Since my last blog a couple of things have happened so here are my thoughts on them as shown below.
Trudeau as expected re-approved the Transmountain pipeline which was the right decision, although doing so a day after voting in favour of declaring a climate emergency is kind of bad optics, but I will get to that later. Now with the leaders of the two main parties that have a reasonable shot at forming government this Fall in favour of the pipeline, it is time for John Horgan and his pal Andrew Weaver to stop their obstruction and let the pipeline be built. It will create jobs, bring in more government revenue, and help on national unity front. In fact according to an Ipsos poll, supporters of the pipeline outnumber opponents by a 2 to 1 margin in BC! Still I believe while this is a positive development, C-69 and C-48 are not and in some ways Trudeau playing both sides of the fence probably won’t help much politically. For those who want strong action on climate change, this will just firm up their decision to vote NDP or Green Party leading to bigger splits on the left thus improving the chances of the Tories coming up the middle in several Lower Mainland and maybe Vancouver Island ridings (Interior is already Conservative). By the same token, most who strongly support the pipeline are already in the Tory camp and this is unlikely to move them back. Still I will begrudgingly praise him on this, but believe that both C-69 and C-48 need to be repealed, which the Tories will likely do if they win this Fall.
BQ, Greens, Liberals, and NDP all voted in favour of a motion declaring a climate emergency in Canada, while Tories and PPC voted against it. I agree climate change is an issue, but emergency is totally over the top. We produce 1.6% of the GHGs so we have an obligation to make an effort and do our part, but we should not assume at the end of the day other than being on the right side of history we will make a huge difference; minor yes, massive no. Also even with climate change, humans are very adaptive so will cause some disruptions, but I have every reason to believe in a country as rich as Canada we will be able to adapt to any changes. Off course in the poorer countries they may not be so lucky.
Scheer has finally unveiled his climate plan and while I prefer a federal carbon tax, his plan is kind of interesting and may or may not work. It involves for high polluting firms to spend their penalty on clean technology so definitely an interesting and innovative idea and I like the fact Scheer is thinking outside of the box. Whether it is the best plan or not; I cannot say right now, but I do think in an election we should debate various options and so even if not the best plan, I am glad it was proposed so we can discuss and debate the idea.
Jagmeet Singh released the party’s plan a full four months ahead of the election so somewhat early, but gives us a glimpse of what the NDP may ask for from the Liberals in return for supporting them in the event of a minority government. Since the chances of NDP actually winning are close to nil, they can propose over the top ridiculous ideas that may be impractical, but this can at least give us an idea of what direction we might move in if there is a minority government. And seeing how left wing it is and how much of a tax and spend one it is, I hope whatever the outcome, it is a majority government. A Liberal majority is in my opinion preferable to a Liberal minority. Expanding medical care sounds great in theory and if we had large surpluses I might be open to the idea, but I think filling in the gaps for those who lack private coverage makes a lot more sense than going big.
On taxes, I off course don’t support hiking the top rate another 2% as this would put top marginal rates over 50% in 9 out of 10 provinces instead of 7 out of 10 thus reducing our competitiveness, but the fact it only predicts an extra $500 million shows we have probably tapped out the most we can get from the top 1%. On Capital gains taxes being raised to a 75% inclusion rate, I am torn on this. On the one hand this would end the case where some millionaires have a lower effective tax rate than those in the middle class, on the other hand since capital gains are already taxed at a corporate level, this would be double taxation. Case and point, in BC where I live the top marginal rate for regular income is 49.8% while in Ontario it is 53.53%. For capital gains tax it is 24.9% and 26.765% respectively while corporate tax rates are 27% and 26.5% so the government gets a total of 51.9% in BC and 53.265% in Ontario so pretty close while under Singh’s plan it would be 68.85% and 71.1475% (note I include the 2% hike on top earners and 3% corporate tax hike) so government gets a huge windfall. I think a better solution is keep the capital gains tax rate at a 50% inclusion rate, but so millionaires aren’t paying less than the middle class implement a Warren Buffet rule whereby wealthy have to pay a minimum marginal rate over a certain dollar. Never mind capital gains are not just from wealthy people, many seniors or middle class get them too so the fact he plans to put a 75% inclusion on all capital gains not just those over a certain amount could backfire.
On Corporate tax hikes, I would have been fine with that four years ago before US cut their tax rates, but with US and several other OECD countries reducing corporate tax rates, this will just make Canada less attractive to do business. As for a wealth tax on over $20 million; I actually am okay with that idea since if tackling inequality, we should focus on inherited wealth rather than earned wealth. In fact the Liberal Democrats in UK are in favour of that instead of hiking income taxes. Also $20 million is high enough it wouldn’t impact seniors in Vancouver or Toronto who bought homes 40 or 50 years ago but now are worth a few million even though they are only middle class nor would it affect farmers as many family farms have land values in the millions. Unlike plans to have it at a $1 million or $5 million which is too low, this is high enough I am okay with it. In fact if I were Scheer, I would agree to bring in such, but in exchange drop the top marginal rate back to 29% so it would once again make our top rates competitive, but also still deal with income inequality. More importantly, it would give Scheer cover from the Liberal attacks and turn it back on them as this would almost certainly hit Morneau and maybe Trudeau (although don’t think he is that wealthy) and go on the idea of going after trust fund kids, not successful entrepreneurs.
As for the plan, it may be too little too late, but seems probably a wise one to avoid any further erosion in NDP support. Mulcair was more cautious as he was trying to form government in 2015 and when trying to form government you want people to take you seriously. Because people know the NDP won’t win in 2019, so you can afford to have a more aspirational one so voting NDP simply means supporting the concepts knowing full well they will never actually be implemented since NDP won’t win.
Bill Blair has finally tipped his hand on what it will be on gun bans. The answer appears to be yes to an assault weapons ban and no to a handgun ban. Until I see all the details, cannot say for sure if it is a good or bad idea, but on balance I generally like the direction. While philosophically, I clearly support a handgun ban, I have also long advocated for evidence based decisions and unfortunately since very few developed countries that have completely banned handguns, there just isn’t enough evidence out there to justify spending $2 billion+ on banning them as much as I wish there were. Off course if more countries do ban handguns and evidence shows positive results, then I will push for one, but that hasn’t happened yet. UK banned them and they did not see a big drop in murder rate while in Europe; UK bans them, but France, Germany, and Italy allow them for sports shooting although generally not for self defence and murder rates in France and Italy are similar to UK while Germany is lower. Also no police chief has yet to come out in favour of one and in fact most who have spoken on this are against the idea and of all people, I trust the police most on this. I could care less what the gun lobby says as they will oppose any ban. I generally trust doctors as they see the damage guns cause, so I will put a lot more weight on their opinions than gun owners who only see the positive not negative side. But of all people police have the best picture. The fact both gun lobby and anti-gun groups are upset may be bad politically in this polarized environment, but policy wise usually when both sides are upset, that tends to suggest you have found a good balance, although not always. I am certainly on the anti-gun side, but I am practical enough to realize you get more by being open to compromises than not.
Still Blair does suggest he may let municipalities and provinces go beyond this on storage requirements and my suggestions would be two fold: Require all new safes to be opened either by facial recognition or fingerprints. My personal computer is opened by facial recognition and smartphone by fingerprints so we have the technology and this would ensure only licenced owner can easily access it. Secondly I would put a hard limit on how many handguns one can own as this is a glaring weakness which most developed countries have but we do not. A thief is not likely to target a home with only a few handguns, but one with 70 is a huge invitation and realistically target shooters only need one maybe two for the disciplines they participate in. Also much like Quebec but unlike rest of Canada require gun club membership and regular attendance as I think part of the reason for spike in handguns is you have a lot of people buying them for home defence so this would help reduce the number of legally owned handguns without harming those who have a real passion for sports shooting.
On assault weapons, I will have to see the exact definition, but generally wholeheartedly agree. Unlike with handguns, evidence here is much stronger that a ban would save lives. During assault weapons ban in US from 1994-2004, you had fewer mass shootings than the previous 10 years while since its expiry, mass shootings have increased dramatically. When Australia implemented one, they went a full 22 years without a single mass shooting. More importantly most murders with handguns are gangsters who likely wouldn’t pass a background check whereas most mass shooters usually have no past criminal record thus are able to access these weapons. In addition, you don’t need these to hunt or sports shoot so it doesn’t in anyway limit lawful uses of firearms.
Some might be concerned common hunting rifles will get hit so my suggestion would be to limit it to centrefire semi-automatics with a detachable magazine. Manually operated long guns, pistols, and rimfire ones with detachable magazines would be fine provided they stay within magazine limit where applicable, while centrefire semi-automatics with stripper clips like M1 Garand or fixed magazines like some SKS would be fine too. Also to prevent the problem of new military style semi-automatics entering the market, perhaps they should make semi-automatics much like small handguns and those in .25 and .32 calibres banned, but there would be an exemption list for those that are useful for hunting and sports shooting. The current method is a cat and mouse game as every time OIC list is updated, new models that should be banned get through so this would close that loophole.
On the political front, I think this was a very smart move as Tories will look quite extreme if they oppose this as I expect. Even most Tory voters and gun owners support banning these weapons so its a fringe minority against it whereas on handguns, majority for a ban but sizeable minority against. Also I think cost was a big reason Liberals bailed on a handgun ban as it was cost not concept that sunk the gun registry. A lot of suburban fiscal conservatives are for tougher gun laws, as long as cost is not too high. And that group will be key for Liberals this fall since while few in this group like Trudeau; many reside in the 905 belt in Ontario where Doug Ford is wildly unpopular so Ford’s unpopularity might be enough to get some to plug their noses and vote Liberal.