2021 Platform Analysis: Wellbeing budgets for all generations
Gen Squeeze's analysis of the 2021 federal election platforms.

Wellbeing budgets for all generations scorecard

We scored the parties' platforms to see how close they get us to achieving our goal of budgeting for the wellbeing of all generations. Download the scorecard and check out the full analysis below!  UPDATED September 14.

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Wellbeing budgets solutions

This analysis is current as of September 10, 2021. You can find the complete Voter's Guide (covering housing, family, climate and wellbeing budgets here

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

This election, Generation Squeeze is undertaking a rigorous assessment of federal party platforms and commitments on four key issues: housing affordability, family affordability, climate change, and overall plans to budget for wellbeing for all generations.

Our mission: to help voters better understand how far each party's platform goes towards actually solving big problems facing young people today.

Instead of simply listing party promises, our assessment attempts to make meaning of these promises, individually and in aggregate.  We do this by assessing the degree to which each major party’s platform advances the evidence-based actions needed to address the key issues squeezing younger Canadians.  You can find detailed information on the methodology we use to analyze and assess party platforms.

In this document, you will find:

  • Summary score table: The commitments made by each party in their platform are assigned a score.  This score is determined based on the extent to which the actions proposed by the party will move us towards the solutions identified in Gen Squeeze’s game plans on housing and family affordability, climate change, and wellbeing budgeting for all generations.
  • Detailed commentary: In depth discussion of the platform commitments made by each party that informed the scores, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each commitment.

Gen Squeeze does not tell you who to vote for.  And we don’t aim to portray any party in a favourable or unfavourable light.  Our goal is to help voters be as informed as possible about the positions of all of the parties on the big issues squeezing younger Canadians.  You can get more information on our commitments to be non-partisan and evidence based


Punchlines

The four national parties ignore evidence about how best to promote well-being for all generations, from the early years onwards.  

All parties fail to invest fairly in young and old alike. Most parties promise to accelerate spending for Canadians age 65+ around five times faster than for Canadians under 45 (the generations in their prime child rearing years).  The Conservatives stand out in this regard. They will increase spending on older Canadians 12 times faster than they will increase spending on younger Canadians. The party's decision to cut billions in child care spending is the primary reason why Conservatives will invest less urgently in younger Canadians than the other parties.

All parties fail to invest to prevent illness for younger Canadians more than they invest to treat illness with medical care after people fall ill. The platforms therefore consistently ignore research showing that government spending on social programs (e.g., poverty reduction, housing, child care, etc.) has a stronger association with life expectancy and fewer years of lost life than does public investment in medical care.

None of the parties promise to raise revenue fairly between generations. All platforms invite older Canadians to expect more spending on medical care and retirement income while passing the bills for this new spending to their kids and grandchildren.

No party promises to balance government books even 4 years from now, when we don’t expect to be in a recession. Unfortunately, the deficits are not incurred to pay for transformational investments to fight climate change or housing unaffordability for younger generations. Instead, the deficits are consistently similar in size to the increases that parties propose for old age security and medical care for the aging population.  Why do political parties think they can only win older votes if they don’t ask older Canadians (who have more wealth than any other age group) to pay a fair share for the improved services and benefits they want?

The only intergenerational bright spot is that three of four parties propose putting a high enough price on pollution to help younger Canadians and future generations have a fighting chance to fend off the worst that climate change has in store.

In sum, when it comes to promoting wellbeing via government budgets that work for all generations:

The Liberals are stuck at the starting line.

The Greens take us one step in the wrong direction. 

The NDP takes us three steps in the wrong direction.  

The Conservatives take four steps in the wrong direction.

Let this be the last election where parties judge they can get away with platforms that fail the principle of intergenerational fairness; that fail to invest urgently for young and old alike, and that ask us all to strive to leave at least as much as we inherited.

Canada will only turn this around if young and old alike band together in support of intergenerational solidarity; in support of budgets that promote wellbeing for all generations, from the early years onwards.  #GenFairnessNow

 

Approach to Platform Analysis

For the 2021 federal election, Gen Squeeze is focusing our analysis on the four major parties that began the race with at least one MP who was elected as a representative of that party, and that are running a national slate of candidates. This includes the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Green Party. 

We assess party commitments to wellbeing budgets that work for all generations in light of a Solutions Framework that has been developed in the Generation Squeeze Lab at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population & Public Health, with support from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant titled “Budgeting for all generations.”  The framework has been peer-reviewed, and published in the journals Intergenerational Justice Review, and the Canadian Journal of Public Health. Scholarship that contributed to the development of this framework was recognized by the BC Confederation of University Faculty Associations when it selected Dr. Kershaw for its distinguished academic honour of “Academic of the Year” in 2016.

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To support the analysis of party platforms, we've translated our framework for wellbeing budgets that work for all generations into 8 key criteria. Parties are assigned points based on their platform's response to each of these criteria. Score range from +1.0 to -1.0, assessed as follows:

Assessment Points
No discernible commitments 0
Commitments are somewhat capable of achieving the goal 0.5
Commitments are capable of achieving the goal 1.0
Commitments somewhat undermine progress towards the goal -0.5
Commitments undermine progress towards the goal -1.0

 

You can learn more the full scoring methodology, the rationale for this approach, and its limitations, by reading our detailed methodology.


Summary score table

The table below summarizes the scores of the Conservative party, the Green Party, the Liberal party and the New Democratic party on each of the 12 wellbeing budget criteria.

We welcome feedback from parties, including concerns that we may have misinterpreted elements of their platforms when assigning our scores. We commit to revising our scores in light of party evidence that their platforms or other election documents include commitments that align with the evaluation criteria.

Note for mobile/smartphone device users: The table below may not display properly on your smartphone screen. If the table appears to be cut-off, please return to this page on laptop or desktop.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

 

CRITERIA USED TO ASSESS PARTY PLATFORMS

Party scores

 

CPC

LPC

NDP

GRN

1

Do the platforms demonstrate an explicit commitment to generational fairness, investing in wellbeing from the early years onwards?

0

0

0

0

INVEST FAIRLY

 

 

 

 

2

Do the platforms invest fairly for young and old alike?

-1

0

-1

0

INVEST MORE IN PREVENTING ILLNESS

 

 

 

 

3

Do the platforms increase social spending faster than medical spending? 

0

0.5

-0.5

0

RAISE REVENUE FAIRLY

 

 

 

 

4

Do platforms include action to rebalance taxes on income vs wealth, especially housing wealth?

-0.5

0.5

0

0

5

Do platforms include action to ensure that improvements to pharmacare and long-term care are paid for in ways that are fair between generations?

0

-1

-1

-1

LEAVE FEWER DEBTS

 

 

 

 

6

Outside of recessions, do the platforms include action to stop growing per capita debt on young people (under age 45)?

-1

-1

-1

-1

7

Do the platforms include action to ensure a high enough price on pollution?

-0.5

1

1

1

MONITOR AGE AND WELLBEING PATTERNS IN PUBLIC FINANCE

 

 

 

 

8

Do the platforms include action to monitor and report on key patterns in public finance?

0

0

0

0

 

TOTAL SCORE (out of a possible 8)

-3.0

0

-2.5

-1.0

 

Weighted to a total score out of 10 (to more easily compare to other issue areas)

-3.75

0

-3.1

-1.25

 

Detailed Commentary 

Below is a comprehensive explanation of why Gen Squeeze assigned the scores we did to each party for each criterion, and the strengths and weaknesses of individual policy proposals.

CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES

 

Criterion 1: Do the platforms demonstrate an explicit commitment to generational fairness, investing in wellbeing from the early years onwards


This means explicitly embracing the principle of generational fairness in the party platform, investing urgently in wellbeing from the early years onwards, and by committing to leave at least as much as we inherit fiscally and environmentally.


No party receives a point for this criterion. The term generational fairness does not appear a single time in any of the four parties’ platform documents.

 

Criterion 2: Do the platforms invest fairly in young and old alike?


We operationalize this criterion by examining the ratio of spending on key programs for Canadians age 65+ compared to those under age 45. We calculate this ratio by adding together all spending on old age security, the guaranteed income supplement for seniors, and medical care for seniors and then compare it to total spending on childcare, parental leave, postsecondary, family income supports and medical care for those under age 45. We look at the ratio of aggregate spending; and per capita spending. As admittedly blunt benchmarks for fairness, we look for aggregate spending for those under age 45 to grow as much as for those over age 65. Given that Canadians age 65+ will represent approximately 20% of the population by 2025/26, and residents under age 45 will represent 55%, an equal aggregate increase translates into a per capita increase that is three times larger for older Canadians. Larger per capita increases for older Canadians are appropriate in recognition that we anticipate human beings need to draw more on medical care and income supports in our later years when we become more biological frail. However, research shows that over the last four decades, Canadian governments have increased social spending for retirees 4 times faster than for Canadians under age 45, even though younger Canadians earnings have fallen after inflation while costs for things like housing have increased dramatically. In this section, we are looking for governments to ensure that per capita increases for seniors don’t grow even 3 times faster. Or put differently, we think that investing fairly for young and old alike requires investments for Canadians under age 45 to grow at least 1/3 of the rate of per capita investments for older Canadians.


All 2021 federal party platforms are designed in light of how they would change budget plans already announced in the 2021 federal budget. For quick reference, Table A1.6 is an important, albeit incomplete, summary of the 2021 budget. This budget shows that by 2025/26, the current plan is to grow annual spending for Canadians age 65+ by $22.9 billion (primarily for Old Age Security (OAS), $18.5 billion, and medical care, $4.2 billion (which reflects that Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data show that approximately 49% of medical care spending will be used by residents age 65+).

By contrast, the same budget plans only to increase annual spending in Canadians under age 45 by $12.8 billion (primarily via childcare at $8.4 billion, $2.5 billion for medical care, and very minor increases to postsecondary and family income supports.  The allocation of medical care spending to younger residents follows CIHI data which show that approximately 30% is used by Canadians under age 45).  

So, the current budget has aggregate spending for retirees growing by nearly twice as much as aggregate spending for younger Canadians.  This results in planned per capita increases for every Canadian age 65+ of $2,837 compared to just $580 for every Canadian under age 45 – meaning that per capita spending for retirees will increase nearly five times faster than younger Canadians.  

By contrast, we propose that investing fairly for young and old alike requires equal aggregate increases, which would result in per capita increases for retirees that are no more than three times faster than for younger Canadians.  Do any of the party platforms propose to change federal investments to meet these criteria?

The answer is no.

Liberal party: Building on the 2021 budget, the Liberals plan to increase annual aggregate spending for Canadians age 65+ by another $3.6 billion – bringing the annual increase in 2025/26 to $26.6 billion. OAS and medical care drive the increases.

By comparison, the Liberals plan to increase annual aggregate spending for Canadians under age 45 by another $2.2 billion – bringing the annual aggregate increase to $15.0 billion.  Medical care and postsecondary account most for the increase.

This aggregate spending plan results in the Liberals proposing to grow per capita annual capita spending for retirees 4.8 times faster than for younger Canadians:  by $3,284 per Canadian age 65+ compared to just $681 for every Canadian under age 45.

Since the Liberal party does not propose to improve the fairness of the age spending ratio, we award them no points for this criterion.

Conservative party: The Conservatives plan to make the age gap in spending much less fair for younger Canadians. The promise to increase aggregate spending on Canadians age 65+ by $1 billion through increased medical care spending – bringing the total annual increase to $24 billion as of 2025/26.

By contrast, they propose to cut aggregate spending for younger Canadians by $7.3 billion, primarily because they plan to eliminate the $10 a day child care plan.

This results in the Conservatives proposing to grow annual per capita spending for retirees over ten times faster than for younger Canadians: increasing average expenditures for every person age 65+ by $2,964 compared to just $249 for every person under age 45.  

Since the Conservative party proposes to worsen dramatically the age spending ratio, we subtract a full point for this criterion.

NDP:  The NDP plan to increase annual aggregate spending for Canadians age 65+ by another $9.8 billion beyond what is already in the 2021 budget -- bringing the annual increase to $32.8 billion in 2025/26. The NDP will increase medical care spending more than the Liberals and Greens, followed by increases to long-term care and OAS. 

By comparison, the NDP plan to add another $7.7 billion to aggregate spending for Canadians under age 45 on top of what is already allocated in the 2021 federal budget -- bringing the annual increase to $20.4 billion.  The extra funds for younger Canadians are driven by further medical care increases, followed by postsecondary investments.

This aggregate spending plan results in the NDP proposing to grow per capita annual spending for retirees 4.4 times faster than for younger Canadians: $4,052 compared to $929. 

Since this does not represent a significant improvement to the age ratio in spending, and the NDP plan to grow the gap in spending between younger and older Canadians more than any other party for which we have costed information ($3,123 more per retiree than per person under age 45), we deduct a point for this criterion.  

Green party: The Green party also offers incomplete costing of its platform, making it impossible to provide precise estimates of the age spending ratio to which it is committed.  However, we know that resembles the NDP plan – with one major exception.  The Greens also plan to increase spending dramatically on long-term care, pharmacare and dental care, and it also makes a vague promise about a guaranteed livable income. The Green platform differs from the NDP (and other platforms) by proposing to add $10 billion in annual spending to make postsecondary tuition free.  This substantial investment in postsecondary may keep spending on younger Canadians in pace with the increases that the Greens propose for medical care, which will disproportionately grow per capita spending for older Canadians.  But since there is no clear evidence that the Green party will improve the age spending ratio, we don’t award, or deduct, a point for this criterion.

 

Criterion 3: Do the platforms increase social spending faster than medical spending?


Because health doesn’t start with medical care. It starts where we are born, grow, live work and age – which are called the social determinants of health. These social determinants are shaped by social spending. Research shows that government spending on social programs (e.g., poverty reduction, housing, child care, etc.) often has a stronger association with population health indicators than does public investment in medical care. A higher social/medical spending ratio (i.e. more spending on social issues relative to illness-treatment) associates with greater life expectancy, lower infant mortality and fewer potential years of lost life.

We operationalize this criterion by examining the ratio of aggregate spending on medical care relative to aggregate spending on childcare, parental leave, postsecondary, housing, EI and income-supports/poverty reduction. We examine this ratio for Canadians age 65+ and those under age 45 to assess the degree to which platforms are committed to investing in wellbeing (not just illness treatment) from the early years onwards.


As with our analysis of criterion 2, we know that all 2021 federal party platforms are designed in light of how they would change budget plans already announced in the 2021 federal budget.  

That budget already plans to increase annual medical spending by $8.3 billion in 2025/26.

Annual changes to key social spending areas are:

  • Old Age Security: $18.5 billion
  • Canada Social Transfer: $1.9 billion
  • Childcare: $8.4 billion
  • Canada Child Benefit: $0.7 billion
  • Postsecondary: $0.2 billion
  • Parental leave: 0
  • Housing: $0.05 billion
  • Employment Insurance: -$15.6 billion (anticipating a substantial drop due to the unusually high spending during the pandemic).

In total, it is budgeted for these key areas of social spending to grow by $14.12 billion as of 2025/26. This does indicate key areas of social spending will grow faster than medical care.

However, since OAS is exclusively for Canadians age 65+, and by far the largest social investment that is planned, it is important to analyze how social spending will grow without OAS so we can better assess the degree to which governments are investing in illness prevention by means of investments in the social determinants of health from the early years onwards.  

Without OAS, the 2021 budget plans for social spending to drop by $4.4 billion.

So, it is clear that the current plan is to grow medical care spending faster than social spending for younger Canadians.

Will any party platform change this plan?

Liberal Party: The Liberal party intends to accelerate the increase annual spending on medical care by $4.2 billion in 2025/26. This would bring the total increase to $12.5 billion by the end of the next electoral mandate.

The party intends also to accelerate the increase in annual spending on key social areas by $5.33 billion – primarily because OAS will increase by $1.2 billion; supports for postsecondary students will increase by $1.2 billion; and housing investments will increase by $2.5 billion. This would bring the total increase in spending on key social determinants of health to $19.4 billon by the end of the next mandate.

The $19.4 billion increase in social spending is larger than the $12.5 billion increase planned for medical care. This means that the Liberal plan meets our criterion when social spending on retirees is included in the calculation. We award half a point for this element of the platform.

However, when OAS is removed from the social spending in the Liberal platform, there is no increase in the remaining social investments.  So the Liberal platform does not meet this criterion when considering social spending available for younger Canadians, and we don’t award a second half point.

Point total for this criterion:  0.5 + 0 = 0.5

Conservative party: Conservatives plan to accelerate the increase in annual spending on medical care by $2.1 billion in 2025/26. This would bring the total increase to $10.4 billion by the end of the next electoral mandate.

The party promises to decrease the annual increase in spending on key social determinants of health by $1.7 billion. The decrease is entirely for programs that matter for younger Canadians. In particular, the party will cut child care by $8.3 billion, while adding $5.7 billion for the Canada Workers Benefit which supports low-income workers. Conservative promises would bring the total increase in spending on key social determinants of health to $12.42 billion by the end of the next mandate.

The $12.4 billion increase in social spending is larger than the $10.4 billion increase planned for medical care. This means that the Conservative plan meets our criterion when social spending on retirees is included in the calculation. We award half a point for this element of the platform.

However, when OAS is removed from the social spending in the Conservative platform, there is a $6 billion reduction in the remaining social investments.  So the Conservative platform takes a significant step in the wrong direction when considering social spending available for younger Canadians. We deduct half a point for this element of the platform.

Point total for this criterion:  0.5 + -0.5 = 0

 

NDP: The NDP plan to accelerate the increase in annual spending on medical care by $17.3 billion in 2025/26 for pharmacare, long-term care and dental in addition to what is already allocated in the 2021 federal budget. As a result, the NDP plan is to increase annual medical spending by $25.6 billion as of 2025/26.

The party intends also to accelerate the increase in annual spending on key social areas by $14 billion. The party promises to add $1 billion to the $18.5 billion increased already planned for OAS; $2.9 billion for postsecondary, $5.25 billion for poverty reduction (primarily for those with disabilities) and $4.7 billion for housing. This increases the annual investment in key social areas to $28 billion by 2025/26.

Given these platform commitments, the NDP will grow spending on illness treatment almost as fast as spending on the social determinants of health even when OAS is included in the social spending calculation.  It is clear the party will grow spending on the social determinants of health for younger Canadians slower than investments in illness treatment. 

For this reason, we deduct half a point.

 

Green party: Like the NDP, the Greens plan to accelerate the increase in annual spending on medical care by $11.5 billion in 2025/26 for pharmacare, and billions more for long-term care and dental care for which they do not provide any cost estimates. So the floor for annual increases in medical spending to treat illness is over $20.5 billion by the end of the next electoral mandate in both the Green and NDP platforms.

The Green party also makes a number of un-costed promises to improve parental leave, poverty reduction and housing.  It is impossible to assess the scale of investment planned by the party for these social determinants of health.  However, one key area of social spending is costed by the Greens – a $10.3 billion annual increase to make postsecondary tuition free.

Given these observations, it is possible that the Green party will grow spending on the social determinants of health faster than medical care when OAS is included in the social spending calculation.  If/when this can be confirmed by a costed-platform, we allocate half a point for this element of the platform. For now, even with the substantial increase to postsecondary spending, the party is unlikely to grow spending on the social determinants of health for younger Canadians faster than investments in illness treatment.

For this reason, we currently award no points to the Greens for this criterion.

 

Criterion 4: Do platforms include action to rebalance taxes on income vs wealth, especially housing wealth?

 

By which we specifically mean a reduction income taxes and an increase in housing wealth taxes (of some kind) to acknowledge the massive increase in wealth that has been accumulated by many home owners. Much of this wealth has been accumulated due to a “lottery of timing” related to how our age influenced when we entered the housing market. Survey of Consumer Finance and Survey of Financial Security data show that Canadians over age 55 have gained two-thirds of the $3.1 trillion increase in the value of principal residences since 1976; whereas those under 45 have gained less than 20%. The substantial increase in housing wealth enjoyed by older Canadians could be used to help pay for the old age security and medical care increases that are being proposed for the aging population by political parties in this 2021 election – by comparison with current plans to leave large deficits throughout the entire next mandate of whichever party wins the election.


Conservative party: The Conservative platform pre-emptively rejects the possibility of rethinking one key way in which we privilege gains in housing wealth over employment earnings – the exemption of principal residences from capital gains taxation (p. 57).  While every dollar of labour income is taxed (subject to deductions), capital gains on principal residences are tax-free.  Sheltering gains in housing wealth from taxation is not only a huge financial advantage for home owners – it also gives them a personal stake in home prices continuing to rise to augment their own wealth, at the expense of affordability more generally.

Although no party has proposed to fundamentally rethink the tax shelter on principal residences, the Conservatives refusal to even consider this approach suggests a concerning lack of openness to evaluating policy proposals based on the evidence – and only then determining what is in the best interests of ALL Canadians.  We need our political leaders to have the courage to look at all of the options available to raise revenue in ways that are fair and efficient.  For this reason, we deduct half a point from the Conservative party for this criterion.

NDP: The NDP raise the concept of taxing wealth more than any other party. The NDP platform  specifically proposes “a new deal for tax fairness” based on a core promise that “the wealthiest pay their share” (p. 39). The NDP proposes to accomplish this through several tax changes, including increases to the top income tax rate (raising $773 million/year), increasing the share of capital gains that are subject to taxation (from 50% to 75%, which will raise $10.7 billion/year), increases to corporate taxation (raising $6.1 billion/year), a new luxury goods tax, and a new wealth tax on “the very richest multi-millionaires”. For the latter, the NDP plan to add a 1% tax on net wealth over $10 million. This would raise $13.1 billion annually as of 2025/26.  That would be enough to pay for its pharmacare plan; but nearly nothing will be left over to pay for the Old Age Security, long-term care for seniors, dental care, guaranteed income and numerous other promises that the party makes.  Even when the changes to to capital gains and corporate taxes are added, the NDP still project an annual deficit in 2025/26 of $34 billion. 

This revenue gap reflects two key weaknesses in the NDP approach. Despite focusing on taxing wealth more than any other party, the NDP are generally silent about the most common kind of wealth that Canadians hold – housing wealth.  This is a serious shortcoming – especially since the value of homes has literally increased by over $3 trillion dollars (after inflation) since Baby Boomers came of age as young adults.

Second, the NDP’s promises appear to be grounded in the idea that reforms to our tax system only need to target the uber rich – those who have tens of millions of dollars in assets. This approach does not jive with the fact that skyrocketing home values have made many regular Canadians into housing wealth millionaires, while leaving less affordability for the children and grandchildren who follow in their footsteps.  And simply put, defining the wealthy as having more than $10 million doesn’t leave enough wealthy people to tax in order to raise enough money to pay for the many societal and climate problems facing Canada.

For these reasons, we do not award the NDP any points for this criterion even though we acknowledge the NDP talk about taxing wealth (but not housing wealth) more than other parties.  In fact, there is  reason to worry that the NDP proposal to retain large tax shelters for principal residences while increasing the capital gains inclusion rate from 50% to 75% has the potential to accelerate the degree to which Canadians treat housing as an investment strategy because it will become even more sheltered from taxation by comparison with almost all other assets. This could merit a partial point deduction, which we currently don't subtract at this time.

Green party: The Green party platform shares many similarities to the NDP platform on this issue. It proposes “an arm’s length Federal Tax Commission to analyze the tax system for fairness and accessibility.” It would add a 1% tax on net family wealth above $20 million, and increase the portion of capital gains subject to taxation. In terms of real estate, the Green platform is slightly stronger than the NDP platform because Greens (p. 38) propose to “assess the role of real estate investment trusts (REITs) in Canada’s housing market.”

Still, like the NDP, even though the Greens focus on taxing wealth more, the party is generally silent about the most common kind of wealth that Canadians hold – housing wealth.  This is a serious shortcoming. In addition, the Green party’s tendency to focus on the uber rich obscures that skyrocketing home values have made many regular Canadians into housing wealth millionaires (albeit often less than $20 million), while leaving less affordability for the children and grandchildren who follow in their footsteps. For this reason, we award no point to the Green platform at this time.  

Liberal party: The Liberals are relatively slow to shift their focus toward taxing wealth more, and tend more often to focus on taxing high-earners.  This is weakness, because research shows that it is returns to wealth that are driving rising inequality even more than the gap between earnings of the rich and poor.  In keeping with its focus on high-earners, the Liberal platform (p. 77) proposes “a minimum tax rule for top earners”, which will raise less than half a billion dollars – that’s not even the size of a rounding error on the federal budget.

In terms of taxing housing wealth specifically, there are two important incremental changes that the Liberals propose. The Liberal platform (p. 14) includes the commitment to “establish an anti-flipping tax on residential properties” to discourage people from buying and reselling homes within 12 months in search of windfall gains, rather than a place to call home. This change would address the most egregious way in which some people exploit the tax shelter that exists for principal residences.  The tax is important for discouraging flipping, but won’t raise much money – just $9 million a year.  

The Liberals also promise to “stop excessive profits in the financialization of housing” (p. 15), especially by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). REITS are amassing large portfolios of Canadian rental housing, and often drive up rents as a result – or displace existing renters. For more information, check out The Shift. The Liberals propose to review the tax treatment of these large corporate owners, review the down payment requirements for investment properties, and to put in place polices that cur excessive profits in this area of the economy, while protecting small independent landlords.

Similar to the NDP, the Liberals propose a “Luxury Tax” on high priced cars, planes and boats – as previously announced in the 2021 Budget. While this may acknowledge the prospect of greater taxation related to wealth, at best it nibbles at the edges.  We can ask more of Canadians who have gained substantial wealth windfalls from rising home prices – even if they haven’t used this wealth to buy a yacht!

We award the Liberals half a point for this criterion for the incremental steps toward fulfilling this criterion.

 

Criterion 5: Do platforms include action to ensure that improvements to pharmacare and long-term care are paid for in ways that are fair between generations?

 

Meaning the revenue plans should be designed to not unfairly burden young Canadians. Pharmacare and long-term care will be important investments. But the timing of these investments amid Canada’s aging population creates a lot of intergenerational risks, because the primary beneficiaries of these changes in the next years (older Canadians) will be people who haven’t had a chance to pre-pay for the increased benefits they now wish to use. So how do we invite Older Canadians to pay a fair share of these new costs, rather than leave the bills entirely to their kids and grandchildren who are squeezed by lower earnings and higher housing costs than those faced by today’s aging population when they were young. The current tax system is not set up to do this fairly. A key problem is that the current tax system primarily collects revenue based on income, rather than wealth. Worse still, housing wealth is sheltered from taxation by comparison with other assets, even though it is the most common wealth held by Canadians, and older Canadians have the greatest amount of housing wealth. It’s time to discuss how the housing wealth held by older Canadians could contribute to paying for the improvements to health care they understandably want and deserve.

Canadians under age 45 are already shouldering an increasing tax burden from escalating medical costs associated with the aging population. When Baby Boomers, were young adults, they had seven workers to contribute to the medical care required by every senior at the time. But, today, there are fewer than 4 workers for every senior requiring medical care. So a greater portion of young people’s tax dollars now goes to pay for the medical care of retirees by compared with when those retirees were young.

This development is occurring amid other trends toward lower tax rates, which erode government revenue left over to pay for key social priorities for younger Canadians like child care, postsecondary, housing and fighting climate change. Research shows that over the last several decades, Canadian governments have been using the proceeds of economic growth to increase spending on Canadians age 65+ for retirement income and medical care at a pace equal to economic growth. By contrast, spending on Canadians under age 45 has increased far less than economic growth. Had spending on younger residents kept pace with economic growth, governments would be spending over $19 billion more per year – enough to pay for $10 a day child care twice over; more in a single year than the National Housing Strategy is investing over many years; a 50% increase to postsecondary spending, etc.


NDP, Green & Liberal parties: The NDP, Greens and Liberals all propose new investments in long-term care and/or pharmacare to grow these parts of our medical system.  Since none of these parties make any mention of the need to pay for these improvements in ways that are fair between generations, we deduct a full point from each party. It is necessary for these parties to consider the intergenerational budget implications of starting large expansions of publicly-funded medical care at a moment when Canada’s population is aging, and there are fewer workers for every senior by comparison with when our country started medical care many decades ago.

Conservative party: The Conservatives do not propose new investments in long-term care or pharmacare. As a result, we don’t award, or subtract, any points for this criterion. 

 

Criterion 6: Outside of recessions, do the platforms include action to stop growing per capita debt on young people (under age 45)?

 

Because even before the pandemic, the amount of government debt left for each Canadian under 45 was three times higher than it was when today’s Baby Boomers started out as young adults.


All parties lose a point for this criterion.  No party promises to balance its budget over the next 4 years – even though their fiscal projections do not anticipate our economy still being in a recession at that time.

Nor is it the case that parties are promising deficits that primarily reflect large new expenditures to address infrastructure investments to fight climate change or housing unaffordability.  Given the seriousness of these systemic problems for younger, and future, generations, one could judge that such investments make sense to deficit-fund at this moment of low-interest rates even though we are not in a recession.

Rather, the deficits that all parties promise are driven substantially by the parties’ unwillingness to ask Canadians today to pay for the services they want more of now.  This problem is especially relevant for older Canadians, because the parts of the federal budget that are accelerating most quickly are Old Age Security and medical care for the aging population.  

When did Canadian culture shift so much that electoral success now depends on our parties being able to promise us more publicly provided benefits and services without asking citizens to pay for them now so that we don’t leave unpaid bills to the next generations?

Liberal party: The Liberals project running a $32 billion deficit in 2025/26 – at the end of the next mandate.  It is no coincidence that the party also projects its annual increase to Old Age Security and medical care will be $32.5 billion in the same year.  We deduct a full point for this criterion.

Conservative party:  The Conservatives project incurring a $24.7 billion in 2025/26. Almost all of this deficit can be accounted for by the $29.2 billion increase that the party promises for Old Age Security and medical care; and the large deficit comes despite the Conservative promise to eliminate funding for $10 a day child care.  We deduct a full point for this criterion.

NDP: The NDP project a deficit of $34 billion in 2025/26. This deficit coincides with the $45 billion increase to OAS and medical care spending that the party promises -- which are the largest increases in the NDP platform. We deduct a full point.

Greens:  The Greens don't offer a costed platform. However, we know that its most expensive proposals often fall in the medical care and Old Age Security categories. The party does not promise to balance the books in the next mandate.  We subtract a full point.

 

Criterion 7: Do the platforms include action to ensure a high enough price on pollution?

 

By which we specifically mean carbon pollution, because the escalating climate crisis – currently being handed down from one generation to the next – represents arguably the largest debt in the entire history of humankind. The most recent science shows we have less than a decade to avoid irreversibly locking in this debt, assuming the associated tipping points have not already been passed. By “high enough” we mean a carbon price that surpasses $50/tonne to eventually reach at least $170/tonne range, and be justified in light of a detailed carbon budget.


As discussed in our climate policy study, the Liberals, Greens, and NDP all commit to goals to cut carbon emissions by 2030 that are consistent with an emission pathway to get to net zero by mid-century. The Conservative party does not.

It is debatable whether or not the Liberal enhanced emission target of 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 represents Canada committing to reduce its “fair share” of global emissions by comparison with other countries with emerging economies that have emitted far less carbon per capita than Canadians have in previous decades. The Green Party target of 60% and the NDP target of 50% would likely be more consistent with Canada's fair share of global emissions. 

The Conservative commitment to Canada’s previous Nationally Determined Contribution of 30% below 2005 by 2030 would represent a rollback of Canada's current ambition and would not be consistent with Canada's fair share or emissions trajectory to reach net zero. The Conservatives do not commit to net zero in their platform, although the leader voted “Yea” for Bill C-12 respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. 

In addition, the Green party, Liberals and NDP include commitments to carbon budgeting – a key tool that is needed to ensure that we ‘spend’ our atmosphere’s remaining scarce capacity to absorb carbon as carefully as we spend our money.  The Conservatives are silent on this topic.       

Against this backdrop, we review the price on pollution promised by each party. There is cross-party consensus that carbon pricing is a key plank of Canada’s efforts to reduce emissions. The Green Party proposes the most aggressive price schedule to 2030, while the NDP plans to reduce the cost discount that has been given to large emitters that are trade exposed. The Conservatives propose maintaining the current $50 per tonne carbon price on the fuels to which it applies, which include gasoline, diesel, and home heating fuels. This Conservative commitment would effectively reduce the current price trajectory for these covered fuels and unwinds the incentive to reduce emissions. 

Green party. An aggressive price trajectory is proposed by the Green Party, climbing at $25 per ton per year to 2030. A full point is therefore awarded.  

Liberal party. The Liberals commit to keep increasing the price of carbon to 2030.  They receive a full point on this criterion. 

NDP. The NDP proposes to continue with carbon pricing – but importantly, to increase the average cost of the policy for large emitters. This essentially means that emissions will not be ‘free’ for large, emission intensive, and trade exposed economic sectors such as cement, steel, and oil and gas. A full point is therefore awarded.  

Conservative party. The Conservatives commit to freezing the current carbon price at $50 per tonne, with no further increases to 2030.  They also do not make a clear commitment to an increasing carbon price for large industrial emitters.  They suggest an openness to “set industrial carbon prices on a path to $170/tonne by 2030” (p. 79) but this is contingent on the actions of other jurisdictions (notably the US), and on whether sufficient progress has already been made for Canada to meet its 2030 targets.  A half point is deducted from the Conservatives on this criterion, given that their proposal will unwind the current carbon price trajectory. 

 

Criterion 8: Do the platforms include action to monitor and report on key patterns in public finance?

 

By which we mean (i) report annually and accurately on age trends in public finance; (ii) report annually on the social/medical spending ratio; and (iii) appoint a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary responsible for intergenerational fairness in public finance.


None of the four parties include any of these commitments in their platforms.  We award no points.

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