Politics Briefing: Politicians target Canadians’ pocketbooks

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Hello,

With the election campaign in full swing, leaders are starting to unveil their promises to voters. As usual, leaders are promising to save you more of your hard-earned money: the Liberals say small businesses will save through measures such as shaving off the bit of the “swipe fee” that applies to sales taxes; the Conservatives are resurrecting a public transit tax credit; and the NDP say that, through regulation, they will put a cap on cellphone bills.

But how much would voters save under the plans? The suite of changes from the Liberals include dropping one-time incorporation fees to $50 from $200; the public transit tax credit (shelved by the Liberals because of research showing it did not appear to make people more likely to use transit) would save a family of four in the Greater Toronto Area who regularly take the TTC “almost $1,000 per year,” the Conservatives say; and the NDP say their bill caps would save families “almost $250 a year.”

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Meanwhile, new Statistics Canada data suggest most Canadians are still struggling with record-high household debt. “Yet we’re still a long distance from writing off household debt from the list of top vulnerabilities for Canada’s economy,” Robert Hogue, a senior economist at Royal Bank, told The Canadian Press.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

ICYMI: Day 2 of the campaign saw the first leaders’ debate, one in which Mr. Trudeau was noticeably absent. Mr. Singh and Ms. May spent most of the debate attacking Mr. Scheer, who in turn spent much of his time criticizing the man who wasn’t there. The Liberals announced a plan to expand the first-time home buyers’ program, but experts expect the program to have little impact because it is designed to not stoke already-hot housing markets.

Legal and experts say Mr. Trudeau is wrong when he asserts he has given the most expansive waiver of cabinet confidentiality ever in the SNC-Lavalin affair. “Their usual rules are there is no disclosure of what goes on in cabinet,” said retired judge John Gomery, who led a public inquiry into the federal government’s sponsorship scandal in 2004 and 2005. “Like every rule, there are exceptions. I had one of them, and we’ll find out if there will be another one in the SNC-Lavalin case.”

Canada has challenged China’s ban on canola-seed imports at the World Trade Organization, alleging the Chinese government has provided no rationale for the ban. China stopped taking imports of canola, beef and pork as part of economic retaliation earlier this year to Canada’s arrest of a Chinese businesswoman, Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Makers of a docudrama about that arrest say they were told by an arm’s-length government granting agency that they lost federal funds for the film because of association with former Trump aide Stephen Bannon.

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The Conservatives are trying to recruit on campuses with a flyer that asks if students are tired of hearing their professors’ “left-wing” ideas.

And be careful what information you spread online. In a panel yesterday on the topic of fighting misinformation in the election, experts said voters need to think about where information is coming from before they share a post online. “The biggest and most important thing we can do is to use our brains,” said former spy chief Richard Fadden.

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the first leaders’ debate: “The NDP may be struggling, but Mr. Singh offered a poised and pointed performance. Pundits keep predicting disaster for rookie political leaders in debates. Mr. Trudeau proved them wrong in 2015, and Mr. Singh did better than many predicted Thursday night.”

Jason Markusoff (Maclean’s) on Mr. Scheer’s performance: “Clearly, Scheer wanted to look prime ministerial, and the constant jabs from the lecterns on either side of him helped on that score, creating the impression that he is the front-runner the others are desperate to take down. But Scheer didn’t project resolute confidence, or optimism about his vision. At times, the camera angles showed his right leg shifting or shaking—restless energy he could have better channeled by speaking with firmness.”

Anne Kingston (Maclean’s) on Ms. May: “She ably outlined the party’s comprehensive if ambitious platform, one that includes a guaranteed livable wage, national pharmacare, free tuition, affordable housing, and the elimination of poverty. Her second task was to convey a sense of urgency that underlines the Green platform — and her own political career. And that’s more difficult to accomplish within the strictures of a formal debate.

Cindy Blackstock (The Globe and Mail) on the government’s obligations on child welfare: “The federal government’s failure to reform itself is a key reason why unnecessary removals and deaths of children have persisted, from residential schools to the Sixties Scoop to the present day. Courageous survivors speak up, sue the government, win and then Canada pays a settlement and apologizes but continues its egregious behaviour.”

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Denise Balkissoon (The Globe and Mail) on the party leaders’ personal finances: “Campaigning is an unpaid, overtime job. It requires savings to live on, and, for parents, reliable, affordable childcare. Perhaps if more former shift-work nurses sat in the House of Commons, we’d finally have universal daycare. Instead, it’s supposedly exciting that 88 women were elected in 2015, compared with 250 men.”

Rob Carrick (The Globe and Mail) on voters’ personal finances: “At some point in the past few years, our ideas about home ownership began to peel away from economic reality. As we got more and more enthused about home ownership, rising prices made homes more unaffordable in many cities. We claim to have sophisticated, internationally appealing cities with deservedly high real-estate prices, yet we expect the young people will march into home ownership as they did a generation ago.”

Christie Blatchford (National Post) on Mr. Trudeau and SNC-Lavalin: “Give Martin and Chrétien their due: They at least let slip the choke chains of cabinet confidence, born of a need to do the right thing (Martin) or a sublime self-confidence (Chrétien). By not going to school on those examples, and offering instead the frequent nose-stretcher of ‘unprecedented,’ Trudeau looks like he’s afraid of the truth.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on Quebec’s religious-symbols ban: “Yet, if non-francophone voters in Quebec and Liberal supporters in the rest of Canada expect anything of Mr. Trudeau, it is that he stand up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He may feel that the unwillingness of any other national leader to defy Quebec on Bill 21 spares him from committing to challenging the law now. But it is not clear the Liberal Leader will be able to maintain such a fine balancing act all the way until Oct. 21.”

Mark Abley (The Globe and Mail) on the phrase “drop the writ” and other Canadian-isms: “’Draw up’ was indeed the original verb, referring to the 338 writs, or documents – one for every seat in Parliament – that have to be crafted and then issued to actually launch an election for each individual riding. But ‘drop the writ’ is more than just ‘a debased form of the phrase,’ as Wikipedia asserts in an unusually judgmental manner. It has been used in this country through at least the past four decades, and it even makes a certain amount of intuitive, Canadian-only sense: A hockey game gets under way when the puck is dropped, not when the starting lineups are drawn up.”

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