Canada Votes 2006: federal party profiles
Conservative Party - Stephen Harper
The Conservative Party was formed in early 2004 when the Progressive Conservative Party united with the Reform Party, which created a coalition of right-of-centre political parties. The Conservatives, also known as Tories, believe in individual rights rather then more governmental control and are currently in favor of lowering taxes. Their popularity is divided, with the majority of their support residing in the western provinces. Stephen Harper was elected as the official opposition leader when the party won 99 seats in the House of Commons.
PROS: The Conservatives promised to cut the GST to five per cent by 2010, as well as give parents money for childcare and child sports. Their tough position on gun control and crime strikes a cord with many people living in urban areas.
CONS: Stephen Harper's personality is lackluster at best and has been known to be a policy man rather than “for the people.” Their support of a semi-privatized healthcare system and lack of flexibility on social issues tend to frighten some Canadians. They're willingness to give more power to the provinces may result in a lack of national unity.
Liberal Party - Paul Martin
This slightly left-of-centre party is considered Canada's “natural governing party” because it has been elected to govern the country for the majority of the past century. Although they have been in consecutive power for over 12 years and the party has a good record both economically and socially, the Liberals have been under intense scrutiny for the past two years for their role in the sponsorship scandal, which filtered billion dollars to liberal friendly advertising companies. Paul Martin was elected as Prime Minister of a minority government in June of 2004 when the liberals won 135 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
PROS: Since the Liberals have been in power they have pulled the country out of an economic slump and balanced the federal budget for eight consecutive years. Even with a minority government they made headway in gay rights and other social issues, as well as creating a strong, well-developed platform for the 2006 election.
CONS: The Liberal connection with the sponsorship scandal has left the party with a bad reputation concerning corruption and accountability. Some Canadians feel the party has been in for too many years and would like to see a change on Parliament Hill.
New Democratic Party - Jack Layton
Founded in 1961, The New Democratic Party has been dedicated to upholding a socially based agenda in Canada and has consistently held the reigns in the left. Jack Layton won the party only 19 seats in the last election, but the NDP propped up the minority Liberals to pass a balanced budget in June 2005. In the end it was Layton and the NDP that made the final decision to hold a vote of confidence in November, which dissolved the Liberal government and caused the current election.
PROS: Their record with the past minority government proved Layton and the NDP are a forced to be reckoned with and that they can get things done. Their commitment to social issues, specifically concerning post-secondary education and rising tuition expenses, resonates with many young voters.
CONS: In the past, Layton has been referred to as the used car salesman of Canadian politics, due to his advertisements during the 2004 Academy Awards and clouting his support from the Barenaked Ladies. The NDP's commitment to trash-talking the Liberals rather than discussing their own platform is also a turn-off.
Bloc Quebecois - Gilles Duceppe
The Bloc Quebecois was created with the sole purpose of separating Quebec from the rest of Canada and for that reason they only seek seats in the French-speaking province. Technically if the Bloc won all 75 seats in Quebec and the remaining 233 seats were split evenly between the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green, the separatists could win a minority government. Lead by Gilles Duceppe, the Bloc won 53 seats in the last election.
PROS: What most people don't know is that the Bloc actually has a stance on issues that reside outside of the separation of Quebec. They are in strong support of environmental issues like labeling organic foods and supporting alternative energy.
CONS: Their sole agenda is to separate from Quebec from Canada. Enough said.
Green Party - Jim Harris
Although they have never held a seat in the House of Commons and are considered a secondary party, the Greens made a mark in the last election by earning 4.3 per cent of the votes. Due to voter support, the party earned over $1 million dollars in federal funding. The Greens platform centres on environmental issues, with a strong emphasis on the harm to not only the current generations but for those of the future.
PROS: In the current election the Green Party has had a candidate in all 308 ridings across Canada. Their commitment to the environment is the basis of their platform, but they also believe in long-term solutions to healthcare, education, unity as well as the environment, rather then short-term goals like many other national parties.
CONS: The Greens are still not taken seriously on a federal level, which was best recognized when they were not included in last month's televised debates. Their commitment to the environment can also paint them as a one-issue party who will be hard pressed to understand the economics behind politics.