As the NDP's leadership race moves into the limelight, the candidates are starting to unveil some of their policy priorities. As I've mentioned it's an open question as to how much members will want to change from a set of ideas that's worked rather well for a few election cycles - but let's take a quick glance at what's been unveiled so far.
- First out of the gate was Martin Singh with his paper on entrepreneurship. And while much of the effort to better link ideas, education and capital would find a place in any party's platform, Singh's explicit focus on both the value of social entrepreneurship and the public profits to be made in investing wisely takes the plan a couple of steps further than we've normally heard (and in a way which looks to appeal to NDP members).
- Paul Dewar's job strategy scratches the surface of a number of policy areas, including not only a direct defence of infrastructure, training programs and public services, but also some populist flavour in cracking down on tax havens and rejecting sales tax increases. Those proposals fit nicely with the NDP's current positions, but by the same token don't advance the policy debate very far - meaning that we'll have to see whether Dewar has some more daring policy ideas on the way.
- Nathan Cullen's energy policy stands out in the pack so far as a particularly detailed analysis which also makes some more daring proposals than we've seen elsewhere. The general combination of improved conservation and an incremental shift toward renewable energy is fairly standard progressive policy, but Cullen also proposes some substantial (and positive) changes to the status quo in cutting nuclear power off from the public teat, introducing environmental screens in trade policy and discouraging the export of raw resources where there's a reasonable case to be made for Canadian processing.
- Finally, Brian Topp's tax plan includes noteworthy proposals to ensure that high-income Canadians can't avoid paying their fair share of taxes by using loopholes based on capital gains or stock options, while adding billions to the public treasury. But perhaps the most important element of his plan is the statement that one of the functions of of our tax system should to reduce inequality - which figures to make for a useful theme for all candidates even if they disagree with the specifics of Topp's proposal.