The Election: Day Eight

Finally, as we enter week two, some sparks in a campaign which so far has been dominated by daily CPC policy announcements as we enter week two.

Paul Martin today upped the amount of the Liberal commitment to their previously announced national day care program. He did that by extending the commitment from the original five years to ten years (2015). In effect, he committed no new money for the period up to 2010. But the battle has been joined on the different nature of the proposals. The Liberals will work through the provinces to create new daycare spaces and provide some subsidies. The Conservatives have proposed a day care allowance per child for children under six, with parents to choose how that money is spent. He's also promising $250 million a year to create new day care spaces.

While the financial commitment is high in both cases, there is a fundamental difference. Haper's proposal has been described by some bloggers as a "baby bonus" while some parents interviewed on TV and radio have been praising it as the way to go. Most organized child care advocates appear to be opting for the big government Liberal approach.They are afraid parents, if left to choose, will "waste" the money on other things rather than spend it on day care. They are probably individuals who would argue for the "right to choose" in a different context. But at last we have a genuine difference of approach on an issue for voters to ponder.

Meanwhile Stephen Harper, campaigning in Newfoundland and New Brunswick, pledged to take tough action on foreign overfishing by taking unilateral action to extend Canada's fisheries jurisdiction beyond 200 miles. He indicated this would be implemented over the first term of a Conservative government. The Liberals had already promised "custodial management" in the previous election but have failed to deliver.They appointed an Advisory Panel on Straddling Stocks last winter but deep-sixed the Panel's report this summer. The Panel recommended the replacement of the exising Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) with a new organization with new powers and eliminating the major defects of the exising institution. The Liberal government chose not to accept the Panel's recommendation but to attempt instead to muddle through and try to improve the existing organization. NAFO at its Annual Meeting in September established a Working Group co-chaired by Canada and the EU to look at reform. Early indications are that this is a "talk-fest" dominated by the EU.

Harper also promised an independent judicial inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River salmon, an issue dear to the heart of B.C. Conservative MP John Cummins and Conservative candidate Phil Eidsvik.

Jack Layton also staked out new ground today announcing NDP environmental proposals.He promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by one-quarter over the next 15 years as part of the NDP's plan for the environment. Layton slammed the Liberals' environmental record while speaking to reporters outside an international climate change conference in Montreal. The NDP plan includes the creation of a new clean water act that would set national standards for drinking water; an act to force polluters to clean up, and a new clean air act. He also proposed a $10-billion plan to retro-fit hundreds of thousands of homes with more energy-efficient technology.

Given that the Liberals and Conservatives have said little or nothing about the environment during this campaign, Layton has finally staked out a position on an important issue that would otherwise not have received attention during this campaign. Whether it will attract any more voters to the NDP banner remains to be seen.

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