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There are a few things I want to share that help me to narrow my perspective on parties and candidates. Everyone has their own implicit list—I hope most focus on policy rather than personal issues.

The NDP and the Green Party

Similar platforms and, for me, some disqualifying policy approaches.

For the NDP one item is Mr. Singh’s intent to enable provincial decisions on national projects. This may seem reasonable to some but changes our federation in ways I doubt he has considered and could result in gridlock with respect to many major projects. National projects that cross provincial boundaries are under Federal jurisdiction for good reasons.

Both parties say the TQM pipeline is unacceptable, thereby assigning a large part of Canada’s response to Climate change and resulting burdens to Alberta. This is not only unfair it also reflects these parties misunderstanding of the urgency of the problem and the significance of our response in a global setting. While I admire Greta Thunberg’s courage and determination, she is 16 and does not have a thorough understanding in a global context.

Bjorn Lomborg is an economist who both acknowledges climate change (accepts the work of the IPCC) and presents an approach to policy that most economists would support. Read his letter to the Globe and Mail here

The Conservative Party of Canada

The Conservative’s go too far in the other direction on the environment. Their discussion is not bad on theory, it talks about innovation, global initiatives, etc. and it even has its own (somewhat camouflaged) version of a carbon tax but it has little in the way of measurable policy. For a clear discussion of this go to Chatelaine here:

However, as an economist, an equally important problem with the CPC is its insistence on comparing the economy to a family and thereby inevitably finding its way to criticizing deficits and seeking to cut taxes, no matter what the economic situation is. Deficits are simply a tool in managing the economy, often useful, and increasingly accepted as valuable, particularly at times of low interest rates. There may be limits of course, but most of my conservative friends focus on never ending, runaway deficits, which leads them to accept austerity policies that often are bad for the broad economy. At this time of low interest rates there is a strong case for government spending in areas that will enhance future growth. As long as interest rates are less than growth rates, such policies may be possible over long periods with declining debt to GDP ratios. And historically, interest rates less than growth rates have prevailed more often than not. For an elegant discussion of all this, you can search for “Public Debt and Low Interest Rates” by Olivier Blanchard, former chief economist at the IMF and watch his 45 minute presentation to the American Economic Association last year. It’s a bit technical but you can get the gist in the first 12 minutes—that’s worth doing. For me, low interest rates and an uncertain economy, given our unpredictable neighbour to the south, mean it is not a good time for austerity measures in Canada.

Another important area of difference in party platforms is related to the changing nature of work. This is closely tied to broad issues of income inequality, automation, technological change and globalization and will affect current high income earners as well as others, including young people (who may have a slight advantage in adaptability). These changes may be coming faster than most people think and have the potential to be highly disruptive. Again, the sometimes useful characteristic of conservative thinkers that causes them to distrust change, combined with a preference for smaller, less involved government, means that the Conservative party has literally no position on this matter. They have promised measures to support the oil industry, although things like ending oil imports and the proposed energy corridor may face provincial opposition and getting the Trans Mountain pipeline built faces the same issues currently faced by the Liberals (who are highly likely to get it built as well). And, of course, the conservative mind-set would never have allowed them to purchase the pipeline to begin with, so they would have been further behind if they were in power (in spite of the fact that many Albertans refuse to give Mr. Trudeau any credit for this courageous step). For an excellent discussion of each parties position on work and poverty see Miles Corak’s review here.

The Liberal Party of Canada

The party platforms discussed in the Chatelaine article and by Miles Corak, both linked above, are quite definitive in declaring the Liberal platform the best when considering not only ambition but also feasibility. On environment the discussion of Mr. Lomborg also suggests the NDP/Green parties approach (which is rated as more ambitious, though less feasible) is based on an invalid view of the urgency, so the Liberal approach is likely superior on all fronts. The Liberals have also provided the most feasible plan with respect to policy to address the changing world of work, a critical area largely ignored by the Conservatives. The equally important general area of spending and deficits is, for most economists, more correctly addressed in the policies of the Liberal party which are likely to result in greater economic growth.

I should note that there is a much smaller range of views on the issue of debt and deficits within the economic community than is observed between political parties. The Conservatives will eventually have to catch up with evolving thinking among economic and other policy experts and should not be entrusted with governing until they do. Otherwise, the people of Canada will be forced to go through more painful learning experiences, as austerity measures hold the entire economy back.

I will close by noting that the endorsement from President Obama reflects a broad admiration of Mr. Trudeau and his accomplishments on the international stage. At home, I could list pages of accomplishments of the Liberal party over the past several years but instead I will provide a link to the Toronto Star whose Editorial Board has just recently endorsed the Liberal Party as the best choice for Canada.