The Conservative Party launched its election platform in Mississauga on April 8. In faux-talk show cum infomercial style, Stephen Harper met with ordinary families onstage and told them how his low-tax plan was going to help them, though he neglected to mention that his plans will come into effect only after the budget is balanced.
Much of the platform is cribbed directly from the March 22 budget. New promises — to be fulfilled after the country returns to balanced budgets — include income splitting, adult fitness tax credits and increased contribution limits to tax-free savings accounts.
Harper also promised to bundle the crime bills the government did not pass in the last Parliament into one bill, with a pledge to have it passed within 100 days. While the platform doesn’t specify, a Conservative Party spokesperson confirms that the figure is 100 sitting days.
The outstanding crime bills include ending house arrest for certain offences, eliminating pardons for certain criminals, handing out harsher sentences and imposing mandatory minimum jail terms for offences including drug possession, streamlining complex court trials, and allowing for more police surveillance and wiretapping. By bundling the bills, the Conservatives plan to present an all-or-nothing deal to the opposition.
The platform also promises “drug-free prisons,” despite the fact that the current program of drug interdiction in federal prisons has proven to be a costly failure. The platform pledge says that the Conservatives will tackle drug use and the drug trade in federal prisons by ensuring mandatory drug testing at least once per year, that those prisoners found in possession of illicit substances will face additional charges, and that parole applicants who fail drug tests will be denied parole. No mention is made of treatment or rehabilitation.
The platform pledges to extend the Security Infrastructure Program, aimed at preventing hate crimes by helping install security systems at religious and community centres.
The platform announces the creation of a special Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to monitor religious freedom around the world, as well as to advance the cause of religious freedom abroad. This commitment extends to offering more refugee protections to vulnerable religious minorities and working with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to support such vulnerable minorities.
The platform includes a couple of notable snubs for Canada’s gay and lesbian communities. It touches on a federal Tourism Strategy, centred on the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede and the Grey Cup in 2012. After the program rewarded Pride Toronto in 2009, the minister responsible was demoted, and the festival did not receive funds in 2010.
The platform also touts the record level of stable funding provided under the Canada Periodical Fund, even though the Conservatives rewrote the rules to ensure gay and lesbian magazines were no longer eligible for the funds.