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Elizabeth May seeks to blow past political pack with platform rollout

OTTAWA — Green Leader Elizabeth May pushed past the political pack Monday by introducing a wide-ranging set of new policy promises while her rivals were recycling or expanding on old ideas.
Elizabeth May
Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May attends the launch of her party's election platform in Toro

OTTAWA — Green Leader Elizabeth May pushed past the political pack Monday by introducing a wide-ranging set of new policy promises while her rivals were recycling or expanding on old ideas. 

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer re-introduced tax credits from the Harper government era, and Justin Trudeau pledged funds for more child-care spaces despite only days ago suggesting that was something provinces alone need to tackle.

May said politics-as-usual is leading the country down a path Canada simply cannot survive.

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It is time for the kind of big ideas that Canada hasn't seen since the 1950s, and ones that take into account climate change's being the major crisis of our time, she said. "I believe that what Canadians really want is peace, order and green government," May said in Toronto.

The platform, in addition to aggressive targets for emissions reductions and environmental measures such as a ban on hydraulic fracking, also pledges universal pharmacare, the elimination of tuition, a closer relationship with Indigenous Peoples and the elimination of poverty via a guaranteed livable income.

The cost of it all will be released in the coming days, but will be worth it, May promised.

"It is a good deal to save all of humanity in the next five years," she said.

New Democrats sought to take some of the wind out of May's sails by announcing they'd poached Eric Ferland, the former leader of the Green party in Quebec, as a candidate in the very same Montreal-area riding whose incumbent is Pierre Nantel – a former NDP MP running for re-election as a Green.

The Greens and the NDP have appeared locked in a battle for third place since well before the start of the campaign.

But May suggested that framing her campaign as one that's a race against the NDP was misplaced.

"I have nothing against the NDP, I'm not running against the NDP," she said. "I'm running to elect as many of these wonderful candidates as possible so that a caucus of Green MPs can assist Canadians."

May was off and running Monday. She has spent much of the campaign so far close to home in British Columbia but she embarks on a tour of Ontario Monday, hitting both Kitchener and Guelph, small cities west of Toronto. In Guelph, a Green candidate was elected in Ontario's last provincial election and the federal party sees an opening.

May and Trudeau will pass each other by on the highways of southwestern Ontario, with the Liberal leader campaigning in the cities of Waterloo, London and Windsor.

It was in Waterloo that Trudeau promised $535 million per year to create more before- and after-school child-care spaces and cut fees for parents – a program that would require getting the provinces on side, a detail that didn't stop him from demonizing the conservative governments running several of them.

Trudeau is wading into waters that just weeks ago he said he would avoid: he told the Toronto Star in early September that provinces were best placed to figure out what child-care services were needed in their jurisdictions and how to deliver them.

He reframed the issue Monday, arguing the funds were about families as he blamed conservatives for promising help but cutting services.

"I always think that's a role for the federal government, to make sure that we are investing families and supporting them," Trudeau said.

Trudeau took questions from reporters for the first time since Friday. Conservatives had jumped on Trudeau's apparent avoidance of the media by pointing out that their former leader, Stephen Harper, had been lambasted when he took only five questions a day in campaigns past.

But it was again Scheer who drew comparisons to Harper.

At an event in B.C., he promised to bring back two tax credits that had been marquee policies under Harper's Conservative government, measures that allowed Canadian families to claim credits for expenses related to their families' fitness- or sports-related activities and for arts and educational expenses.

It was the latest reboot of a past Harper policy; last week, Scheer promised to bring back a transit credit. All three had been axed by the Liberals.

"I can assure you that throughout the rest of this campaign we will be proposing new ideas to leave more money in the pockets of Canadians," he said.


A list of some of the Green Party’s promises


The Green Party released its platform Monday, with a focus on climate and reconciliation. Here are a selection of the party's promises:

— Pass a law requiring a 60-per-cent cut in Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, reaching net zero in 2050.

— Have 100 per cent of Canada's electricity come from renewable sources by 2030 and ban the sale of cars with combustion engines by that year.

— Set legal emissions limits for industries that decline over time, with penalties for exceeding those limits, and maintain a "broad-based, revenue-neutral carbon fee."

— Approve no new pipelines, coal, oil or gas drilling or mining, including offshore wells; phase out bitumen production and ban hydraulic fracturing; cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline and subsidies to fossil-fuel industries; and help transition workers out of fossil-fuel sectors through income protection, jobs guarantees, retraining and resettlement.

— Develop and legislate a comprehensive national strategy on plastic pollution to be implemented over 10 years, and in the meantime, ban the production, distribution and sale of all unnecessary or non-essential petroleum-based single-use plastics by 2022.

— Recognize Indigenous Peoples' inherent rights of self-government and implement the recommendations of the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

— Eliminate post-secondary education tuition and forgive the portion of existing student debt that is held by the federal government.

— Bring in a guaranteed livable income.

— Expand medicare to include pharmacare for all and dental care for low-income Canadians.

— Reorient Health Canada’s mandate towards mental health and addictions, health promotion and disease prevention, and the health risks of climate change.

— Decriminalize drug possession.

— Lower the federally set price for cannabis to make it competitive with illegal supplies.

— Eliminate mandatory minimum criminal sentences.

— Ensure that the 2019 election is the last "first past the post" election and lower the voting age to 16.

— Apply a corporate tax on transnational e-commerce companies doing business in Canada such as Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Uber.

— Increase the federal corporate tax rate from 15 to 21 per cent, and maintain the current level of taxation for small business.

— Limit credit-card interest rates to a maximum of 10 percentage points above the Bank of Canada prime rate.

— Limit ATM fees to $1 per transaction and ban financial institutions from charging their own customers ATM fees.

— Set the federal minimum wage at $15 per hour.

— Study the impacts of adopting a shorter work week.

— Reform anti-trust laws to enable the break-up of media conglomerates.

— Increase funding to CBC and Radio-Canada by $315 million per year until the per-capita level of funding is equal to that of the BBC.

— Legislate housing as a legally protected fundamental human right for all Canadians and permanent residents.

— Eliminate the first-time home-buyer grant.