Canadians have clearly spoken: on October 19, they voted for change and an unexpected Liberal majority was the direct result. During the campaign, we published several analyses of the party platforms on this blog. The Liberals performed well, earning the second highest AFB score (a B grade) on a comparison of party promises to Alternative Federal Budget proposals. If those promises are turned into policy, there will be much for progressives to celebrate.
Transition periods are a whirlwind of activity for any new government. That’s why it’s important to stay focused on the progressive policies that can be implemented rapidly (i.e., within 100 days), since many initiatives will take longer to put in place. With that restrictive timetable in mind, here are the top 10 progressive items from the Liberal platform (and the AFB) for the first 100 days.
1. Lift seniors and children out of poverty.Implementing the lower end of the proposed Canada Child Benefit would lift more than 315,000 children out of poverty, according to the Liberal platform. Improving the singles portion of the Guaranteed Income Supplement would likely lift at least 100,000 seniors out of poverty. Both of these changes could be implemented immediately.
2. Set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and a climate plan for the Paris talks.The Liberal platform is a little vague on GHG targets. A 35% reduction in GHG emissions below 2005 levels by 2025 is likely a good start. Targets are nothing without a plan, which will need to be roughly sketched and brought to the important climate change meetings in Paris in November.
3. Establish a commission of inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.This is long overdue, and although such a commission wouldn’t likely report for a year or two, it could be set up and running relatively quickly. (On October 20 Trudeau announced he is talking with Indigenous groups about setting up a commission as soon as possible.)
4. Return the age of eligibility of Old Age Security to 65.Moving the OAS age of eligibility back to 65 would prevent thousands of low-income seniors from waiting until age 67 before they can receive OAS benefits. Because this wouldn’t come into force until 2023, there are no immediate fiscal implications.
5. Restore Veterans Affairs offices, coast guard stations, food safety inspectors, EI quality of service, and other public services.Years of departmental cutbacks resulted in service degradation and office closures of federal public services. It will take some time to re-open and re-staff these offices; the government should move quickly.
6. Boost EI coverage.Roughly 40% of unemployed Canadians can currently access EI benefits. Boosting this coverage rate by reducing both the waiting time and the number of hours worked to receive EI can help Canadians who’ve lost their jobs access the benefits to which they’re entitled.
7. Restore health care for refugees.The Interim Federal Health Program pays for temporary health care for refugees. It was cut by the Harper government, resulting in the costs of refugee health care being downloaded to the provinces. The program’s full reinstatement will allow refugees to receive the health care they deserve.
8. Implement fair tax policies to reduce income inequality.Income inequality has become a substantial issue in Canada. Several proposed measures could help reduce it through the tax system. A new top tax bracket for those making over $200,000 will slightly offset large gains that group has otherwise made. The cancellation of income splitting and the capping of Tax Free Savings Accounts will help to make sure that loopholes for the wealthy stay closed.
9. Policy review of our foreign, defence, and security needs and goals.We need to rethink Canada’s guiding principles and considerations for intervention in military operations abroad. The government should also take a hard look at the appropriate balance between military and criminal justice responses to the challenges posed by terrorism. A policy review with broad consultation would help inform these goals.
10. Repeal Bills C-51, C-377 and C-24.Bill C-51 on security, Bill C-24 on revoking immigrant citizenship, and the anti-labour bill C-377 should be repealed. In fairness, the Liberal platform states they would like to fix problems with C-51 and introduce a better oversight regime for Canada’s security agencies, but either way these changes could be done quickly.
There’s much more we could say about climate change policy (beyond GHG targets), infrastructure, education, health care, etc. And we will—in our 21st Alternative Federal Budget, which will be released in the New Year. Most of our best ideas will take longer than 100 days to implement, so this is just a start.
If you have other progressive ideas from the Liberal platform that you’d like implemented in the first 100 days put them in the comments below.
David Macdonald is a Senior Economist with the CCPA. Follow David on Twitter @DavidMacCdn.