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My response to Erin O’Toole’s plan to “secure Canada’s future”

The federal Conservatives have released their preliminary campaign platform. Here’s what I think of it.

Last week, Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s official opposition and the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, sent out the following tweet.

There’s been a lot of talk of an election being called this summer, so the fact that O’Toole has released what amounts to a campaign platform shouldn’t be that shocking.

But it piqued my interest, so I clicked on the link and checked out his plan.

It’s pretty sparse, but like he said, it’s split into 5 areas: jobs, accountability, mental health, country, and economy. It’s not comprehensive, so I thought I’d take a few moments to provide my feedback on this preliminary “plan”.

Jobs

Every Canadian deserves the security and dignity that comes with a secure, stable, and well-paid job. Canada’s Conservatives will enact a comprehensive jobs plan to get Canadians back to work across the country.

I’m really curious what a comprehensive jobs plan looks like under a conservative government. After all, under a conservative government, Alberta has lost at least 52,000 full-time jobs, not counting what was lost during the pandemic.

The plan to secure jobs, while pretty light on details, did provide these 3 actions:

  1. Taking immediate action to help the hardest hit sectors, helping those — including women and young Canadians— who have suffered the most.
  2. Rebuilding Main Street by assisting small business and providing incentives to invest in, rebuild, and start new businesses.
  3. Creating opportunity in all sectors of the economy and all parts of the country.

I genuinely wonder what action O’Toole plans to take that will specifically target women and young people and what helping the hardest hit sectors will look like.

As well, what does he mean by “assisting” and “providing incentives to” small businesses? And in what ways will he create opportunity in all sectors?

Accountability

Canada’s Conservatives will put the country first, by enacting the toughest accountability and transparency laws in Canada’s history.

Now, that sounds intriguing. The toughest accountability and transparency laws in Canada’s history? That I must see.

  1. Toughen the Conflict of Interest Act and impose higher penalties.
  2. Toughen the Lobbying Act to end abuse by Liberal insiders.
  3. Increase transparency to end Liberal cover-ups.

I’m intrigued by his use of the word “Liberal” in two of these actions. Is this posturing in an effort to rile up his base, or is he literally saying that his adjustments to accountability and transparency laws will affect only Liberal transparency and accountability?

Mental health

The last year has made clear the mental health crisis we face. It’s time to make it clear that mental health IS health, and to treat it properly.

I mean sure, but there was a mental health crisis long before the pandemic hit. For example, in 2019, the suicide rate for men was 3 times as high as that of women.

  1. Boost funding to the provinces for mental health care.
  2. Provide incentives to employers to provide mental health coverage to employees.
  3. Create a nation-wide, three-digit suicide prevention hotline.

Instead of just boosting funding for mental health care, tie it to making mental health care completely covered by public health insurance.

Speaking of public health insurance, let’s scrap the idea of having employers providing mental health coverage, and let’s get universal mental healthcare up and running.

I’m totally fine with a 3-digit suicide prevention line.

(If you or someone you know are in crisis and need help, resources are available, such as the Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionDepression Hurts, and Kids Help Phone. In case of an emergency, please phone 9-1-1 for immediate help.)

Country

We must never again be caught as unprepared as we were when COVID hit last year. Canada’s Conservatives will make Canada more resilient, reduce our reliance on foreign countries like China, and take seriously our responsibility to protect the health of Canadians.

“Reduce our reliance on foreign countries like China”. Is he talking about reducing our reliance on foreign countries overall and using China as an example, or does he want to reduce reliance on only certain countries, one of which is China?

I mean, I’m totally fine with medical supplies being produced domestically. I wonder if he’s aware that it’s not just the federal government sourcing medical supplies out of China. Alberta has as well.

Does he realize that Canada isn’t just reliant on China for medical supplies? Many of the goods sold in Canada are produced in China. Large corporations take advantage of lower worker wages, fewer worker benefits, and poorer working conditions in countries like China to keep retail prices low and profits high. And as long as worker wages are kept low in Canada, too, then there will be demand for lower priced products from these countries.

So, it’ll be interesting how he plans to address Canada’s reliance on a country’s whose exports are so tightly woven into our market economy.

  1. Partner with pharmaceutical companies to increase production of critical medicines and build domestic vaccine production capacity.
  2. Use procurements by government and those receiving government funding to strengthen domestic production of PPE.
  3. Overhaul and rebuild Canada’s National Emergency Stockpile System to ensure we have the supplies we need to be prepared at all times for future threats.

Better yet, let’s nationalize the Canadian pharmaceutical industry. This way, we have full control over the production of critical medicines and the building of domestic vaccine production capacity.

Same goes for PPE production. Let’s go beyond just procurement.

I completely agree with improving the national stockpiling system.

Economy

I find it interesting that O’Toole felt it was necessary to separate “jobs” and “economy”, given how interdependent they are. It almost feels as if they were forced to find enough areas to fit into a pre-made 5-point idea.

Spending to protect Canadians in the pandemic was the right thing to do, and Conservatives supported it. But we can’t pass unsustainable debt on to future generations. Once the recovery starts, we will need to get spending under control.

Great. Let’s start with a wealth tax.

To get spending under control we must narrow the gap between expenses and revenue, and the best way to do that is to increase revenue. And taxing those who are the biggest consumers of public services seems to be a great place to start.

For example, a 60% wealth tax on $300 billion in new revenue. You could wipe out a $1 trillion federal debt in one term of a majority government.

  1. Wind down emergency COVID support programs in a responsible way as Canadians are vaccinated and the economy re-opens.
  2. Ensure that stimulus measures are targeted and time-limited to avoid creating a structural deficit.
  3. Get the economy growing again after years of slow growth under the Liberals, so that we have the revenue to pay for the government services that Canadians rely on.

Wind down COVID support programmes? Heck no. Expand them. Turn them into a UBI. If you want the economy to grow, giving consumers money is the best way to do it.

Rich people hoard money, poor people spend it. And as they spend it, it increases demand, which drives production and job creation. Plus, that increased spending means increased revenue from consumption taxes (like the GST), and more jobs means increased revenue from income tax.

Finally, like I mentioned earlier, it’s pretty sparse on details, so it’s difficult to break things down too much, but it’ll be interesting to see if they offer more granularity as the election nears.

By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 4 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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