Green Party platform aims to transition economy, protect consumers, promote tax fairness

Green Party platform aims to transition economy, protect consumers, promote tax fairness

The Green Party of Canada today released a campaign platform promising to tackle climate change by transitioning Canada to a green economy while also lifting Canadians out of poverty, abolishing tuition fees and bringing in national pharmacare.

Central to the Green plan are measures to address the "climate emergency" — a 20-step action plan called Mission: Possible that has been released already. The platform says a Green government would pass into law a Climate Change Act that would require a 60-per-cent cut in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, doubling the current 30 per cent target,

The platform offers a vision of a Canada in 2030 where homes and businesses are all powered by renewable energy, all new vehicles and public transit and passenger ferries are electric and most food is locally sourced.

"It's an exciting time to be alive because we actually can do all these things, but not with business as usual," Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said during the platform launch event in Toronto.

May said the full budget and costing analysis for the platform will not be available until later this week because the Parliamentary Budget Officer is still "crunching the numbers" and the reporting must be translated.

Serge Buy, chief executive officer of the Canadian Ferry Association, said making all passenger ferries electric or hybrid would cost at least $10 billion.

"I'm not entirely sure where the money is coming from," he said. "We are certainly concerned by statements like these which have not been developed in consultation with industry and even without any request for information from the industry."

Some of the initiatives would be financed by boosting the federal corporate tax rate to 21 per cent from the current 15 per cent. The current level of taxation for small businesses would remain the same.

Calling her party's platform "comprehensive," May also is proposing more affordable housing, electoral reform, improved Indigenous relations, a single-payer, universal pharmacare system and dental care for low-income Canadians.

Ending fossil fuel subsidies

The Green Party also would eliminate fossil fuel subsidies worth several billion dollars annually, including those for liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil and gas projects and coal mining exploration and development.

May said that, despite a promise to eliminate federal subsidies a decade ago, they have actually expanded for fracking and LNG development. Under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, Canada was among the G20 countries that promised to phase out "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies in 2009.

A Green government would halt all fossil fuel subsidies in its first year in office, she said.

May said that while she believes she is the best person to serve as prime minister, she conceded that prospect is unlikely.

She urged more parliamentary cooperation to accomplish real results and said she is not in the game for credit or to defeat the NDP.

"Overtaking the NDP isn't a goal. Ensuring we have good government and a strong Parliament is our goal," she said.

The CBC's latest Poll Tracker, which aggregates all publicly available polling data, shows the Green Party now with 9.9 per cent support, with the NDP at 13.7 per cent.

The platform also promises to work with the provinces to establish a universal Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) program to replace various other income supports such as disability payments, social assistance and income supplements for seniors.

'Visionary' but costly proposals

University of British Columbia economist Kevin Milligan said the Green platform offers some "visionary" but costly ideas.

"They may be worthy policy proposals, but they will be expensive," he said.

He pointed to a means-tested guaranteed basic income program costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office last year, which came with an annual price tag of at least $76 billion.

"The Green platform commits to a guaranteed livable income that would even more generous — no means testing," Milligan said in an email. "We haven't seen a costing for this. The Greens are trying to offer both visionary policy and budgetary prudence, but I think they will struggle to deliver both."

There are also proposals in the platform to protect consumers — including 'Right to Repair' legislation that would require manufacturers to provide consumers or repair shops with replacement parts, software and tools for diagnosing, maintaining or repairing their products, for a fair price. It would also require them to reset any electronic security that may disable the device during diagnosis, maintenance or repair.

"Setting product and service standards for consumer protection are well within the purview of government. A Green government will drop the hands-off approach. It's time to intervene," the platform reads.

Consumer protections

Other consumer protection measures in the platform include:

  • Limiting credit card interest rates to a maximum of 10 percentage points above the Bank of Canada prime rate.
  • Limiting ATM fees to $1 per transaction and prohibiting financial institutions from charging their own customers ATM fees.

The Green platform also promises to establish a Federal Tax Commission to analyze the tax system for fairness and accessibility and says the federal tax system under a Green government would be based on the principle of "progressive taxation." The plan also includes a vow to find a way to tax cryptocurrencies.

The platform also would introduce a corporate tax on transnational e-commerce companies doing business in Canada, requiring them to register, collect and remit taxes.

Taxing Google, Facebook

"The e-commerce sector, giants like Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, Google and Uber, command a significant share of the Canadian market but pay virtually no tax," the platform reads.

The Green Party is also promising to amend the law on medical assistance in dying to ensure "everyone has the choice of dying with dignity." It proposes giving every Canadian the right to a "living will" allowing them to limit or refuse medical intervention and treatment.

The plan also offers $10 billion in post-secondary and trade school support and offers free tuition for all Canadian college and university students.

According to the platform, the abolition of tuition fees would be financed by redirecting existing spending on bursaries and tuition tax credits, savings from administering the student loan system, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in student loan defaults written off every year.

Other measures in the platform include:

  • Closing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy.
  • Ending offshore tax dodging by taxing funds hidden in offshore havens and requiring companies to prove that their foreign affiliates are actual, functioning businesses for tax purposes.
  • Bringing in worker protections, including a ban on unpaid internships in private sector workplaces and a new federal ombudsman to help to harassed and demoralized employees.

"Within the federal civil service, workers are still bullied by supervisors and redress is illusory," the platform reads.