Federal election 2021: 12 hot topics and where each party stands

As Canadians go to the polls, we remind readers where the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens stand on 12 key issues.

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Here are brief summaries of where the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens stand on 12 major issues, and highlights of what they are promising Canadians:

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COVID-19 RESPONSE

Liberals

The Liberals have spent billions on pandemic recovery and would extend the emergency wage subsidy to October. The party promises free vaccine boosters and increased spending on creating domestic vaccine production. It would require federal employees and travellers on trains, planes and cruise ships to be vaccinated and would table legislation to ensure businesses that require workers to vaccinate would not face legal challenges. It plans to spend $1 billion to help provinces create proof-of-vaccination credentials to access non-essential services.

Conservatives

The party would wind down emergency support programs as people are vaccinated and the economy reopens. It promises rapid access to booster shots to deal with future variants, rapid testing at all border entry points and airports, and to quickly close borders to travellers from global hot spots. It would accelerate domestic production of vaccines. It does not endorse mandatory vaccination, saying vaccination is a personal choice. Instead, federal workers and travellers on planes and trains would undergo rapid testing.

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New Democratic Party

The NDP would provide employment income benefits to anyone who quits a job to go back to school, provide necessary child care or protect their health. It would establish a 15-per-cent COVID-19 excess-profit tax on corporate windfalls during the pandemic. It would create a Crown corporation responsible for domestic vaccine production and provide funding for Health Canada to increase pandemic readiness and maintain an adequate stockpile of personal protective equipment. It supports a vaccine mandate for federal workers.

Greens

The Greens have not released a full platform, but the party has questioned the need for mandatory vaccinations, saying information must be provided on how mandates will accommodate people with legitimate reasons for not getting vaccinated. It has called for an intergovernmental rapid response task force, led by health experts, to coordinate all aspects of the pandemic that would benefit from a national strategy.

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COST OF LIVING/AFFORDABILITY

Liberals

In addition to housing and child care commitments, the Liberal platform includes promises to reduce student-loan burdens on students and increase payments to seniors as measures to help Canadians deal with the cost of living. The party would expand the Canada caregiver credit into a tax-free benefit, increase OAS and the survivors benefit in the CPP. It would eliminate interest on student loans while increasing the income requirement to begin repaying loans to $50,000 a year.

Conservatives

The Conservatives promise to reduce the cost of living starts with a month-long GST holiday this fall after the election. Lowering prices by increasing competition is another key promise with proposals to open telecom services to international competitors, which should reduce cellphone and internet prices. Increased fines and criminal penalties for grocery price-fixing are expected to lower food prices. The party would increase the Canada Workers Benefit to $5,000 as a direct benefit rather than tax refund.

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NDP

The NDP promises on affordability include increasing the availability and amounts of employment insurance so those on regular or special benefits don’t receive less than $2,000 a month. It pledges to develop a model for Canada Post banking to extend financial services to 1,200 communities that don’t have a bank branch, and to fund rural transit to connect communities. On taxation, the NDP calls for “fair and progressive taxation,” starting with a temporary 15-per-cent COVID-19 excess profit tax on corporations.

Greens

The Greens would establish a comprehensive, guaranteed livable income program as a core element in expanding universal programs to Canadians under a platform promise of “life with dignity” to address affordability. The party would abolish post-secondary tuition, at a cost of $10.2 billion a year and cancel all federally held student-loan debt to create universal post-secondary education. It would use cost savings from administering student loans to partly finance the effort.

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The Toronto and Vancouver real estate markets are red hot.
The Toronto and Vancouver real estate markets are red hot. Photo by Tyler Anderson /Postmedia files

HOUSING

Liberals

Justin Trudeau promises to place a tax on property flipping and to ban “blind bidding.” He pledges a two-year ban on foreigners’ purchases of housing in Canada. Similar to other parties, the Liberals would make massive financial contributions to housing supply — by building, preserving or repairing 1.4 million homes. The party also pledges to bring in new tax credit programs to make it easier for first-time buyers to borrow.

Conservatives

The Conservatives intend to ban foreigners’ purchases of property in Canada for the next two years. The party proposes to build one million homes over the next three years and to release 15 per cent of government-owned real estate for new builds or to convert them into rental properties. It seeks to reduce the need for mortgage stress tests. It would require municipalities that receive federal funding for public transit to increase housing density along those transit routes.

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NDP

The NDP wants to impose a 20 per cent tax on offshore buyers of homes in Canada. It is also promising to increase the tax on capital gains to 75 per cent on houses bought for investment purposes. The NDP would create 500,000 affordable housing units and “preserve” 1.7 million homes. The party says it’s committed to fighting money laundering, which it says drives up housing prices. It will work to “increase transparency about who owns properties.”

Greens

The Green party would create 300,000 low-income housing units over the next decade, increasing spending for social housing from $1.6 billion today. It would implement a retroactive benefit for tenants. It would declare a “national housing and homelessness emergency” and Leader Annamie Paul says she will rework the mandate of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation towards supporting development of affordable non-profit housing. The Greens would also create a dedicated minister of housing.

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An emergency ward bed inside Rockyview Hospital in Calgary.
An emergency ward bed inside Rockyview Hospital in Calgary. Photo by Postmedia file

HEALTH CARE

Liberals

The Liberal party would spend $3 billion to hire 7,500 family doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners and $400 million to expand virtual primary care. An additional $6 billion would be spent reduce waiting times for tests and surgeries. It would increase student loan forgiveness for health professionals, including dentists, pharmacists, social workers and mental health practitioners who choose to work in rural communities. It pledges $4.5 billion over five years under a new Canada Mental Health Treatment transfer payment to the provinces, and a three-digit mental health support hotline.

Conservatives

The Conservative party would increase health-care transfers to the provinces, totalling $60 billion over 10 years, while encouraging provinces to ensure access to mental-health care for one million more Canadians every year. It would create a three-digit suicide hotline and a $150-million three-year pilot program for non-profits and charities delivering mental health programs. It would encourage employers to add mental-health coverage in private plans by paying 25 per cent of the cost through tax credits for the first three years.

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NDP

The NDP would create a universal prescription-drug program by the end of 2022 at a cost of $10.7 billion a year. It pledges $250 million to address the shortage of nurses and other health care workers. While the party promises to work with the provinces to create universal dental, mental health, eye and hearing care, those goals are aspirational, with no deadline nor budgets attached. It’s the same with its promises to work on tackling waiting times, and expand virtual health care and palliative care.

Greens

The Green party would expand public health care to include prescription drugs and basic dental care along with full dental care for low-income children. The Greens plan to develop national health care guidelines that promote active lifestyles as well as healthy diets and choices. The promises have not been costed.

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An oil and gas pump jack seen near Granum, Alberta.
An oil and gas pump jack seen near Granum, Alberta. Photo by Reuters/Todd Korol/File Photo

ENERGY

Liberals

The Liberal party would increase tax investment credits for renewable energy and battery storage. It plans a national grid council to promote investments to make Canada the most reliable, cost-effective and carbon-free electricity producer in the world. It would help energy workers retrain to work in a greener energy economy, for example, in geothermal energy, installing solar panels, and building carbon capture and storage projects. It would give homeowners grants to retrofit homes to reduce energy use.

Conservatives

The Conservative party would eliminate Liberal legislation that stepped up environmental assessments. It would eliminate an oil tanker ban off northwestern B.C. and support restarting plans for the Northern Gateway oil pipeline halted by the Liberals. It would make oil export pipelines a high priority, implement a national liquefied natural gas export strategy and pass laws to prevent protesters from blocking key infrastructure. It pledges billions to support First Nations energy sector investment and promote hydrogen and small nuclear energy reactors.

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NDP

The NDP plans to boost clean-tech research and manufacturing with funding, incentives and by buying made-in-Canada, environmentally friendly technologies such as batteries and biofuels made from waste. It has set a goal of net-zero-carbon electricity by 2030 and 100 per cent non-emitting by 2040. It would create a climate bank to boost investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon technology. The party opposes the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion and would overhaul environmental assessment process.

Greens

The Greens would phase out nuclear power and ban uranium mining and refining. The party would end dependence on fossil fuels with an aggressive plan to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and create a national energy policy to ensure energy security. It would diversify the energy mix with solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and run-of-the river hydroelectric and create a national power grid to transport high electrical loads and accommodate diverse sources of renewable energy.

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Endurance Wind Power wind turbine.
Endurance Wind Power wind turbine. Photo by Handout /PNG

CLIMATE CHANGE

Liberals

The Liberals pledge to keep the carbon tax, cap oil and gas emissions, install 50,000 electric vehicle chargers, expand incentives, and require that 50 per cent of car sold by 2030 be electric. The party plans to make smelters electric-powered, build EV and battery plants, and retool refineries toward renewable sources. It vows to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 40 and 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and to reach net-zero by 2050 — a plan that includes planting two billion trees in a decade.

Conservatives

The Tories plan to increase zero-emission vehicles. There’s no call to end fossil fuel production. Instead, the party would bring in “personal carbon savings accounts” to replace the carbon levy: Gasoline buyers would pay into an account that will later be used for environmental purchases like electric vehicles. The carbon tax would be lowered to $20 a ton from $40 a ton. It vows to reduce emissions but preserve economic growth.

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NDP

The NDP’s emissions targets are more ambitious than the Liberals and less than the Greens, with a promise to reduce emissions by at least 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The NDP would end fossil fuel subsidies and stop federal support for pipelines. While its climate policy remains little changed from 2019, its goal of reaching net zero is now by 2040 instead of 2050. But details on how that will be reached are slim.

Greens

The Greens would end subsidies for fossil fuels and spend on renewable energy. The party pledges to cut emissions by 60 per cent by 2030 with a plan that includes banning fracking and ending all production of fossil fuels. It would cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and promises to replace every high-paying fossil fuel job with a high-paying green sector job through wage insurance and early retirement plans. It would ban gas-powered vehicles by 2030 and add charging stations.

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Paramedics respond to an emergency medical call in the 100-block E. Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC Thursday, April 22, 2021.
Paramedics respond to an emergency medical call in the 100-block E. Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC Thursday, April 22, 2021. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

DRUG POLICY/OPIOID CRISIS

Liberals

The Liberals promise “a comprehensive strategy” to address the overdose crisis, including $25 million for public education to reduce stigma linked to drug use and $500 million for provinces to provide “a full-range of evidence-based treatment,” including options that recognize “successful treatment is not determined by long-term abstinence.” They vow to repeal some mandatory minimum penalties in the Criminal Code to help lower-risk and first-time offenders and to divert some drug users out of the criminal justice system.

Conservatives

The Conservatives would revise Ottawa’s drug policies to make recovery and “a drug-free life” the main goal. The party would spend $325 million over three years to create 1,000 residential drug treatment beds and build 50 recovery centres for users and their families. The Conservatives’ platform says law enforcement should focus on dealers. It says drug users should not fear arrest and government’s role is to help them recover. However, it makes no mention of Criminal Code changes to reach these goals.

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NDP

The NDP promises to declare a national public health emergency and to “end the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction” by ensuring users get help and drug dealers face criminal action. It would create a safe supply of alternatives to toxic street drugs, expand treatment on demand, and investigate the role drug companies may have played in fuelling the opioid crisis and seek financial compensation. No dollar amounts or policy specifics were provided.

Greens

The Greens would regulate illegal drugs through prescriptions or distribution in licensed premises, expand harm-reduction options, expand mental-health and addiction services, create a national safe supply of pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs, eliminate criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, and boost funding to organizations that support those who use drugs. No costs were provided.

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JOB CREATION/ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Liberals

The key Liberal promise is to restore employment to pre-pandemic levels. The party would create “beyond one million jobs” by extending the recovery-hiring program and wage and rent supports for small businesses — particularly in the hard-hit tourism sector — that cover up to 75 per cent of expenses. Promises include micro-grants to help businesses take sales online, expansion of its small-business financing program by $560 million and letting small businesses write off up to $1.5 million in growth-enhancing investments.

Conservatives

Leader Erin O’Toole’s core promise is to create one million jobs with measures such as a Canada job-surge plan, which will pay 25 per cent to 50 per cent of wages for net-new-hires at firms for six months following the end of wage-subsidy programs. The party’s other promises include rebates and tax credits to encourage domestic tourism, small-business loans of up to $200,000 and a 25 per cent tax credit, worth up to $100,000, for new investments in small business.

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NDP

An extension of small-business wage and rent subsidies until businesses are able to fully operate tops the list of NDP commitments. Its COVID recovery strategy includes a long-term bonus to pay employers’ share of employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan for businesses that rehire staff or new employees. It also plans a post-pandemic industrial strategy to boost “critical domestic manufacturing,” which modernizes the Investment Canada Act to guard against foreign takeovers and boost the Canadian auto industry.

Greens

Job creation in a “just transition through renewable energy” is central to the platform on job creation and recovery. It would replace fossil-fuel sector jobs with employment in renewable energy using tools such as wage-insurance, retraining and early-retirement programs. Legislation would encourage investment in green jobs in sustainable transportation and discourage non-renewable energy. The platform also includes spending on green infrastructure, such as a coast-to-coast energy corridor.

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Novaco Daycare in North Vancouver.
Novaco Daycare in North Vancouver. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

CHILD CARE

Liberals

The party promises to spend up to $30 billion over the next five years to cut in half the average fees for early learning and child care by the end of next year and reduce child care fees to $10 a day on average within the next five years. The federal Liberal government has already signed such an agreement with B.C.

Conservatives

The Conservatives would scrap Liberal government child-care funding deals in favour of a refundable tax credit of between $4,560 and $6,000. The party says it will do this by converting the child-care expense deduction into a refundable tax credit. The tax credit would be paid out during the year so parents needn’t wait for their tax refunds. The Conservatives say their plan would cover up to 75 per cent of child-care costs for low-income families.

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NDP

The NDP also promises $10-a-day child care but with no deadline. Similar to the Liberals, the NDP would include the creation of new child care spaces and a pledge to improve the wages of child care workers.

Greens

The Green party hasn’t made specific promises, but a policy document says it will push to minimize the need for daycare by enabling families to take care of their own children up to age three. It does not promise $10-a-day child care, saying only that it will allocate federal child care funding to a diversity of regulated, high-quality, non-profit programs for families with preschool children.


National Indigenous Day in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
National Indigenous Day in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

INDIGENOUS RELATIONS/RECONCILIATION

Liberals

The Liberals pledge to appoint a special interlocutor to work with Indigenous communities to develop the “legal and regulatory framework to advance justice” over unmarked graves at former residential schools. They’ll build a national monument to honour children who were taken from their families. It promises to clean up the bad drinking water in many Indigenous communities and spend on mental health services and housing. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would be included in every cabinet minister’s mandate letter.

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Conservatives 

The Conservatives promise to fund investigations at former residential schools where unmarked graves may exist. They’ll develop a plan to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s six calls to action involving missing children and would build a national monument. They would also clean up bad drinking water. The party platform emphasizes “prosperity through partnership” in land development and working with First Nations on a transparent process they can use to “identify who represents them in consultations if it is someone other than elected chiefs.”

NDP

The NDP vows to fund the search for unmarked graves at former residential schools and appoint a prosecutor to pursue those who did the greatest harm. It would implement all 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It would ensure equitable access to health and social services for Indigenous kids and would clean up drinking water. It promises an Indigenous National Housing Strategy.

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Greens

The Greens would implement all 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, as well as to develop Indigenous housing strategies and fund Indigenous-led mental-health care. The part would clean up drinking water and provide funding for Indigenous health centres to address the harms caused by residential schools. The platform promises to respect Indigenous sovereignty.


Seniors sit in the hallway following being administered their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by healthcare workers from Humber River Hospital, inside Caboto Terrace, an independent seniors residence, on April 1, 2021 in Toronto, Canada.
Seniors sit in the hallway following being administered their second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by healthcare workers from Humber River Hospital, inside Caboto Terrace, an independent seniors residence, on April 1, 2021 in Toronto, Canada. Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

SENIORS’ CARE

Liberals

The Liberals pledge to pay $9 billion over five years to provinces and territories to provide safer conditions for seniors and improve working conditions for support workers. While acknowledging long-term care falls outside federal jurisdiction, the party promises to improve the quality and availability of long-term care homes, implement new infection prevention measures, raise wages for workers to a guaranteed minimum wage of at least $25 an hour, and train up to 50,000 new support workers.

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Conservatives

The Conservatives promise to spend $3 billion over three years to renovate seniors homes, encourage non-profits to create more care home, and amend Criminal Code provisions so home operators know they have a legal duty to care for residents. The party would give priority to immigrants who can be personal support workers. It would assist seniors to live with their children instead of in a care home by paying $200 a month to anyone taking care of a parent over 70.

NDP

The NDP would end private, for-profit, seniors homes and bring all long-term care into the public sector. It vows to “legally protect” access to both long-term facilities and home care, and develop national standards with the provinces and territories. It doesn’t provide costing but promises sufficient funding. The NDP would work with the provinces to provide “better wages, stable jobs, and health and safety protections” to recruit more front-line staff.

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Greens

The Greens would bring long-term care under the Canada Health Act to ensure universal access to quality, affordable care. The party promises national standards for facilities, with measures that includes criminal prosecution, sufficient PPE, COVID-19 testing, and vaccinations for staff, family and residents. It guarantees four hours of care a day for each resident and vows to improve training, pay, benefits and sick leave for support workers, and an unspecified amount of money for long-term care facilities, and home and community care models.


IMMIGRATION

Liberals

The Liberal party has a multi-year plan to admit the highest levels of immigrants in Canadian history, adding about one per cent of the Canadian population, or about 400,000, each year between 2021 to 2023. The majority would be economic immigrants who best meet the needs of the labour market. It has promised to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, which all the parties support. The party want to move away from paper-based applications to using online, real-time information and virtual meetings.

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Conservatives

The party doesn’t include immigration targets, but wants applicants to pay a fee for faster processing and use this revenue to hire staff to ease backlogs. It calls for the recording of interactions between applicants and immigration officers and providing timely feedback on simple, honest mistakes on applications. It would replace the lottery system for the parents and grandparents program with a first-come, first-served, model that gives priority to those who provide child care or family support.

NDP

The NDP would remove the quota on applications in the parents and grandparents program, which forces a lottery for people who want to sponsor relatives to come to Canada. It aims to reduce the backlog for family sponsorship applications and establish pathways to permanent residency for more temporary foreign workers such as caregivers. It would better regulate immigration consultants. On refugees, the NDP said it wants to get rid of the backlog of asylum seekers but doesn’t give specifics.

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Greens 

The Greens call for addressing systemic racism in immigration and refugee services by updating the citizenship guidebook and revising practices at the Canada Border Services Agency. The party would review accreditation programs to recognize foreign training and education, and provide funding to help employers hire newcomers and refugee claimants. It call for more accessible pathways to permanent residency for health care workers and would increase the number of accepted applications for the parent and grandparent program.

— With contributions by Lisa Cardasco, Lori Culbert, Tiffany Crawford, Gord Hoekstra, Joanne Lee-Young, Glenda Luymes, Derrick Penner, and Douglas Todd

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