Specific policies mentioned in the Toronto Liberal Leadership Debate
Feb 16, 2013

Specific policies mentioned in the Toronto Liberal Leadership Debate

In keeping with my goal of policy centric coverage of the Leadership contest, this post contains largely a list of various policies mentioned by the respective Candidates at the Toronto Liberal Leadership Debate. The ability to articulate a clear policy vision for Canada, not just utter platitudes and generalities, is paramount to the Liberals being able to find electoral success. As such, I ignored appeals to values or general principles, and also ignored criticism of Harper. This is a pretty exhaustive list of the first hour of the debate which contained the excellent one on one debate format that is vastly superior in terms of flushing out policy specifics than larger group debates. I finish with a few miscellaneous comments. 

David Bertschi:
  • Favours family reunification in immigration policy
  • Increased recognition of foreign credentials with federal, not just provincial, leadership
  • Wants to maintain the supply management system on dairy/poultry
  • Supports a "fair managed trade" opposed to free trade; also aims for trade engagement not isolationism
  • Tax cuts for the middle class
  • Encourage apprenticeship programs
Martin Cauchon:
  • No comments
Deborah Coyne:
  • Parliamentary committee for electoral reform with a subsequent national referendum
  • Change nomination races in the Liberal party to make them more democratic
  • Wants to change the Canada Quebec Accord on immigration, favoring a more federal approach as opposed to the provincial nominee program. 
  • Simplify tax code; reducing micro deductions such as abuses in child care tax credit. 
  • Double immigration rates over the next ten years
Martha Hall Findlay: 
  • Supports a West to East pipeline, using underutilized refining capacity in New Brunswick.
  • Wants to abolish the supply management system on dairy/poultry. 
  • Supports active engagement with countries on human rights or environmental concerns, not isolationism. 
  • Supports targeted immigration opposed to letting just anyone in. 
Marc Garneau: 
  • Supports the Preferential Ballot, but sees no need for a referendum on the issue
Karen McCrimmon:
  • Secondary Resource development (such as milling or refining of lumber and oil) support
  • Increase low income tax credit and increase personal deductions
Joyce Murray:
  • Electoral cooperation with the NDP 
  • Supports a price on carbon
  • Tax cuts for the middle class, paid for by closing loopholes
George Takach:
  • Favours family reunification in immigration policy
  • Eliminated employment taxes in exchange for carbon taxes
  • Higher R&D tax credits
  • Broadband access to rural communities, and a range of other high support as the self proclaimed "tech candidate"
Justin Trudeau:
  • Supports the Canada Quebec Accord on immigration; different regions have different immigration needs, particularly Quebec, and as such opposed a one size fits all federal program

Don't read too much into the number of comments each made. Some of the questions, as determined by the debate, were not as amenable to specific policies. For instance, an opening debate between Marc Garneau and Justin Trudeau was on the somewhat vague topic of leadership and as such neither candidate had much opportunity  to list specific policies the way a debate on, say, immigration necessarily does. That said, it is certainly the case that Trudeau, Garneau and Cauchon were happy to spend time talking more about values than policies. This can be a reasonable debate strategy. But it means one has to look to other places to find their policy positions and if they continue to shy away from this it can be troubling. 

My coverage of the Vancouver Leadership Debate focused extensively on the key characteristic of electability. While I have identified the importance of policies, the reality is that to implement a policy one has to first get elected. The frontrunners in that debate (Trudeau, Findlay, Garneau) remain, I think, the frontrunners in this debate in terms of their command of rhetoric, stage presence, and overall electability. However, I would say that the field leveled itself out a bit. People like Karen McCrimmon who was very unimpressive in the first debate stepped it up considerably, while Martha Hall Findlay did not have quite the presence she had the first time round. So the relative rankings remain fairly similar, but the differences were less so. 

If Trudeau is a lock, should we care?
Any time a political race is deemed as if not inevitable than quite likely, there is a tendency towards apathy. However, there is still tremendous value in going through this process and being involved in it. A leadership race is not just about choosing a leader, even if that is its ostensible goal, but also about setting the direction of values and policies. By having these debates on values and policies, and by seeing the support among the base for various values and policies, it helps clearly identify the direction. 

In the NDP leadership races, we saw that various candidates like Peggy Nash and Nathan Cullen both rose to considerable prominence within the party and retain influence both within the party and within the media. This means that the policies and values that they represent retain importance. So there is value in the relative rankings of the candidates as a proxy for their underlying values and policies and it can make a legitimate difference to the future direction of the party even if the eventual leader is Trudeau in all reasonable scenarios. This touches on the broader point of the value of voting for third party candidates generally

Winning is not everything. We also want to have the optimal relative rankings of values and policies so that when we win we can do as much good as possible. As such, these debates still have - and must have - value. 

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

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