What does Each Political Party want Consumers to Think About this Election?

VIEWS FROM OUR POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: NDP, CONSERVATIVE AND LIBERAL

BY KATHLEEN MONK

BY KATHLEEN MONK

With this year’s federal election just months away, political parties have already begun jockeying for position as the best choice for Canadians. October’s campaign promises to be the most competitive in Canadian history, with three-way races in key battlegrounds such as Ontario and British Columbia.

All of the parties are trying to frame up the ballot box question to their advantage, rolling out campaign messaging and policies. Each party is wooing consumers with promises of more money in their pockets. Conservatives and Liberals have introduced new tax cuts, while the New Democrats are gaining momentum with their plan for $15-a-day childcare and a $15 federal minimum wage.

Energy Magazine readers may be wondering if affordable energy will become an issue on the doorstep. While anything can happen, we do know that Canadians are all-too-familiar with the high cost of energy, especially for seniors and fixed-income families. And with election day set to take place this fall, just as Canadians turn on their furnaces, I think it’s plausible that the cost of energy to be on many people’s minds.

So how will the parties respond to this challenge? While the regulation of energy in Canada is a provincial responsibility, there is still a strong case to be made for federal leadership. Consumers should ask political leaders, on the doorstep and in the debates, to lay out their vision for how they plan to ensure affordable energy now and into the future.

For starters, on policy Canadian voters should demand a return of the EcoEnergy Home Retrofit program. We know that one of the reasons energy costs are so high for Canadians is that many buildings operate at 50 per cent below their potential efficiency. With the EcoEnergy program, political parties have an easy policy fix that has already been drafted and we already know it works. This program can save consumers hundreds of dollars and before it was cancelled by the Conservatives in 2012, the program also helped our economy by creating thousands of jobs and generating more than $9 billion in economic activity across Canada. If that isn’t enough to convince consumers to demand the return of this policy during the upcoming election, the EcoEnergy Home Retrofit program also helped to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

“Many buildings operate at 50 per cent below their potential efficiency.”

“Many buildings operate at 50 per cent below their potential efficiency.”

Federal party platforms should also provide leadership and incentives for the provinces to develop renewable energy sources. Over the next five years, the global clean tech sector is expected to be worth $3-trillion a year. The renewables sector provides endless opportunities to create jobs and to generate cleaner, more affordable energy for consumers. It also has the potential to diversify our economy, which partisans of every stripe believe would help ease the impact of boom-bust cycles in the oil sector. The new NDP Alberta government is set to start public consultations on the province’s renewable energy and energy efficiency strategies in the coming months. Federal parties looking to scoop up voters would be smart to stake out their positions on this policy area early. The party with the best plan to help consumers may well find themselves with the keys to 24 Sussex Drive.

“The party with the best plan to help consumers may well find themselves with the keys to 24 Sussex Drive.”

“The party with the best plan to help consumers may well find themselves with the keys to 24 Sussex Drive.”

Kathleen Monk is a senior communications strategist and frequent media commentator on politics and public affairs. She was the catalyst behind the Broadbent Institute, as its founding Executive Director, and served as spokesperson and media director for Jack Layton’s 2011 election campaign, which resulted in the best election result in the party’s 50-year history.


BY TIM POWERS

BY TIM POWERS

Let me break it to you gently.

Don’t hate me for telling the truth.

Don’t think I don’t care. But here comes – the cold hard truth. Affordable energy is not going to be a big issue in this forthcoming federal election. It is a far safer bet to make than who will actually win Election 2015. Take it to Vegas and throw down all those savings you got from those old retrofit tax credits.

This fall all the federal parties are going to be fighting over different portions of the so called “middle class” voters; great term but hard to define. But you can be certain each party has a different cohort in their definition. And the initial battle lines seem to be drawn up around tax policy.

Each party seems to be trying to outdo the others when it comes to who cares most about your wallet. Precisely who among them will be taking less of your hard earned dollars and doing more to put the green back in there. That is the modern 2015 Green plan – focused on cash not green-house gas.

Affordable energy is something we saw discussed in some part during the recent Ontario PC Party leadership race where former federal Conservative MP Patrick Brown beat out Christine Elliot. Brown talked about finding ways to make peoples power bills cheaper; always a great consumer rallying cry but often difficult to deliver. That never stops a politician from promising to give it a go though.

“The affordability discussion will be framed around what can we as Canadians afford.”

“The affordability discussion will be framed around what can we as Canadians afford.”

It’s easier at the provincial level to have a discussion about affordable energy as it is often provincially owned or managed utilities that influence pricing and your pocket book. Certainly for electricity, its reliability, availability, decisions around its development or divestiture has been featured in recent provincial elections. And certainly if homes and small businesses who use home heating oil and propane move to natural gas they could save approximately $2,000 and $15,000 respectively per year on their energy costs. But it will prove difficult to get coverage on this amongst all the election messaging from all parties steering their efforts towards taxes and daycare to help the middle class.

“Propositions for daycare and cash in hand will get the most air time.”

“Propositions for daycare and cash in hand will get the most air time.”

In Alberta an entire energy sector waits nervously for a first time NDP government to step into the breach. Affordability has a very different context there. No one can afford not to find a way to work together for such a vital industry to that province and the Canadian economy as a whole. If you’re interested in watching something serious and substantive related to national energy policy this is where you should focus.

While the federal election will no doubt feature lots of policy pronouncements on energy and environment projects which will matter to some voters; propositions for daycare and cash in hand will get more air time than the need for cheaper hydro bills.

The affordability discussion in Vote 2015 will be framed around can we Canadians afford to change or not change who runs the government. Who can afford to miss that heated debate?

Tim Powers, is the Vice-Chairman of Summa Strategies Canada and the managing partner of Abacus Data, both headquarter are in Ottawa. Mr. Powers appears regularly on CBC’s Power and Politics program as well as on VOCM in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.


BY STEPHEN HAMPTON

BY STEPHEN HAMPTON

With less than six months until the federal election, political parties are fine-tuning their message and shaping their vision of what they want for Canada and Canadians moving forward. All three parties have been wrestling to claim that they represent Canada’s middle class and every speech and announcement from each party centers on what each leader will do to help middle class Canadians. The Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau believes the best way to help the middle class is to grow the economy and give hard working Canadians the opportunity to succeed.

Each party has a very distinct approach towards helping the middle class and the Liberal Party’s focus can be broken down into three key policy areas; economic growth through investments in infrastructure and transit, making life more affordable for middle income families, and job creation.

Economic growth is a cornerstone to Liberal economic policy and we can expect that it will be a significant part of the Liberal platform, specifically by investing in infrastructure and transit projects. Over the last year Canada’s big city mayors have repeatedly said that they will drive the topic of urban transit infrastructure in the upcoming election and demand to know how each party will address the issue. All three parties have committed to further infrastructure spending in some shape or form and of course, swing seats in BC and Ontario, concentrated in the Vancouver area and the GTA will ensure that infrastructure is part of the campaign.

“Creating a vision for Canada’s middle class.”

“Creating a vision for Canada’s middle class.”

Going into this election I think political parties sense that middle class Canadians believe they are struggling paycheck to paycheck. Young families are struggling with the costs of raising children and are feeling that no matter how hard they work they can’t get ahead. Canada’s political parties know that these Canadians are engaged and want to see a government that is willing to listen and help them. One area in particular is the cost of energy, specifically in urban Ontario. Public opinion research continually shows that rising energy prices are a concern for Canadians. To help ease this burden, parties are all offering different schemes that will reduce costs and keep more money in the wallets of Canadians.

“A major theme for this election will be job creation.”

“A major theme for this election will be job creation.”

The last major theme of the election will come down to job creation and comparing Stephen Harper’s record over the last decade to what the Liberals and NDP are offering. The energy sector will be a major part of this discussion as Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and our energy sector is key to creating good, long-term jobs. In order for Canada’s energy sector to grow, we need to get our resources to foreign markets quickly and efficiently to get the maximum value, something we have consistently struggled to do. The KeystoneXL pipeline is the perfect example of this, and I expect that throughout the campaign the Liberal’s will draw attention to the Harper government’s failure to effectively implement these energy projects.

This election comes down to creating a vision for Canada’s middle class and those working to get into it. The campaign will be about three competing platforms to grow the economy, make life more affordable for the middle class, and create jobs.

Stephen Hampton is a Consultant at Crestview Strategy, a public affairs agency with offices in Toronto and Ottawa. Stephen started his career on Parliament Hill and has worked for political campaigns at all levels of government.