Canadians will vote for a new federal government on Sept. 20. The election was called quickly and will happen fast. This means it might be complicated for students to navigate, especially first-time voters. So, we’ll try and help. This is your Dalhousie Gazette guide to the 2021 Canadian election.
Why an election now?
The last federal election was in 2019. Usually, Canada has a federal election every four years, so why are we having one only two years later?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he called the election because he wants a “new mandate” to govern, meaning he wants Canadians to give him permission to form a government again. Many things have changed in Canada in the past two years with the pandemic and other social issues, and Trudeau’s given reason for this election is to give Canadians a chance to express how they feel the government should run after these changes.
Halifax Liberal MP Andy Fillmore stands behind this rationale, “I think there’s something honourable and the Prime Minister saying, ‘look, we’ve got really important work ahead of us to get back to whatever the new normal is going to be, we’ve got to get people healthy, we’ve got to keep the economy on track. We’ve got to have support for families and kids and seniors,’” he said in an interview with the Gazette. “‘So, Canadians, you choose. Here are the three or four platforms, here are the three or four recovery plans, you guys choose.’”
But others are skeptical of the Liberals’ reasoning. Many feel Trudeau called the election simply to win a majority government for his party. Currently, the Liberals have a minority government as a result of the 2019 election. That means they have to work more closely with other party leaders in parliament to get legislation passed.
NDP candidate for the Halifax riding Lisa Roberts said the snap election is a “political calculation” by the Liberals.
“At this moment, [Liberals] think they could win a majority. I don’t think that appears to be in the cards and I expect that they may be regretting their choice to push forward at this time, to push for an election. Because it was not necessary, it certainly was not necessary at this moment,” Roberts said.
Whether the call for a snap election was necessary or not, who will form Canada’s next government is in the hands of voters. So, let’s take a look at our options and how to choose.
How to vote
The election is on Monday, Sept. 20. You can register to vote ahead of time on the voter registration page of Elections Canada’s website. You can also easily register to vote on the day of the election, simply bring two pieces of government-issued ID with you.
To find your nearest poll booth, enter your postal code into Elections Canada’s “where do I vote?” webpage. If you want to vote in your home riding out of province, but you are staying in Halifax, you must register to vote by special ballot. This can be done at the Elections Canada website.
When you step into a voting booth, you aren’t directly voting for Prime Minister. You’re voting for an MP (Member of Parliament), who will sit in Ottawa and represent your riding, or area you vote in. Those candidates belong to political parties; those parties have leaders who have a shot at becoming Prime Minister if enough of their candidates win ridings.
The Gazette’s guide covers the major party candidates in the Halifax riding. If you’re voting outside of the peninsula, look up who’s running in your riding. You can find your electoral district on the voter information services page of the Elections Canada website.
Let’s look at the candidates in Halifax and what they, and their parties, stand for and how their values relate to student issues.
The Liberal Party of Canada’s candidate in Halifax is Andy Fillmore. Fillmore is currently the MP for Halifax and is hoping for re-election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal Party. The entire Liberal platform is available on their website, Liberal.ca
The Gazette spoke to Fillmore and asked him about some of this election’s issues that concern students.
Because of the pandemic, the Liberals waived interest on the federal portion of student loans until 2023 and provided unemployed students with the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).
“The best thing you can do for anybody who’s facing debt is trying to help them avoid getting into debt in the first place,” said Fillmore. The Liberal platform on students has a focus on creating more jobs for students. They want to create 220,000 more placement opportunities in the Canada Student Jobs program (CSJ).
“That’s helping people to avoid the need for student loans entirely by working. By working good jobs over the course of the summer, while at the same time helping local businesses and organizations to get their work done,” said Fillmore.
The Liberals also want to increase the cap for when students have to start paying back their debt, so no one would have to pay back any of their federal student loans until they’re earning $50,000 a year.
Young people who decide to leave home in Canada are moving into a difficult housing market. Rent in Halifax alone has gone up 20 per cent since last January, according to a national rent report by rentals.ca.
“It’s impacting students directly. It’s also impacting seniors. It’s impacting single parents, it’s impacting folks living with mental health challenges,” said Fillmore.
During the pandemic, the Liberals introduced the Rapid Housing Initiative, investing $2.5 billion to create at least 9,200 new units of affordable in Canada. $20 million of that money has come to Halifax and 50 of those units are under construction right now. “There are folks who are living on the street and in those parks that we’ve seen, that are going to have a roof over their head by the time the snow flies this year,” said Fillmore.
If the Liberals win re-election, they plan on moving $600 million to convert empty retail space into for-profit, market-based housing units.
Going forward, the Liberals want to create a national rent-to-own program that would give landlords incentive to make rent-to-own deals with tenants, and in some cases, lower rent.
According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the consequences of climate change are expected to worsen. The IPPC report predicts the coming years to have more frequent and larger hurricanes, more heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels. The IPPC said governments must limit global warming to 1.5°C to avoid worsening effects.
The Liberals want to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, a target set by Steven Harper’s Conservatives back in 2015.
Much of the Liberals plan going forward involves grants to individuals and businesses for adopting greener habits. They want to give grants of up to $5,000 to households who either increase their energy efficiency or buy an electric vehicle.
“This is all kind of wrapped up in the need for a just transition. We can’t transition to a low carbon economy without bringing every Canadian along with a way to participate in the low carbon economy,” said Fillmore.
Much of the pandemic planning is up to provinces.
Liberals plan on investing in provinces that create proof of vaccination requirements, as well as mandating proof of vaccination for interprovincial travel. Through these policies, as well as free booster shots for Canadians, the Liberals plan on “finishing the fight against COVID-19” according to their campaign.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for Halifax is Lisa Roberts. The leader of the NDP is MP Jagmeet Singh. Their party platform is available at ndp.ca.
The Gazette spoke to Roberts about why she thinks the NDP platform benefits students.
The NDP wants to see a permanent end to interest on federal student loans. They also want to forgive twenty thousand dollars in student debt for graduates, which they say will wipe out 20 percent of student debt. According to their platform, they also want to “move away” from loans and towards federal grants for students, which they also intend to double.
“The NDP promise is to give students and young people hope for a better future. And part of that means not building towards your future saddled with unsustainable debt that really constrains your choices,” said Roberts.
Roberts said student life, in general, would be more affordable under NDP policy, “I think students are one of many groups that would benefit from NDP policy platforms, which are really about taking care of all of us better. Pooling our resources to ensure that we’re able to access essential medical services that include dental costs, mental health costs and pharmaceutical costs.”
One cost reduction that may interest students is that of cell phones and internet plans. The NDP plan on creating price caps on cell phone plans and investing in affordable high-speed internet.
The NDP wants to build at least 500,000 units of affordable housing in Canada by establishing “fast-start funds” for provinces and municipalities to build affordable housing. They also want to waive federal taxes on the construction of these housing projects.
“What we have seen across Canada that has led to this housing crisis we’re in is that housing is widely being viewed as a financial asset as opposed to a human right. And when housing is viewed as a human right, an economic and social right, when it is viewed in that way, and treated in that way, that creates obligations for the government to ensure that people can access that right,” said Roberts.
According to their platform, the NDP wants to cut Canada’s carbon emissions in half by 2030. They plan to do this by establishing multi-year carbon budgets across the country. They also want to require more transparency from corporations about their carbon emissions, and they want to ensure that government-owned operations also follow these targets.
The NDP has been very critical of the Liberal’s climate policy for the last six years. Roberts said there have been a lot of promises but little action by the Trudeau government to tackle climate change, “the liberals bought a pipeline, and then rationalize it by saying that they need profit from investment in fossil fuel infrastructure to pay for green technology. That does not make sense in the actual, physical, natural world that we live in.”
Roberts is referring to the Trans Mountain Pipeline bought in 2018 by the Liberals, a source for controversy for environmental reasons and issues of Indigenous sovereignty.
The NDP sees pandemic recovery as an opportunity to establish a new, more progressive normal rather than return to the status quo of 2019, “we need to be looking at how we take this moment to build our recovery, which is aiming at mitigating climate change, and also investing in adaptation to climate change so that we’re not just going back to normal, we’re going to something more equitable and more sustainable for the future,” said Roberts.
This new recovery plan includes a reform of our health care system to include coverage of prescription drugs for all Canadians. The NDP also wants to provide everyone with a guaranteed liveable income to help with recovery and moving forward.
The NDP plan on finding this recovery by increasing taxes on the ultra-rich both by increasing the wealth tax and creating luxury goods taxes on things like “yachts and private jets” according to their platform.
The conservative candidate in Halifax is Cameron Ells, their party leader is Erin O’Toole.
Ells offered to answer questions over email but said he was too busy to speak with the Gazette prior to the publication deadline.
The Conservative platform is available at conservative.ca.
The conservatives have no official platform policy on student debt or student loans.
The conservatives want to deal with Canada’s housing crisis by increasing the supply of houses on the market, building one million new homes.
They also want to increase houses on the rental market by encouraging people to become landlords and invest in property. They want to do this by reducing taxes and cutting back on the bureaucracy currently involved when investing in a rental property, according to their party platform.
Climate change is a controversial issue amongst Conservatives. At the party’s official policy convention in March, Conservative delegates voted down including the phrase “climate change is real” in their policy. Despite this, O’Toole is determined to include climate policy in the Conservative platform.
Like the Liberals –– whose climate change goals are based on previous Conservative targets –– the Conservatives also want to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, according to their policy.
The Conservatives want to help Canadians lower their personal carbon footprints. They have proposed creating carbon savings accounts for every willing Canadian. This would operate like a points system, every time someone with this account buys gasoline they would get credit in their tax-free carbon savings account which can only go towards green personal investments like energy-efficient furnaces, bus passes, bicycles or even personal electric vehicles.
The Conservative party’s main focus is a strong reopening of the economy. They hope to beat the virus by increasing vaccination and testing across the country so things can get back to normal. They want to secure Canadian-made supplies of vaccines, test kits and PPE in order to create jobs.
In terms of pandemic spending, they plan to “wind down emergency COVID-19 support programs in a responsible way as Canadians are vaccinated” according to their platform.
Most of their focus is on creating jobs so Canadians have a place to work as they return to a sense of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. O’Toole wants to create one million jobs by investing in infrastructure and promoting Canadian investment into new businesses.
Their plan also mentions preventing future pandemics. They plan on launching an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and examining the Liberal government’s response very closely to learn how to avoid mistakes in the future when dealing with other variants, pandemics or even bioterrorism.
The Green candidate in Halifax is Jo-Ann Roberts, the party leader is Annamie Paul. The Green party’s platform is available on their website, greenparty.ca.
The Green party wants to cancel all federal student debt, reintroduce CESB until the pandemic ends and, in the long run, abolish post-secondary tuition fees.
They say they can finance much of this with the saved cost of administering the student loans. “If we want a well-educated way well-equipped workforce and future generation in this country, then we have to make it possible,” said Jo-Anne.
The Green party wants to declare the housing crisis a national emergency. They also want to create rent control rules at the federal level and establish a longer moratorium on evictions.
Jo-Anne said she has seen how rising rent prices affect young people, “I have a niece who just found an apartment… a young person who’s just started in the workforce. And she’s going to be paying $1600 for 600 square feet. I mean, that’s a press.”
Greens want to get Canada off oil and fast. They want to cancel all pipeline projects, end oil drilling and exploration and even ban the sale of gas-powered passenger vehicles.
Through these measures, they want to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2030.
They also want to transition oil workers into green jobs through retraining programs, wage insurance and a guaranteed liveable income. “It is the general cohort of students today that are going to have to live with the consequences [of climate change]. And so, I think it is the overall largest issue that is facing students today,” said Jo-Anne.
Like the NDP, the Green wants to use this recovery as a chance to change Canada’s health care system. They want to include pharmacare and long-term care in Canada’s socialized medicine. They also want to extend emergency programs started by the Liberals to help small businesses.
Like the Conservatives, they also want to launch inquiries into the government response to COVID-19 and take measures to prevent future pandemics. These measures include things like increasing the production of Canadian-made PPE.
SUB: Party breakdown summary
Party promises STUDENT DEBT HOUSING CRISIS CLIMATE CHANGE PANDEMIC RECOVERY LIBERAL Halifax candidate: MP Andy Fillmore. Party Leader: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -“Help people avoid loans by working.” -create more student summer jobs -Raise cap so you don’t start paying back debt until your yearly salary is $50,000 -Build more market-based housing units -Build 9,200 affordable housing units -Cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030 -Give grants to households and businesses who invest in greener technology (electric cars, solar panels) -Invest $1 billion in provinces that require proof of vaccination -Free booster shots for all Canadians NDP Halifax candidate: Lisa Roberts Party leader: Jagmeet Singh -End interest on student loans -Wipeout 20 percent of student debt -Move away from loans and towards grants -Build 500,000 affordable housing units -Waive construction tax on affordable housing units -Introduce liveable basic income -Cut Carbon Emissions by 50 percent by 2030 -Demand more corporate transparency regarding emissions -Reform Canada’s healthcare system to pay for pharmacare -Extend emergency benefits -Introduce liveable basic income PC Halifax Candidate: Cameron Ells Party Leader: Erin O’Toole -No official platform policy on student debt -Build more market-based homes -Encourage property investment through tax cuts -Cut Carbon Emissions by 30 percent by 2030 -Create Carbon Savings Accounts for Canadians to encourage investment in green tech -Focus on the economy -Recover one million jobs -decrease emergency support as vaccine rates rise -Investigate cause of COVID-19 GREEN Halifax Candidate:Jo-Anne Roberts Party Leader: Annamie Paul -Abolish tuition fees -Cancel all federal student debt -Build 300,000 affordable housing units -Establish national standards for rent control -A longer moratorium on evictions -Cut emissions by 60 percent by 2030 -End pipeline construction, stop oil exploration, ban combustion vehicles -Socialize long-term care -Extend emergency benefits for small businesses -Investigate government response to COVID-19
The Gazette encourages all students to go out and vote on Sept. 20.