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Monday, 11 April 2011

Red, Blue, or Orange? Part 3

The Canadian New Democratic Party, or NDP, have recently released their platform document and it appears to be much more of a lean, mean approach in comparison to to the other two major parties platforms. At 28 pages it is by far the shortest and contains very little in terms of flowery discussion and gets down to the the promises.(You know, the ones they will not have to follow through on)

A read through their platform indicates that they are not only streamlining but also taking a more holistic approach. They have major categories including climate change, economy and healthcare but nothing specifically dedicated to community, let alone rural issues. A search of the document reveals only one use of the word "rural." This makes it a little more complicated for comparison purposes but could mean that the approach is inclusive and not divisive.

Unfortunately the document doesn't really discuss many issues directly related to rural communities, but below is a sampling of the most "rural-relevant" headings from the NDP platform.

Investing in more family Doctors and Nurses
The Need in NL: More Doctors and Nurses!
The Promise: ...training 1,200 new doctors over the next 10 years, adding 6,000 new training spaces for nurses over six years and substantially increasing the number of training spaces for other health professionals.

Expanding Care for seniors
The Need in NL: This is a huge issue for NL and especially for rural NL where the vast majority of the population are middle aged or older. The increase in the average age of residents has significant impacts on the ability of all governments to deliver services in rural areas.
The Promise: Includes1: Federal home care  and long term care transfers. 2: Double the Home Adaption for Senior's Independence Program.(See here) 3: Introduce a new program of forgivable loans, up to $35,000, to help renovate homes so that people can take care of aging parents in their homes. 

Investing in our shared cultural heritage
The Need in NL: We are in serious need of some additional programs that will continue the traditional knowledge and culture in younger people.
The Promise: Items including: Tax breaks for artists, matching grants for museums, historic buildings and lighthouses, Tax incentives for building preservation, increased support for CBC specifically for local programming.

Protecting the family farm (and food safety)
The Need in NL: Additional supports to ensure local farms are viable, safe and providing local products to local markets.
The Promise: Farming mentorship program, 200 new food inspectors, new business risk management programs.

Recognizing local Heros
The Need in NL: Support for volunteers who keep rural communities alive.
The Promise: Service based volunteer firefighters tax credit, establish a "hero's benefit" for families who loose a family member who is a firefighter or police officer in the line of duty.

Ensuring all Canadians have access to broadband and a robust digital economy
The Need in NL: High speed internet access is vital to small businesses in rural areas. NL is still a long way from being able to offer high speed to all communities.
The Promise: All Canadians will have access to high speed internet. Eliminate usage based billing. 

Fair treatment for the provinces
The Need in NL: Support in establishing ownership of the resources that belong to NL: Fishery, mineral, oil and gas. And a fair Federal transfer system that consider the rural nature of NL.
The Promise: Money for Quebec, no repayment for BC, both with regard to HST/GST.

So, while the NDP do appear to recognize some of the rural issues, they are grouped with all other issues. There is specific mention of support for the Lower Churchill project and bringing that power to Nova Scotia, but that is an issue that requires and entirely different post!

All things considered, each of the 3 major national parties do show some understanding of the issues faced by rural canadians but it really only at a cursory level, at least when it comes to their policy platforms. But then again according to Stats Canada reports that a mere 20% of Canadians live in rural areas.  The big 3 will certainly want to court the urban vote if they expect to get elected. And that won't leave many promises for the rural folks...

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