• Ted Fraser

Examining Economic Policy: Conservatives

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

Stephen Harper has positioned himself in this election race as the sturdy and reliable steward of the Canadian economy. In comparison with the other two main parties, the Conservatives’ platform fails to introduce any bold, new ideas for the country, and vies instead to stick to the status quo. Indeed, in the prelude to the 159-page platform, Prime Minister Harper sums the whole thing up well, saying, “It’s working. Let’s continue on with what we know works.

In terms of taxation, all perentages will remain the same except for small-business tax rates. Along with the two other parties, the Conservatives have pledged to reduce small-business taxes from 11% to 9%. Indeed, if elected, they are pledging to pass legislation that would put a lock on any personal tax increases over the next four years – a largely symbolic gesture. Additionally, a re-elected Conservative government will lower the EI premium rate from $1.88 in 2016 to $1.49 in 2017.

They have promised to continue trying to balance the budget. Despite adding $120 billion to the federal debt over the last 9 years, the Conservatives managed to post a modest surplus of $1.4 billion in the 2014-’15 fiscal year. Additionally, they have aimed to create another 1.3 million new, well-paying jobs by 2020. It's not really fully explained how they will do this, aside from implementing a $60 million-a-year Apprentice Job Creation Tax Credit.

A re-elected Conservative government will also re-enact the Home Renovation Tax Credit, a popular tax credit that was introduced for a short time in 2009. Taxpayers would be able to cut up to 15 per cent off the cost of home, condo, or cottage renovations. It would be available each year for home renovation expenses up to $2,500, beginning in January 2017, and $5,000, beginning in January 2019. It is estimated that this will cost taxpayers $1.52 billion each year.

Also, they will establish an “equivalent-to-spouse” Pension Income Credit for single and widowed seniors. This $2,000 Single Seniors Tax Credit will extend tax relief to nearly 1.6 million single and widowed seniors.

These are just some of the boutique tax credits the Conservatives are willing to introduce. Overall, they will add $590 million more in expenditures from the previous fiscal year on everything from data on foreign speculation in real estate – a negligible price tag of a $500,000 a year – to $5 million annually towards lobster branding.

Overall, the Conservatives present a predictable economic plan that incorporates a balanced budget, a small-business tax cut, and the recent signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Besides a host of boutique tax cuts and credits, the Conservative platform doesn’t really offer up any particularly notable or ambitious policies.