Election 44 Liberal Platform Launch: Highlights and Analysis

With the election evolving from a Liberal lead to a slight Conservative Party advantage, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party released their election platform “Forward For Everyone” on Wednesday as the campaign heads into the stretch run.

The Liberal pitch since the launch of the election has been that 2021 is a crucial moment to decide where the country goes from here: forward or backward. As a result, the platform reinforces the Liberal message that their platform is the only one that charts a path forward for generations to come.

Like most governments seeking re-election, the platform is a combination of the following:

  • “Greatest Hits” list of actions since coming to power,
  • Recommitment of Budget 2021 items that have not yet taken effect,
  • Package of Liberal announcements made on campaign trail, and
  • Some new announcements building on the last three points.

The platform clearly targets the progressive side of the political spectrum to shore up support among those considering the NDP or Greens. New spending and an even more activist role for government are part of the Liberal package and fit with a number of campaign promises already made by the incumbent Prime Minister.

Some of the new measures in the platform include:

  • An expansion of Employment Insurance benefits to the self-employed,
  • Pausing student loan repayments for new parents until their child turns 5,
  • $350 million to settle Afghan refugees with the total number of refugees doubled from 20,000 to 40,000,
  • Reducing RCMP crowd control powers,
  • New money for the CBC to enable the network to go advertisement-free on its newscasts,
  • Changing the Canada Health Act to ensure provinces provide publicly accessible abortion access, and
  • A suite of tax credits to help pay for anything from appliance repairs to multi-generational home renovations.

The document also includes many larger commitments Trudeau made either just before or during the election, including $10 a day child care, more aggressive climate targets, supports for those looking to buy a home, and increased help for the struggling tourism industry.

In essence, the platform’s main job is to appeal to as many potential voters as possible. Whether it’s taxing the wealthy, providing new funds for teachers and parents, or protecting the environment, the goal is to put forward ideas that appeal to the broadest amount of voters.

Platform Includes New Spending and Fiscal Plan

On the financial side, the platform increases spending and promises new tax measures. The tax measures include a new 15% minimum tax on the wealthy, a higher corporate income tax for banks and insurance companies (previously announced), and a series of measures designed to close tax loopholes. The deficit will increase by a further $19 billion this year, to a record total $157 billion, and ultimately drop to $32 billion by 2026-27. The platform does not include a path back to a balanced budget.

One major difference worth noting in the Liberal platform is the inclusion of a full fiscal plan. Neither the NDP nor the Conservative platform include a detailed costing, with both parties claiming the Parliamentary Budget Officer is reviewing their plans. With the Liberals releasing their costing immediately, it saves a process story and challenges the other parties to “show their math.”  The Liberal platform notes that they have “submitted many of our largest, and most complex initiatives for review.”

Launch Timing and Campaign Strategy

By releasing the platform in the middle of the election, the Liberals were trying to provide themselves with the flexibility to address priorities raised during the campaign, such as increasing the goal for Afghan refugee resettlement from 20,000 to 40,000. However, they lost early momentum to both the NDP and Conservatives who released their platforms at the very start of the campaign. As all the leaders head into the debates later this week and next, the three main parties have now outlined their pitch to Canadians. After the debates, the final sprint to the end of the campaign will begin.

Politically, the Liberals now have a document in hand to show voters who are curious about their plan. The document includes action on issues designed to contrast with the positioning of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole while, at the same time, attempting to erode the gap between NDP and Liberal supporters and bring home progressive fence-sitters and less-motivated Liberals.

“Forward for Everyone” is also the Liberal campaign slogan and it encapsulates their approach of trying to appeal to as many voters as possible. Voters on September 20th will ultimately decide if they were successful in this approach or not.