Canada’s political parties are remarkably similar

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This election campaign has been marked by storm and fury.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has accused Justin Trudeau’s Liberals of having a secret plan to decriminalize hard drugs.

Trudeau has accused Scheer of having a secret plan to reopen the abortion debate.

Neither accusation is based on fact. But these charges — and others like them — have been bandied about in a frantic effort to influence Monday’s vote.

The Liberals have said, without proof, that a Scheer government would take its cue from Premier Doug Ford and savage social programs.

The Conservatives have said, without proof, that Trudeau is secretly planning to form a coalition government with Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats that would raise the GST.

All major parties, including the NDP and Elizabeth May’s Greens, have warned that the apocalypse will occur if their candidates aren’t elected.

In fact, no matter who wins Monday, Canada will survive. Because the truth is that at base the major parties aren’t that different.

They all believe in some form of a mixed capitalist economy that includes some role for government.

The NDP may want more government programs and the Conservatives fewer. But unlike their U.S. counterparts, all major Canadian parties — even those on the right — support publicly funded, single pay, universal health care.

The right-wing populism that is rocking Europe and that gave rise to Donald Trump’s American presidency is largely missing from Canada’s political landscape.

So far it has been confined to fringe organization like Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada. But the mainstream parties all support the liberal world order.

They back rules-based free trade. (Even the New Democrats have quietly come to terms with the idea). They support open immigration.

The Conservatives may quibble with the Liberal government’s handling of foreign affairs — particularly with regard to China. But Scheer is not calling for Canada to break off economic relations with that country. Quite the opposite.

The Conservatives like to accuse the Liberals of fiscal profligacy. The Liberals like to accuse the Conservatives of promoting austerity. But in this campaign, both parties are proposing to run deficits for at least five years. And both are promising to pay for this, in part, by unexplained spending cuts.

The Liberals would institute a “tax expenditure and spending review” that it says would save $10 billion over four years. The Conservatives would save $9.4 billion over the same period by trimming something called “other operating expenditures.”

Both parties would offer broadly based income tax cuts, paid for in part by new levies on the unpopular tech giants.

Both are offering financial goodies to older people.

On climate change, the Liberals have an ambitious goal but no plan to get there. The Conservatives have a modest goal with no plan to get there.

The Greens have an ambitious plan that is politically unrealistic.

The Conservatives say they would cut back the myriad of government loans and grants going to business. Borrowing the language of the NDP, Scheer calls this “corporate welfare.”

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This is not the first time a Conservative leader has vowed to end corporate welfare. Former prime minister Stephen Harper made the same promise. But he quickly found support business can be politically popular, particularly if it delivers jobs.

As a result, but he never delivered on his pledge. Indeed, like the Liberals before him, Harper ended up handing out even more public money to profitable corporations.

Keep all of this in mind as the election results roll in Monday night. It’s not unimportant who wins. There are real differences between the major parties. But these differences are not as stark as the parties would have you think.

Thomas Walkom