Sunday, December 17, 2017

On points of agreement

With both Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon having run leadership campaigns before, both could be expected to have plenty to offer by way of policy. And that’s proven true - though not necessarily in a way that will give NDP members a lot of distinctions to help in sorting out their choice.

To date, both Meili and Wotherspoon have released a number of issue-specific planks, with Meili also offering a general vision statement. And there are far more similarities than differences between the general themes and proposals involved.

Before I start examining the key differences, I'll point out some of the obvious similarities - as well as a few areas where agreements in principle aren't necessarily reflected in the candidates' policy proposals to date.

Among the points in common between the two, they're in agreement on:
- a $15 minimum wage;
- restoring decision-making authority to local school boards;
- eliminating the funding gap for Indigenous students;
- requiring a referendum before privatizing any Crowns, as well as expanding the mandate and geographic reach of existing ones;
- a retrofit program for energy efficiency; 
- a new provincial transportation system to replace STC; and
- a resource royalty review. 

Meanwhile, in a few extremely prominent policy areas, there's a notable difference in the candidates' willingness to commit to specific targets or actions even while they agree on the underlying principles.

For example, while both promise made-in-Saskatchewan climate change policies, only Meili has actually set out targets to be met (a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and 45% in methane emissions by 2030). In contrast, the contents of Wotherspoon's plan are entirely to be determined.

And Meili specifically promises to introduce a universal pharmacare program - while Wotherspoon stays a couple of steps removed by saying only that he'll "work to deliver on pharmacare".

Conversely, Wotherspoon sets out a specific target of a $15 per day child care program. In contrast, Meili promises "the best child care and early childhood education program in Canada", but doesn't offer any detail about what that would include.

And Wotherspoon identifies specific revenue generators, including a new $250,000 income tax bracket and the reversal of tax cuts in the current top bracket. Meanwhile, Meili leaves tax policy to be dealt with in an overall revenue review which includes royalties.

Those differences offer a starting point in identifying both the relative priorities of the candidates, and the areas where they each see more work needing to be done before they're prepared to make firm commitments. And it's worth noting those contrasts before turning to the policy proposals which look to break new ground.

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