While the writ has yet to drop for the fall federal election, the NDP has begun it’s campaign in earnest, by releasing their election platform that focuses on commitments to voters titled a ‘New Deal for People’.
NDP candidate Wayne Stetski, the Kootenay-Columbia incumbent parliamentarian, lauded the plan, which addresses issues such as affordability, climate action, the economy, reconciliation, and strengthening communities.
“Basically, our focus is on a new deal for people,” said Stetski. “…when you look at Canada as a whole, we live in one of the nicest, greatest countries in the world, I truly believe that. For me, when I look at what Canada can be, and what we should strive for, I get really excited about the kind of country that we could be.”
Stetski singled out issues such as affordable housing, affordable daycare, universal health care and affordable post-secondary education options, and climate change noting that all are common themes from voters around the riding.
Affordable daycare is one particular issue that has been raised by families and business owners, he said.
“There was an issue in Cranbrook recently where another daycare closed because they couldn’t find qualified people to work at the wages that generally people working in daycare get paid,” Stetski said. “So it’s a two-edged sword; we need affordable daycare but we also need to make sure that people who are providing the service are appropriately compensated.”
He noted that he toured the riding three years ago for a series of workshops with local businesses to hear their feedback on issues, expecting to hear concerns over taxes and red tape.
“What I heard instead was the lack of affordable housing and the lack of affordable daycare were the top two concerns for small businesses in the Kootenays and that was consistent throughout Kootenay-Columbia,” Stetski said.
The platform pledges $1 billion investment for childcare by 2020 and growing it alongside provinces and territories. For affordable housing solutions, the platform pitches a commitment to add 500,000 units over 10 years, waiving the federal portion of GST/HST on construction of new affordable units and reintroducing 30-year CMHC-insured mortgages.
Stetski singled out universal healthcare and noted the platform calls for expanding health care coverage to include eyes and ears.
A key aspect of the platform outlines an annual $10 billion investment for a prescription drug coverage plan.
“Staying healthy should involve using your health care card, not your credit card,” Stetski said.
For higher education, Stetski said an immediate goal is to eliminate interest on student loans, but adds that a longer term vision is to treat post-secondary as an extension of the public education system.
“Eventually, we would like to see college and university become part of the overall education system, the same way that our kids all get to go to preschool through Grade 12,” Stetski said. “Unfortunately, it’s not at no cost, but relatively small costs; there often are extra fees these days associated with materials for the classrooms, but we’d eventually like to see colleges and universities included in that public education.”
Calling climate change “the most serious environment issue of our time,” Stetski said there needs to broad approach that includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a transition to a green energy economy.
“You cannot decide that tomorrow, you turn off oil and gas in Canada — that is, from my perspective, unrealistic and not the way to go,” Stetski said. “But we do need to transition to a green energy economy and we have to put the steps in place to both deal with greenhouse gas emissions and transition workers into the new economy and to do that, you need to have a plan and a strategic approach to get there.
Stetski adds that the NDP is having the parliamentary budget officer review elements of the platform and look at the costing of the proposals. The NDP plan also calls for a one per cent wealth tax on Canadians with a net worth over $20 million as well as strengthening enforcement around tax evasion.
Another key election promise is electoral reform and a move from First Past the Post to a mixed member proportional representation system, says Stetski. The plan calls for the establishment of an independent citizen’s assembly to come up with options to implement the new electoral system, with a referendum to follow once voters have the chance to test and compare it to First Past the Post.
Stetski will be running against Rob Morrison (Conservative Party of Canada), Rick Stewart (People’s Party of Canada) and Abra Brynne (Green Party of Canada). A Liberal Party of Canada candidate for the riding has yet to be delcared.