The campaign has just begun and here are my thoughts on each of the three main parties so far. Not enough to write on the PPC or Greens so leaving them out of this one, but may have more later on them.
Their blocking of the RCMP investigation seems like a bad idea and plays in the idea they have something to hide. That being said I think with people tapped out on SNC-Lavalin, I don’t think it will make a big difference as much as I wish it would. Probably smart strategically as an RCMP investigation in 2006 election helped swing things in favour of the Tories so they want to avoid a repeat of that. As for their plan to make homes more affordable, I have mixed feelings here. I believe housing affordability is a huge issue in some areas, particularly Vancouver and Toronto. But problem is lack of supply not demand and making buying easier will just drive up prices further. What we need is to increase supply and that means partnering with municipal governments to have more density and more multi-unit condos since when you increase supply, prices will fall. Also promise a 1% tax on vacant foreign owned homes which is not a bad idea, but I believe it should be regionally targeted and not national. My main concern is some places like Muskokas, have a lot of Americans who have vacation homes there and that could inadvertently hurt their economies. However in Vancouver and Toronto and other large cities where housing prices are becoming too expensive, this is definitely a good idea. Perhaps a better solution is apply it only to places where average house price exceeds a certain level (here in BC, vacant home tax and only applies in parts of the province not everywhere) or apply it everywhere, but areas whose economies rely heavily on vacation homes would be exempt. As for Trudeau skipping the debate, I think it makes him look cowardly, but doubt it will have much impact. In fact being the frontrunner, its probably in his interest to have as little exposure as possible. Also if NDP and Greens can damage the Tories, that works for him too.
The Conservatives have had a number of candidates with controversial viewpoints. No doubt with social media today, it is a lot tougher to vet and parties can find statements to make parties look bad. I believe context of the statements and time matters so those that made intolerant comments recently should be dumped, but if made many years ago and have changed their viewpoints since, they should be allowed to stay. I abhor bigotry, but we should also applaud those whose views evolve rather than making having such views a life sentence against forgiveness. Still it seems the Tories vetting has not been as strong as it should be and if enough candidates have controversial viewpoints, could sink them much as it sunk Tories in 2004 and NDP more recently in Ontario. Didn’t work in Alberta this past spring, but in Ontario where elections are usually decided, it has tended to be effective there. In terms of policies, Scheer has announced two so far both relating to making life easier for the middle class. Re-instating the Transit tax credit, which I believe is a mistake since as a general rule I am against tax credits and would rather we scrap as many as possible and then use the increased revenue to lower taxes overall. I do however like his income tax cut from 15% to 13.75% for lowest bracket. Unlike Liberal middle class tax cut, which only impacted those making over 45K which is 1/3 of taxpayers, this will help any taxpayer that makes more than 12k so helps far more than Liberal one did. The maximum received is only $450 while Liberal is $670. However anyone making between 12K to 75K will receive a bigger tax cut here than they would have under the Liberal plan. Also this group will spend the money in the economy thus helping on growth. The fact it doesn’t start until 2021 and phased in by 2023 is fiscally responsible as the cost is $5 billion so needs to be done responsibly to avoid making deficit bigger. While I have elsewhere argued for cutting top rate, I believe that is not a vote winner and besides cutting that should be done only after a major tax overhaul like in 1971, 1981, and 1987; the top marginal rate may fall, but most in top bracket would pay more taxes since there would be fewer deductions available. With the campaign off to a rough start, this might be the issue to help get in back on track.
With lousy poll numbers, the NDP needs to run a strong campaign just to avoid disaster. And so far they seem to be doing just that. Singh had the best performance in the Macleans debate so this should give the party a boost. Having watched Singh, he has a tendency to make rookie mistakes, but at the same time much like Trudeau, he is fairly likeable and relates to people well. His biggest problem is Trudeau has moved the party enough to the left there is little political space for the NDP. In many ways how well they do will be a lot beyond their control since if Tories are competitive with Liberals in polls, many NDP voters may vote strategically, but if one party polls into a clear lead, I think they have potential to rebound.