Election 2015: Promises, Promises – Canadians weigh in on the economic proposals of the parties

Election 2015: Promises, Promises – Canadians weigh in on the economic proposals of the parties

Poll asking Canadians to rate party’s fiscal promises finds soft, committed CPC voters on different tracks

September 16, 2015 – In an election campaign dominated by economic issues, which party’s fiscal promises resonate most with Canadians? Which are falling flat? And to what extent do individuals see themselves benefitting from fiscal political goodies being proffered by the leaders?

Those were the questions posed in the latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion poll of eligible Canadian voters canvassing support for – or opposition to – some of the more high-profile “pocket-book” commitments made by the main parties in order to woo voters.Angus Reid Institute

While the list presented to survey respondents is preliminary and not exhaustive – the survey shows certain party pledges enjoy vastly more support than others.

  • Four-in-five (81%) back the Liberal (LPC) and New Democrat (NDP) pledge to maintain eligibility for Old Age Security at 65 years
  • Conversely – Canadians are icy towards another LPC and New Democratic (NDP) vow to halve the current $10,000 yearly tax free savings account contribution to $5,500: two-thirds (67%) oppose it
  • The electorate splits on the wisdom of targeted, niche tax breaks (such as those for Rotarians), generally driven by the Conservatives (CPC): nearly half (47%) support, the rest (53%) oppose

Part 1 – Do any of these Promises really make a difference to the Economy?

The economic “bad news, good news” nature of this campaign has allowed the parties to tailor campaign messaging to their strengths, evidenced by this week’s news of a $2 billion dollar surplus (a perceived boon to the CPC campaign) or indeed earlier news from Statistics Canada that the country was in an official, technical recession (a chance for the opposition parties to pummel the incumbent and highlight their own platforms).

On the issue of the dreaded R-word, the Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians about their level of concern (see detailed tables at the end of this release):

Angus Reid Institute

And while Canadians are split in their view, they find more consensus over whether – should bad economic times be here to stay – the federal government is actually in a position to do something about it through policy:

Angus Reid Institute

Perhaps unsurprisingly, sentiment falls out along political lines – with Conservatives much more likely to say the state of the economy is largely out of the hands of government. That said, majorities of all main party supporters (CPC included) think otherwise – giving government credit for being able to have at least minor impact on the economy (87% – NDP, 86% – LPC, 79% CPC).

Given that the vast majority of Canadians see an ability for government to pull levers on economic performance, the promises of parties – and reaction to them – take on heightened importance.

Part 2 – The Big Fiscal Faceoff: Deficit Spending versus Balanced Budgets:

To gauge opinion on party promises, the Angus Reid Institute presented survey respondents with pairs of opposing economic policies and asked them to choose which one they preferred, without reference to the party putting the pledge forward.

The broadest of these questions asked about the role of the federal government in stimulating the economy:

Angus Reid Institute

Indeed, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party have pledged to run “modest deficits” for their first three years in government, with the goal of stimulating the economy through additional spending. The party has stuck with its plan despite the current Conservative government posting a surplus in the last fiscal year.

Philosophically, the majority of Canadians – and indeed even a small majority of Conservative supporters – agree with the Liberal approach.

Notably, this support is stronger among so-called “soft” or uncommitted Conservative voters – those who say they’re planning to vote for the CPC, but admit they could change their minds over the next four weeks.

Nearly two-thirds of these “Soft” CPC voters (63%) choose government spending – even if it means deficits – over raising taxes or cutting programs to balance the budget.

In fact, soft and committed Conservative voters differ significantly on a number of issues canvassed:

Angus Reid Institute

Part 3 – Election Promises

The Winners:

  • Keeping eligibility for Old Age Security at 65: Both the LPC and NDP have pledged to undo a change announced by the Conservative government in 2012 that would see the age raised to 67 over several years beginning in 2023. Fully eight-in-ten Canadians (81%) would like to see the age stay at 65
  • Raising taxes on wealthy Canadians: An LPC proposal to introduce a new tax bracket with a rate of 33 per cent for those earning $200,000 or more annually has the support of nearly three-quarters of Canadians (73%)

The Losers:

  • Eliminating the government’s new, higher TFSA limit: This NDP/LPC proposal to roll back the annual tax free savings account limit to is supported by just one-third (33%) of respondents; the rest prefer the CPC’s recent increase to a $10,000 limit and think it should stay
  • Scrapping Income Splitting: The LPC and NDP have promised to end a CPC policy enabling families with children under the age of 18 to split up to $50,000 in income between spouses, thereby lowering their own taxable incomes. Just one-third (36%) say they don’t support income splitting policy

The Divisive Pledges:

  • Reintroducing a federal minimum wage: Canadians are evenly split (50% for and 50% against) on an NDP proposal to reintroduce a federal minimum wage for federally regulated industries, and raise it from $12 to $15 over several years
  • “Niche” or targeted tax breaks: there is similar division over whether tax deductions for specific expenses such as Rotary or gym memberships are a good idea (47% say they are, 53% say they aren’t)

Part 4 – Policy Showdowns:

Here is how Canadians chose on a series of either/or choices relating to policy and promises choices offered up in this election campaign (for findings by age, region etc., please see detailed tables at the end of this report):

Small Business Taxes
Reduce the small-business tax rate to 9% Leave the small-business tax rate as it is today at 11%
63% 37%

Reducing the small business tax rate to nine per cent has strongest support in Ontario (70%) and the Atlantic provinces (76%). Support is weakest in Alberta, where we see a 51-49 per cent split. Overall, a small business tax reduction is a winner across all parties, though NDP supporters are somewhat less on board (65% CPC/66% LPC/57% NDP respectively).

“Niche” or Targeted Tax Breaks
Tax deductions for specific expenses such as Rotary or gym memberships or kids’ sports are a good idea overall These targeted tax deductions for specific expenses are not a good idea
47% 53%

Niche tax cuts are most popular in Alberta (59% support); least popular in Quebec (41%) and Manitoba (42%). Support also varies significantly by age group, with younger groups more likely to be onside.

“Middle Class” Tax Rates
Cut the income tax rate for people earning $44,700 – $89,400 from 22% to 20.5% Leave the income tax rate for people earning $44,700 – $89,400 at 22%
62% 38%

This measure is slightly more popular among women (66%) than men (59%), and – predictably – very popular among the middle income bracket (71% support among those earning $50k – $99k). It’s a proposal that enjoys uniform support across party lines (CPC 61%; LPC 66%; NDP 61%) and little wonder: 47% of voters see themselves as middle class.

Corporate Tax Rates
Increase the corporate tax rate from the current 15% back up to roughly 2006 levels (21%) Leave the corporate tax rate where it is now
63% 37%

As noted above support for increasing the corporate tax rate to 2006 levels is intensely political (CPC 38%; LPC 72%; NDP 75%). That said, soft CPC voters are more split. Half (50%) favour an increase in corporate taxes, while half say to leave them where they are now.

Highest Income Tax Rate
Make a new federal income tax bracket for those with incomes over $200,000 with a tax rate of 33% Keep the highest federal income tax bracket starting at $138,586 a year and its current rate of 29%
73% 27%

Politics plays a strong hand here too: although majorities across all parties support this measure, it is highest among non-CPC voters: (CPC 57%; LPC 81%; NDP 81%). Also, soft CPC are especially more favourable than committed voters: (68% support versus 51%).

TFSA Annual Contribution Limit
Allow yearly Tax-Free Savings Account or TFSA contributions up to $10,000 Limit yearly Tax-Free Savings Account or TFSA contributions to $5,500
67% 33%

Here we see support for a $10,000 annual TFSA limit regardless of vote intention, but this measure is especially popular among Canadians supporting the CPC (CPC 78%; LPC 62%; NDP 63%).

OAS Eligibility Age
The eligibility age to collect Old Age Security benefit should be 67 The eligibility age to collect Old Age Security benefit should be 65
19% 81%

Increasing the age for OAS eligibility was clearly not a pretty prospect in the eyes of Canadians when first introduced by Stephen Harper. Leaders of the opposition parties have pledged to roll it back to 65. That said, people with university educations and those making more than $100,000 per year are more likely to say agree with eligibility at 67 (28% of each group).

A Federal Minimum Wage?
Re-introduce the federal minimum wage for federally-regulated employers at $12 per hour and increase it to $15 per hour Let the individual provinces continue to set all minimum wages, with no separate federal minimum for federally-regulated industries
50% 50%

The NDP vows to re-introduce a minimum wage for those working in federally-regulated industries. On this, Canadians are split, along income lines, and depending on the minimum wage set by their own provincial governments.

Income Splitting for couples with children
I support the income splitting policy I don’t support the income splitting policy
64% 36%

A remnant of the 2011 election campaign, the CPC promise to allow eligible couples with children to transfer up to $50,000 in income from one partner to another to potentially take advantage of a lower tax bracket has majority support among respondents. It’s a hands down favourite among CPC voters, but those who don’t plan to vote Conservative also give it the thumbs-up: (54% LPC, 57% of NDP)

Increasing Foreign Aid
Raise foreign aid to 0.7% of GNI Keep foreign aid at 0.24% of GNI
25% 75%

The NDP is proposing to raise its foreign aid contributions from 0.24 per cent of Gross National Income, to 0.7 per cent, or about $15 billion a year. This is a non-starter with most Canadians, as evidenced by the three-quarters who think the contributions should stay as they are. That said, the move is more popular among younger people, and those with university educations.

Part 5 – Little consensus on what to do about child care

The Angus Reid Institute also asked Canadians to choose their preferred proposal on the issue of child care. This question was not a direct face-off, because each of the three main parties has put forward a different approach.

As with the other policy questions, the specific proposals were presented without a party name attached to them. In this context:

  • The Liberal Party’s proposal to increase the amount of the universal child care benefit implemented by the Conservatives, while limiting it to apply only to families with incomes under $150,000 is most popular
  • In its current incarnation – as a child care benefit of $160 per month for all children under age six – the Conservative plan is least popular
  • In the middle is the NDP pledge to create one million licensed day care spaces for $15 per day
  • Notably, a quarter of respondents choose “none of these” as their preferred option

Angus Reid Institute

Part 6 – Canadians are cynical about what they’ve seen so far:

82 per cent say they’re “not impressed” with the quality of economic policy proposals coming out during this election. Soft voters, especially so: 85 per cent of this group is “not impressed,” compared to 77 per cent of decided voters. Other findings include:

  • Younger people are more impressed (31% of the 18-34)
  • Quebecers are least impressed (91% “not impressed”)

As well, fewer than one-third of Canadians (30%) say a campaign promise or platform would be a direct benefit to them.

Click here for the full report including tables and methodology

Click here for the questionnaire used in this survey

Shachi Kurl, Senior Vice President: 604.908.1693

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