Mulcair releases full platform, halving the surplus previously projected for an NDP government

The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — An NDP government would make trade talks more transparent, reform the electoral system and ban bulk water exports, under the party’s full policy platform released Friday.
The New Democrats are also acknowledging that the surplus they had previously forecast for their first budget could be cut in half.
Trying to capitalize on criticism of the Harper government over recent TransPacific Partnership trade talks, the NDP is promising to make international trade negotiations more open to public scrutiny.
“Stephen Harper has failed to get the best deal for Canada and Justin Trudeau is ready to go along with him,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in prepared remarks, referring to the trade deal announced earlier in the week.
The NDP policy platform, released in Montreal, also proposes a total ban on bulk water exports across international boundaries, a move designed to counter Liberal party claims that Mulcair once supported the practice as a Quebec cabinet minister.
The 72-page platform broadly outlines all of the campaign pledges the NDP has made so far in their quest to form government after Oct. 19.
But the document also includes a new “sensitivity analysis,” which incorporates the most recent projections from the parliamentary budget office.
In its costing document released earlier in the election campaign, the New Democrats had promised to balance the federal budget in fiscal 2016-17, and predicted a $4.1 billion surplus for the year.
The new platform includes a projection made in July by the PBO, which forecast a $2.4 billion surplus, based on the Bank of Canada’s July Monetary Policy Report.
While many of the commitments had not been formally announced during the election campaign, most of the promises have been talked about by the NDP over the last few years while the party was in official Opposition.
These include a pledge to give the information commissioner the power to force departments to release information to the public and to eliminate excessive fees above $5 charged by the government to access information.
The New Democrats have also resurrected plans to pass a new Consumer Protection Act that would, among other things, cap ATM fees at 50 cents a transaction and create a gasoline ombudsman to investigate complaints about prices at the pump.
As well, the party wants to bring in a mixed-member, proportional representation voting system and is committing to ensure that Canadians living abroad have the right to vote.
It also promises to phase out interest on all federal student loans.

Vancouver candidates promise to track down Canadians flouting foreign-asset disclosure laws

BY DOUGLAS TODD, VANCOUVER SUN

VANCOUVER — Federal election candidates are promising to strictly enforce foreign-asset disclosure laws so every Canadian pays their share of taxes.
New Democratic Party candidate Jenny Kwan said this week that, even though many ethnic Chinese people are wary about disclosing their wealth to government officials, she strongly objects to tax evasion.
The Vancouver Kingsway hopeful is one of several candidates who have expressed views related to articles in The Vancouver Sun and elsewhere revealing thousands of mansion owners in Metro Vancouver, many of them Chinese, are not paying Canadian income taxes because they appear “extremely poor,” mainly because they’re failing to report offshore assets.
When the NDP held power in B.C. in the late 1990s, premier Glen Clark and finance minister Andrew Petter joined Chinese business leaders in opposing aspects of proposed federal Liberal legislation aimed at clamping down on immigrants who hid their foreign assets from Revenue Canada.
At the time Kwan, a member of the province’s NDP government, was reported as saying, “The Chinese are very private about their money. This law goes against our culture.” Her comments appeared in the book Millionaire Migrants, by UBC geographer David Ley, and were cited in a Saturday article in The Sun.
Kwan said this week her early quote was an accurate “observation” in light of fear expressed by Chinese realtors and others in the 1990s that the economy was suffering because immigrants were leaving Metro Vancouver to return to Hong Kong, possibly because of the proposed foreign-asset disclosure law.
Asked if she agreed with her NDP government’s 1990s opposition to the foreign-asset disclosure laws, Kwan said this week, “I was never asked that question. And my position then and now remains that Canadians, regardless of their origins, should be treated the same under all laws.”
As an NDP MLA, Kwan held a June forum on Metro Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis. This May in the B.C. legislature she called on Finance Minister Mike de Jong to collect more reliable data on the extent of foreign ownership of Metro Vancouver housing, which planners say contributes to the region’s astronomical prices.
Kwan’s Liberal rival in the Vancouver East riding, Edward Wong, said this week that “All Canadians must bide by the rule of law” regarding foreign-asset disclosure rules.
“As a trial lawyer, I believe when you come to Canada you must pay your fair share of taxes.”
Wong was not convinced that widespread failure to disclose foreign assets should be linked with ethnic Chinese residents in Metro Vancouver, many of whom arrived through the federal immigrant-investor program.
However, asked about demographic studies of Metro Vancouver by UBC geographer Dan Hiebert and others that show a strong correlation between expensive mansions, reports of “extreme poverty” and predominantly Chinese neighbourhoods, Wong wouldn’t comment further, saying “I haven’t undertaken those kinds of studies.”
Conservative Party candidates in B.C. have also recently promised to show no tolerance to Canadians who illegally evade taxes by not disclosing their offshore assets to tax officials.
“Our government has zero tolerance for tax evasion,” said a spokesman for B.C. Conservative MP (Delta-Richmond East) Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who is Canada’s minister of national revenue. Carter Mann said the federal government in 2014 brought in tough legislation to root out those not declaring offshore assets.
However, Murray Rankin, the NDP candidate for Victoria, said the Conservative government has not been aggressive enough in going after those who flout tax laws — in part because of “endless cuts” of Revenue Canada tax auditors who had the knowledge to track “complex international tax avoidance schemes.”
Green party leader Elizabeth May, the candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands, also said in September that Revenue Canada should be mandated to use more forensic accounting to go after offshore accounts and dubious tax-haven loopholes.
For her part, Kwan agrees with an anti-tax cheat strategy proposed by that Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland proposed at her June forum on housing affordability.
Kurland told her one of the best ways for Revenue Canada to stop people with Canadian passports hiding their offshore assets is by more rigorously requiring that house buyers declare their permanent place of residence. That could help stop people from declaring they’re “non-residents” to avoid paying income taxes, while they declare themselves Canadian residents for property purchases.
Vancouver South Conservative MP Wai Young did not return the Sun’s phone calls or messages this week. Vancouver Kingsway Liberal candidate Steven Kou, an accountant who is vice-president of the Canada Chinese Investors and Entrepreneurs Association, also did not return calls. Neither did Alice Wong, the incumbent Conservative candidate for Richmond Centre, nor Kenny Chiu, the Conservative candidate for Steveston-Richmond East.

More time equals more money: Five reasons why Stephen Harper will likely call an early election

BY POSTMEDIA NEWS
Much has been written and said about changes to the Elections Act that will affect voters. New identification rules mean you won’t be able to use your voter card as ID; vouching for other voters will be restricted; and the role of Elections Canada has been changed. Some of these changes have been challenged in the courts.

Other changes to the Elections Act, passed into law recently with the Fair Elections Act, means we can likely expect an early start to the election period. With the first debate of all the federal leaders set for Aug. 6, don’t be surprised to hear the election has been called shortly after. Here is why.

1. The longer the campaign goes, the more money parties and candidates can spend, and they get 50 per cent of whatever they spend from taxpayers.

The spending limit on past elections was fixed. This time, every additional day above 37 days, the party and candidates can spend an additional 1/37th of that limit. That is approximately $685,000 a day for the party and over $900,000 a day for the candidates in all 338 ridings combined. For example, if the election starts on Aug. 10, an additional 29 days, the total party spending limit would go from $25 million to $45 million and total riding limits would increase from $34 million to more than $60 million. A combined $105 million per party. Although per-vote subsidies have been eliminated, the rebates that parties and local campaigns receive will mean the taxpayer could be on the hook for up to $53 million per party after this election, this on top of the estimated $300 million it costs to run the election itself.

2. Local riding associations/candidates cannot get loans.

In the past, when a candidate or local district association did not have the money raised to run a campaign, they could go to a bank and get a loan. Under the new rules, a loan can only be guaranteed by individuals who are not already donors, and to a maximum of $1,500. To get a $30,000 loan (a bare-bones campaign in most ridings), a candidate would need to find 20 individuals willing to sign for their $1,500 share of the loan. This is an advantage to district associations and candidates with more money raised; candidates who walk into the writ period with little fundraising could face a big challenge in meeting expenses.

3. A party can transfer money to a district association, and a district association can transfer money to another district association.

There are district associations that have a lot of money, more than they could possibly spend in a single election or two. There are also district associations that have less money who can accept transfers from either the central party, or from those richer associations. The cumulative effect of spending on advertising, signs, flyers, staff and other resources will be a tremendous advantage to the party with the most to spend.

4. There will be more numerous and more varied advertising.

Expect to see more ads, and different types of ads, in this election, as campaigns target segments of the population with issue-specific ads, or based on regional and local issues. In the 2004 election, you could expect to see five to 10 ads run nationally per party. As production technology becomes cheaper, we can expect dozens of ads online, on TV, or both. With district association limits now exceeding $200,000 and many costs fixed, expect to see more local and regional advertising.

5. Third party advertisements and PAC spending are limited during the writ.

Until the election is called, there are few rules on third parties. Political Action Committees (PACs) and other third parties can spend as much as they want to support their agenda. Once the writ of election is issued, spending limits become much more restrictive. A third party can spend a total of $205,800 across Canada during a 37-day campaign, and no more than $4,116 in any riding. Similar to the party and riding limits, this increases by 1/37th for every day the election is above 37 days. Even if the election is twice as long as that, the limits would increase by a fraction of increase to party and candidate limits. If there are more PACs opposing the current government than supporting it, an early election call will benefit the government.

The call of the election is of course up to one person, the current prime minister. Despite the fixed election date law, there are no rules on how long the campaign leading up to election day can be. With so many clear advantages to the party with the most money to spend, it’s not likely we will see a standard 37-day election.

As most of us enjoy the Civic Holiday with friends and family this Aug. 3, the federal parties will be gassing up the planes, polishing the campaign buses and dusting off their signs. Some of you may choose to ignore the campaign until after Thanksgiving, but hopefully the extra $75 million (give or take) it’s costing us this time will be enough motivation for more of us to get out and vote.

Quito Maggi is the CEO of Mainstreet Research

Surrey First spent nearly $1.2 million on civic election campaign

By Brian Morton

SURREY — Surrey First spent nearly $1.2 million on its successful 2014 municipal campaign, primarily from corporate donors, according to campaign disclosure statements.

The amount, which was almost triple the money spent in total by Mayor Linda Hepner’s two competitors, helped the party secure every seat on Surrey council. Continue reading “Surrey First spent nearly $1.2 million on civic election campaign”