Green Party leader Elizabeth May, left, and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, third from right, exchange ideas as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh look on during the Federal leaders debate in Gatineau, Que. on Monday, October 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, left, and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, third from right, exchange ideas as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh look on during the Federal leaders debate in Gatineau, Que. on Monday, October 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang


Surrey votes, Election 2019: What you’re being promised on crime, health, housing

First in a three-part series on political promises and platforms, heading into the Oct. 21 federal election

Promises, and more promises.

Something for everyone, and a proverbial chicken for every pot. You can expect the political pressure cooker to really start singing over the next two weeks, as we draw closer to the Oct. 21 federal election.

Let’s look at what the parties are saying they’ll do in exchange for our vote. Three issues important to most Surreyites is public safety, health care and the affordability of housing.

The Conservatives say their plan takes “real action” to fight crime as opposed to what they call the Liberals’ “do-nothing gun ban.”

The Tories have gangs and gun violence in their sights, human trafficking, drug addiction and recovery. If elected into government, they say, they will target illegal guns at border crossings through a smuggling task force, and bring in stiffer penalties “to keep gang and gun criminals behind bars.”

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his government would honour as “sacred” its duty to keep Canadians safe.

“Justin Trudeau has failed in this regard and all of his proposed measures to fight crime simply will not work,” he states in campaign literature. “Canadians can’t trust him to keep them safe.”

The Conservative promise, if they form government, to put an end to automatic bail for gang members who are awaiting trial as well as revoke parole for any gang members who associate with other gangsters after they are released. They will also declare known gangs as “criminal entities” in the Criminal Code, like how terrorist groups are listed.

Other highlights include bringing in a five-year minimum mandatory prison term for violent crimes associated with gang activity as well as a five-year minimum mandatory sentence for possessing a smuggled gun.

The Liberals say if they are re-elected they will ban “military-style” assault rifles like AR-15s, give cities the authority to restrict or ban handguns, and invest $50 million more each year toward curbing gang violence. Similar to the Conservatives, the Liberals promise to “make sure the Canada Border Services Agency and Royal Canadian Mounted Police have the resources they need to detect and stop the flow of weapons at our borders” and to “strengthen penalties for people seeking to smuggle firearms into Canada.”

Scheer, in a news release, took a pot-shot at the Liberals’ plan to control guns. “Forcing law-abiding Canadians to follow even more laws will not reduce crime,” he argues. “Criminals don’t follow laws and that’s exactly why we have to target them. My plan does the hard work of tracking down criminals and putting them behind bars where they belong so you and your family can be safe and get ahead.”

The NDP’s campaign literature says their government would set up hate-crime units in all major city police forces and “convene a national working group to counter online hate” and focus more on restorative justice. Victims, they say, “should have access to the services and supports they need, such as counselling, referrals, police and court-related services, and a voice in decisions that may impact their safety.”

If elected into government, the NDP promises to create a $100 million fund dedicated to keeping young people out of gangs, as well as an RCMP unit to tackle money laundering, to “put an end to hidden corporate ownership of real estate, to help crack down on tax evasion and fraud.”

“People in Surrey are worried about the future for their kids, but instead of listening, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals chose to spend $4.5 billion of your money on a pipeline while leaving British Columbians to tackle crime alone,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, taking a poke at the incumbent Liberals while stumping in Surrey.

The NDP says it would “restore the independence of the judiciary” by “reducing reliance” on mandatory minimum sentences and “allowing trial judges to have greater discretion in sentencing.”

They would also increase federal funding for legal aid.

The Green Party, like the Liberals and Conservatives, says it would provide the Canada Border Services Agency with better resources to tackle gun smuggling and also “launch a confidential buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.” If it were in power, it also would do the opposite of the Conservatives’s approach to mandatory minimum sentences by eliminating them altogether in favour of the judges approaching sentencing on a case-by-case basis.

On crime and safety, the People’s Party of Canada says Canada needs a “common-sense approach to gun control that promotes safety while removing the threat of arbitrary criminal prosecution. It says it would replace the current firearms licensing system with an “efficient lifetime certification system” that would require mandatory vetting, safety training and testing. “To avoid criminalizing legal gun owners and guarantee their property rights, this system will legalize simple possession of firearms for certified Canadians as long as they use their firearms lawfully and don’t commit some other crime which would disqualify them from firearms ownership,” the party’s platform states.

Meantime, health care is an issue affecting every Canadian.

According to the People’s Party of Canada, we have the “dubious distinction” of having the worst wait times of any developed country for health care services while at the same time being among those that spend the most, with health care funding transfers from the federal to provincial governments doubling to $40 building in 2019 from $20 billion in 2006. Their government would make the provincial and territorial governments “fully responsible” for health care management and funding and Ottawa would “stop meddling.”

The Green Party promises, if elected, to “enact Pharmacare for all by 2020, expand access to safe abortion services, implement improved health care systems for Indigenous Peoples, declare a national health emergency to address the opioid crisis, establish a national mental health strategy and remove discriminatory barriers to blood donation not based on science.”

The NDP’s 109-page commitments document, A New Deal for People, is laden with promises on the health care front – among them ensuring prescription drug coverage for everyone, including dental care in the Canada Health Act, developing national care standards for long-term and home care, closing health care gaps in Indigenous communities.

The Liberals say, on page 14 of their 85-page election platform document, Forward: a Real Plan for the Middle Class, that if re-elected into government they will “strengthen” health care and “make sure all Canadians get the high-quality care they deserve.”

This would include making sure every Canadian has “access” to a family doctor or “primary health care team,” ensuring more accessible care, shorter wait times, “better” health outcomes, and setting up “clear” national standards for access to mental health services “so Canadians can get the support they need quickly, when they need it most.”

The Liberals say they would continue to make home care and palliative care “more available” across Canada and take the “critical next steps” toward implementing national universal pharmacare “so that all Canadians have the drug coverage they need at an affordable price.” This is similar to the NDP, and Green Party promises.

“We will back up these commitments with an additional commitment of $6 billion over the next four years, tied to outcomes and negotiated with the provinces and territories,” the Liberals say.

The Conservatives, meantime, promise if they form government to invest $1.5 billion to replace and buy new MRI and CT machines to help reduce waiting times for potentially life-saving scans.

They say a Conservative government would “live within its means” to protect health care “in the long term” and, according to campaign literature, “maintain and increase the current funding formula” for the Canada Health Transfer and the Canada Social Transfer.

“Canadians need a government that understands that balancing the budget is the best way to maintain the services that they rely on the most, including health care,” Scheer said. “Canada’s Conservatives will give you more help for your health, so you can get ahead.”

There are, of course, so many issues dear to Canadians – climate change, education and taxation among them. One issue that’s front-and-centre to most, except perhaps the rich, is the affordability of housing.

The Conservatives present a four-point plan on this front. They say they’d “fix” the mortgage stress test so first-time buyers are not “unnecessarily prevented” from getting mortgages, increase amortization periods on insured mortgages to 30 years for first-time homebuyers to lower their monthly payments, and launch an inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector to “root out corrupt practices that inflate housing prices,” and make available for development surplus federal real estate available to increase housing supply.

The Liberals are presenting a 10-year investment plan involving nearly $20 billion in social infrastructure, including “significant new investment in affordable housing and seniors facilities.”

If re-elected into government, they say, they’ll review housing prices in Vancouver, Toronto, and other expensive markets “to determine whether speculation is driving up the cost of housing,” and increase the residential rental property rebate on the GST to 100 percent. This, the Liberals says, will provide $125 million annually in tax incentives to increase and “substantially renovate” Canada’s rental housing supply.

The NDP say young people should be able to stay in the neighbourhoods they grew up in and seniors should never be forced out of the communities they’ve spent their lives in. They say an NDP government would over the next decade create 500,000 units of “quality” affordable housing with half of them to be completed within five years. They promise to invest $5 billion within the first year and a half of taking power to “kick-start” construction of housing co-ops and other social and non-profit housing.

According to campaign literature, the NDP would waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on construction of new affordable rental units, double the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500, and impose a foreign buyer’s tax on the sale of properties to buyers who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

The Green Party says it would legislate housing as a “legally protected fundamental human right” for all Canadians and permanent residents, aim for 25,000 new and 15,000 rehabilitated housing units annually over the next decade, increase the National Housing Co-investment Fund by $750 million for new homes and the Canada Housing Benefit by $750 million to provide rent assistance for 125,000 households.

The Greens also say they’d provide financing to non-profit housing groups and cooperatives to construct and restore “quality, energy efficient housing for seniors, people with special needs and low-income families.”

The People’s Party of Canada, for its part, has not yet articulated a specific strategy on housing.

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Next up: What’s in it for families?