NDP Efforts to Secure Their Base

October 15, 2019

Mr. Singh has taken a two-fold approach in his efforts to secure votes for his party in the second last week before the election. Singh has been campaigning for the top job which he is unlikely to get while also articulating what would be necessary for the NDP to support a minority government. Mr. Singh continues to advocate for Canadians to vote in as many New Democrats as possible in the upcoming election and to dissuade voters from voting strategically.

In the English leaders debate last week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh did better than expected. In fact, many pundits and polls declared him the winner of the debate. He had good charisma, good responses and even a few good one-liners. However, the format of the debate left little room to delve into policy issues. While Mr. Singh, did not stand out as much in the French debate, he had the opportunity to make some good policy points about taxing the wealthy, increasing spending on seniors and criticizing services provided to Indigenous Canadians under previous governments. It remains to be seen if his performance in both debates will translate into votes for the NDP party and where these votes will come from.

On the same day as the last leaders’ debate, Mr. Singh spelled out the six priorities his party would want to see “action on” in exchange for support of a minority government. The Conservatives and Liberals continue to be neck and neck in the polls, with neither appearing to be likely to secure enough seats to have a majority government, indicating the likelihood of a minority government. Mr. Singh had previously ruled out supporting a Conservative minority because of Mr. Scheer’s previous comments about same-sex marriage in the House of Commons. Therefore, it is clear that his conditions are directed at Mr. Trudeau.

The six priorities that would need to be addressed for Mr. Singh to consider supporting Mr. Trudeau are key aspects of the NDP platform and those Mr. Singh classifies as “urgent”.

1.    Action would be needed on a national, single-payer universal pharmacare plan and a national dental care plan.

2.    Investments in housing.

3.    A plan would be needed to waive interest on student loans.

4.    To reduce cellphone bills.

5.    A commitment to reduce emissions, to end subsidies for oil companies and to deliver aid to oilpatch workers to transition them out of fossil fuel industries would be required.

6.    The introduction of a “super wealth” tax and a commitment to closing tax loopholes.

In addition, Mr. Singh said he would also continue to advocate for reconciliation and proportional representation.

While Mr. Singh has repeatedly stated that he does not support the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, he made it clear that he would work with a party that supports moving forward with it as long as the action moves forward as responsibly as possible and in conjunction with tackling the environmental crisis. Ms. May, conversely, has said she would not support any government that wants to move forward with the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The NDP was the first party to release its platform, releasing it in June, however, they did not release the costing until ten days before the election. While the cost for a number of the big-ticket items, like pharmacare ($10 billion), were known, it was unknown how an NDP government would pay for it and what their deficit would look like.

The NDP propose raising revenue to pay for its promises. It would increase the capital gains tax from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, returning to the level it was at before 2000. It will also raise the corporate income tax rate by three points and will introduce a “super wealth tax” – a one per cent tax on every Canadian with a net worth exceeding $20 million. These three tax changes would bring in about $20.3 billion annually. In addition, the NDP hopes to bring in an additional $5.8 billion by cracking down on tax havens.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Office costing, the single-payer universal pharmacare plan will cost $10 billion. The housing commitment will cost another $5 billion in year one and the climate change action plan will cost $15 billion over two years. Even with all this new revenue, the NDP proposes a deficit of $32.7 billion next year, with the deficit decreasing to just over $16 billion in 2023-24, but no timeline for return to a balanced budget. While the costing of the NDP platform is important, it is highly unlikely that this platform will be implemented in its entirety since the NDP are doubtful to form government. However, the costing could be used to extrapolate the cost of the six priorities.

Comparing the six commitments the NDP identified to support a minority Liberal government to the Liberal platform it is clear that some of the commitments overlap. The Liberal government has committed to reducing cellphone bills by 25 per cent and to make student loan repayments interest-free at times. The Liberal government has also committed to universal pharmacare although they have not committed to implement it as quickly or accounted for all the necessary funding. However, the two parties differ in covering dental care.

The more difficult negotiations will likely be about the subsidies related to oil companies and environmental commitments. Without full negotiations and a definition of what action on these commitments looks like, it is unclear what the deficit would be with a Liberal government supported by the NDP but likely, the deficit will be higher than that predicted by the Liberal platform but lower than the deficit predicted by the NDP platform.

The election results will tell how successful the NDP were at gaining votes, convincing their base not to vote strategically and the extent to which they will play kingmaker in the next parliament.