companies wanted to remain competitive, they would export jobs elsewhere. However, it is important to note that the rate is still below the G7 average as well as the average under the Harper government. The NDP platform notes that this measure will add $3.7 billion a year in revenue, a sizeable amount.

Perhaps the flagship of the NDP platform is its proposed $15-a-day national child care program. It is initially phased in at a modest $694 million in 2016-'17, later ballooning to $5 billion in 2023-'24, at which time their platform states it will be fully implemented with one million childcare spots. This plan has the potential to save families hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year and allows parents, especially women, to get a job or work even more than they are now.

The only issue with the plan is that 40% of the cost will be thrown onto the backs of the provinces, a price tag of nearly $3 billion by the time of full implementation. British Columbia and Ontario have already expressed reluctance to be a part of Mulcair's plan, and being two of the largest and most influential provinces in the country, that could present a problem.

To pay for this, the NDP will cut the stock option loophole for CEOs, generating an estimated $500 million in revenue, as well as ending fossil fuel subsidies – which eliminates $240 million in government expenditures – and have promised to repeal income splitting among couples, which would save the government $2.1 billion.

In terms of spending, the NDP has committed money into a wide range of programs. For one, they state that they will invest $13.3 billion over four years in jobs and infrastructure, $5.4 billion in senior care, and $1.4 billion for youth job opportunities and support for post-secondary education. In addition to these measures, they have committed to instituting a national cap-and-trade system in an effort to decrease carbon emissions.

More recently, Tom Mulcair declared that the NDP will not sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal encompassing 40% of the world's economy ($29 trillion). It is the largest trade deal in Canadian history. Mulcair says he disagrees with the deal on a matter of principle; it is estimated that 20,000 Canadian jobs will be lost because of the deal.

However, the advantages are many. Barrie McKenna in the Globe and Mail asserts that "Canada can’t afford not to be there. Exclusion from [the] TPP [...] will erode some of the existing benefits of the North American free-trade agreement, put food and agricultural exporters at a severe competitive disadvantage in the huge Japanese market, and penalize companies in global supply chains."

Overall, the NDP presents a plan that borrows some policies from the Liberals and Conservatives, but offers up its own ideas on subjects like climate change and child care. Mulcair presents the NDP as the choice of moderate change; his economic policy is trying very hard to prove that the NDP is not too leftist or too radical, and that it is a viable, responsible option for change in Ottawa.