Day Four of the campaign kicked off with two back-to-back policy announcements. Michael Ignatieff was first out of the gate with his “Learning Passport” plan, which he unveiled during a press conference in the library of Sheridan College, complete with a group of Grade 12 students behind him. The plan offers a $4,000 tax-free grant, increased to $6,000 for those from low-income families, for every student who chooses to begin a post-secondary education. The plan accounts for $1 billion in new spending on education and is to be contained in the first Liberal budget, with the aim of having it fully rolled out by September 2012. Using existing mechanisms, the plan requires families to open an RESP for each student; the government will deposit $1,000 ($1,500 for those from low-income families) into the account at the start of each year. Ignatieff says the plan will help create the jobs of the future and will be the “engine room of the economy.” He says also that this is part of something more ambitious and that other announcements will follow. The Canadian Federation of Students says the plan shows promise, but it needs work.
Jack Layton followed immediately after, using an average family home in Brantford, Ontario, as a backdrop; he went after the big banks and, more specifically, credit card fees. Layton, with his usual meme of big banks doing fine while families aren’t, talked about our need for solid banks and how families deserve "something in return.” His plan caps credit card fees at the prime rate plus 5 percent and goes after the fees charged to merchants. He expressed the hope that banks won’t simply recoup the losses by charging consumers in other ways. (On an unrelated note, a class-action lawsuit about those fees has been launched against Visa, MasterCard and the big-five banks.) When pressed by reporters, Layton couldn’t produce data on how many families were using credit cards to pay for basic necessities. When he was asked about any meetings he’s had with bank CEOs, Layton dodged and accused them of having too many Conservative friends.
Incidentally, here is a Senate report on the credit and debit card systems. It talks about reforms, especially to fees, but I can’t find any mention of capping rates.
In a Regina boat showroom, Harper reiterated two plans contained in the budget: the reduction of red tape for small business and the hiring credit for small employers who add additional employees. Then his talk was all “opposition coalition,” bogus opposition positions on EI, and hey, they’ll raise taxes to pay for their promises.
And Elizabeth May’s policy idea of the day on YouTube is about high-speed rail. (I’ve noticed she’s adopted a bit of a hectoring tone when it comes to “working together.”)
Sebastien Togneri, the staffer under investigation by the RCMP for interfering with access-to-information requests, has been spotted working on the Conservative campaign to reclaim Edmonton-Strathcona. Incidentally, the candidate there was a PMO staffer. Why would anyone believe the campaign was being run from somewhere other than the centre? (Harper later dismissed him as a volunteer who is no longer so.)
And there’s been a bit of a stir as the always klassy Shelly Glover referred to Liberal Anita Neville as having “passed her expiry date.” It must be noted that Glover and Neville are not running in the same riding. The Canadian Association of Retired Persons took exception, defending Neville, who is 68. Glover insisted that she simply meant that Neville had been in office too long. Then this morning, she put out a statement that not only wasn't an apology, but was actually an attack on the Liberals' support for seniors. Seriously. She's all klassy-with-a-k, that Glover.