For the next party platform we bring on the liberals. They are technically fourth in the race if you believe the polls. Fourth is the best this party could hope to do and to be honest I am surprised that is even achievable. The party has had some lean years leading up to now and goes into this election with an interim leader in place. With the Alberta Party nudging in the truth is that centre left vote is split between the PCs, Liberals and Alberta Party. I think the Alberta Party is poised to eliminate the Liberals or at worst they will have to merge in the future for either to survive. The Liberal platform as is on the Internet uses a big font and doesn’t have a ton of detail like the previous two.
I think we all know that the PCs, WRP and NDP are the only ones looking to take any serious numbers of seats. The Liberals will be hard pressed to win the 5 they did in 2012, in fact my guess is they are hoping for 2 or 3. Those 2 or 3 seats could play a huge role in a minority government situation as they could become the confidence swing in some votes.
The Liberals are the original party of power in Alberta. In 1905 they stepped into lead the provincial legislature for the first time that anyone would. They would hold that gig down until they turned over power in 1921 to the United Farmers Association. Good start. For those keeping score on Alberta that means we have covered talked about every party that has held power in Alberta, all four of them in 110 years. Since 1921 the party has had varying degrees of success, everything from regular stops as official opposition to almost extinct. In 1969 the only member left in the legislature crossed to join Lougheeds PC party and they officially had no presence. At this point the party was bleeding out and that would continue for a long time. They got smoked in the next election continuing to hold zero seats. At this point Albertans officially hated anything Liberal, regardless of ties, thanks to Pierre Elliot Trudeau at the federal level. The most hated man in politics by Albertans was doing a serious disservice to the provincial party that shared the Liberal brand name. Finally in 1986 they were able to win 4 seats (12% of popular vote as well) and return to the leg. By 1993 they would form the official opposition winning 32 seats and taking over that role for the 90s. 1993 was the pinnacle of their success during this resurgence. They had painted Edmonton red as their way to opposition status. Funny that today Edmonton is sliding strongly to NDP, about to swing the left party’s fortunes. The Liberals held official opposition status through the 2008 election (9 seats 26% of popular vote), before they yielded the position to the WRP in 2012. In 2012 the Liberals began to slide under Raj Sherman, he entered the 2012 election with 8 incumbents but was only able to retain 5 seats while dropping below 10% of the popular vote. That slide has continued and right now David Swann leads a mostly irrelevant party into the 2015 election. Most of their votes will certainly come from partisan supports who vote red regardless of options and probably don’t put a lot of time into looking at options.
The Liberals are really trapped it would seem, between trying to stay close enough to the centre of the spectrum to avoid being identified as left but continuing to move their policies to the left end of the spectrum. The biggest issue they have is the lack of leadership. Swann is a former leader who resigned prior to going into the election and begrudgingly accepted the role to get through the election. They look like a rudderless ship and have nobody who seems to be ready to take over the role and truly lead the party. Their message may be a little bit lost because of the lack of a strong voice and front. They aren’t running a full slate of candidates and the truth is a good number, including in my riding, of their candidates are NOBs (Name on Ballot). Without further ado lets hit up the shaky planks of this party.
1) SOCIAL POLICIES (RESPECT) – The Liberals are campaigning on a number of non-issues in this plank. They are things that they are hoping will be populous and draw some voters out. I would suggest they are looking pretty far left on a few of these but the truth is they have little true meaning to the election. It is broken up into a few very easy to ready points.
Their first thing is equal pay for equal work. Again there are a lot of factors that go into the discrepancy in salaries and I would desperately like to see them put out a comprehensive study into the numbers they run out. The truth is this was the first thing they talked about when the election was called, but mere days later on the radio in Calgary Swann didn’t even try to talk about the subject. It is populous but it really is bullshit and has little meaning to this election.
Next is the improve vaccination rates by making vaccines for children mandatory. Again the Anti-vaxxer crowd has made this mainstream so the uneducated voter will get on this but the truth is no one in any party is saying vaccinations aren’t important and AHS has invested a lot of work into this already. Not an issue but it was fun.
Next is teaching consent to children in health education classes. Don’t have much to say here because again it really is a ridiculous item to try to make an election issue. Really going after the university student vote and far left vote on these things. The truth is we don’t need a political platform to be about consent, it is a small potatoes issue in the grand scheme and again none of the other parties are going to get in a pissing match over it.
Infertility funding is next. I have to be honest this should be a big one for me because personally our family has been going through fertility treatment for a number of years and I am telling you the Canadian system is super broken here and this is a very expensive product. The problem is Swann’s pitch is “Ensure families who require In vitro have fair and equal access….” Well we have access that is fair and equal and incredibly expensive and doesn’t allow some of the things the United States offer. There is nothing in this statement but he is attacking niche votes, I suggest my fellow sufferers from fertility issues skip over this, it isn’t what it seems it is a bullshit line with no commitment. So so far we are 0 for 4 on him saying anything.
Next two are legal aid so people have access to justice when they can’t afford it, I feel like you have to be stupid to think this isn’t already solved. Finally bringing OHS regulation to farms to protect farm workers. I worked in construction safety for a long time, good luck with this one David. There are a lot of labour issues involved in this one and again I don’t really see how this is platform plank worthy.
I have tried to be fair to the other parties, I tried to allow for the NDP where I felt they were ok, but through the first platform plank the Liberals leave little mystery in why they are such a fledgling organization. So lets move forward and hope they say something of substance.
2) FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES – I won’t spend a lot on preamble here, this is broken up into a lot of sub categories and we will follow them. I found something good, the large font and simple layout has made it easy to break out the planks for reviewing.
Municipalities is our first group in this section. The liberals have promised to continue funding the MSI fully ensuring municipalities get more money from the province for their needs. Hard to argue with more money to my city. No hard numbers here but I think my Mayor likes to spend money so its more money from the province or my property tax continues its insane climb. So hey not so bad. The Liberals want more funding aimed to mass transit in the big centres which again is something that works especially considering the city I live in is seriously lacking good mass transit infrastructure. So easy ones but hard for me to disagree without spending hours trying to dig out their numbers and finding flaws with these programs that are already existing. Honestly don’t know a lot about MSI so not a big one for me.
Now we get into health care and seniors care. The first point in health care I actually really think is a creative look. In an effort to reduce wait times they want to fund multidisciplinary teams to better service patients. So many things in the world have become over specialized and health care is no different. It can be a real pain waiting to see specialists and only having access to those doctors at specific times and days. Seems a little more versatility won’t hurt anyone. The other two points directed at health care are about mental health/addictions and administration but there is really nothing in here besides they will try to do better. Hard to discuss. For seniors the plan includes more funding, and more tax grants so they can stay in their homes longer and then add long-term beds so seniors have a place to go. Seniors are historically good voters so it’s a good play for some more niche votes, albeit a big niche. I would again like to see the hard numbers and costs associated with these programs. The WRP and NDP did provide more comprehensive cost break downs. I am ok with these investments but not at an unlimited level. We are pretty early on but I get the idea they didn’t put much thought into anything so they are lacking details.
Their education is a two argument point for me, I do agree that the K-12 schools need to be built and we need to make sure to invest in keeping classroom size down. That means hiring more teachers. I don’t mind phasing out education fees either but I am not against leaving them in a bit too. A reduction would be nice. My biggest concern in the k-12 range is that there is some responsibility from the teachers to help reduce class sizes as these schools are built. I am ok with allocating money to schools and teachers but the teachers in Alberta are very well paid in Alberta. Top paid amongst provinces in 2013-14, only the three territories pay their teachers better. I think there is some room on both sides for movement here. As a caveat this is not an assessment of a teachers value to society, teachers are valuable and yes we pay athletes millions but you can say that with almost any industry. Based on the dollar value teachers have been determined to be worth Alberta is at the top of the list, they are doing just fine, they hold some responsibility to reduce class sizes and allow more teachers to work. As for post-secondary, I can’t get behind the liberal plan which calls for reduction in tuition and more grants and bursaries. I am glad people want to go universities but I think they have some responsibility in investing in their own education at this point. There is nothing wrong with student loans, in fact if anything we are already too restrictive on tuition. By capping tuition we limit what the institutions can offer their students. Can’t get behind supporting everyone all the way through post secondary, the NDP isn’t even trying to saddle me with this kind of cost. If you value it, be willing to pay for it.
The next two are quick hitters. More money to the arts. Someone should tell David Swann that we are trying not to run the province into bankruptcy. Art is at best nice during good times but when oil is down art is a wasteful expense. There is also no assurance that the public art projects will go only to Alberta Artists. This is like tax dollars being used to build hockey rinks, it doesn’t make sense. If you produce good art, the people who like art will be interested but provincially doubling the funding to arts is nonsense. Next is the reversing of the PC tax credit cut, well Prentice already did that today in another laughable PC moments, so it is moot.
4) LEADERSHIP (MISC. ITEMS) – Some quick hitters here that didn’t fit under anything but have impact on the economy. A work to support small business by investing in a small business start-up fund and eliminate taxes on small businesses. Could be good job creators for sure and is a noble cause but it seems like Alberta gets less and less small business orientated every day. I grew up in small family owned business and am biased but I think I realize that we can’t totally eliminate the small business tax in the Liberal plan because they are literally bleeding red ink in every other platform plank. So not sure this marries well with other items. Also if the government is going to invest in small business a small business tax should be the ROI on that start-up.
In the environment end they are big on us cleaning up Alberta from an industrial perspective. Most of these things are intentionally vague, like insisting on stiffer penalties for rule breakers. Lets hear about these rules and the penalties before we dive head long into this one. Most of their points are like that too vague to understand the costs, while they look good on the surface there is very little details. Even the thing I don’t like is a statement to putting a direct cost to carbon use. I don’t like these tax plans because they always end up in cap-and-trade like programs. See my previous blog for my thoughts on cap-and-trade BS. The final bit in here is tough to say without getting painted in a bad light. More money to fund new Canadians settling in Canada, I don’t have a problem with the TFWP program that is being restricted and I don’t have a problem with new Canadians but I am a little bit hesitant to offer more money to help people settle, I mean not unless the Liberal party wants to pay me back for the down payment to settle in my new home.
5) FISCAL – Finally we get to the fiscal portion only to realize it is an incredibly vague platform and we have a fairly vague set of budget response numbers. We will run through it quick but there is no cost breakdown just a difference in deficit the PC at $5 billion and the Liberals at $3.6 billion. I wouldn’t hire a contractor to work on my house who didn’t have a cost breakdown of some sorts, I don’t think we should vote for a party that doesn’t do one either.
Taxes – Their progressive income tax works like this 9.5% on first $50,000 (0.5% drop) 10% on your next $50,000 , 10.5% on the next $50,000 you take home, then 12.5% on the following $100,000 and finally everything past $250,000 dollars takes a huge 15% hit. Again a very restrictive tax as it moves up. It really takes off at the end. Tough pill to swallow for those already shouldering the bulk of the tax burden. On the corporate end the breakdown of revenues is available. They will pump corporate tax up 2% to yield a revenue gain of $805 million and will lose $503 million to elimination of small business tax for about $302 million net revenue generated. Can’t say I have a problem with big businesses paying a little bit more but I worry that a 2% increase is a little hard on corporate tax increase. Something a little bit more manageable would go a long ways, that is fairly drastic and runs the risk of lost jobs and revenues to businesses that chose to go elsewhere.
At the end of the day this is really not a contender for many seats if any, as they shouldn’t be. They don’t have a plan or leadership and there isn’t really a lot to grasp onto. If you are thinking of casting your vote with this party, you probably are only doing it because you are a partisan Liberal and have no real intention of ever looking anywhere else. Swann’s platform lacks leadership and direction and really was hardly worth the time I put into this blog. Best of luck David but I think this party will be going extinct soon, where is Kevin Taft when you need him.