POLITICS
04/19/2018 18:13 EDT | Updated 04/20/2018 06:49 EDT

Ending Taxes On Menstrual Products And 5 Other Issues Liberals Want To Debate

One wing of the party called the tariffs an example of "gender-based discrimination."

Woman holding menstrual tampon and pad on a pink background. Menstruation time. Hygiene and protection.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Woman holding menstrual tampon and pad on a pink background. Menstruation time. Hygiene and protection.

HALIFAX — The glass doors of the Halifax Convention Centre opened to some 2,850 registered Liberal delegates Thursday, as the party kicked off its biannual policy convention.

More than 20 per cent of the delegates are under the age of 25. Fifty-five per cent have not attended a convention in the last decade.

The party's leadership says it is undergoing generational change.

"It will have a different vibe than most conventions which generally tend to be you know family gatherings, if you want at a certain level, this will be a lot more of new blood, new energy," Liberal national director Azam Ishmael.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Members of the The 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) Pipe Band take the stage at the start of the federal Liberal national convention in Halifax on April 19, 2018.

Some of the policy proposals up for discussion, such as decriminalizing sex work and decriminalizing illicit drugs, may also show the Liberals tacking left.

The party's ridings and commissions have whittled down hundreds of resolution submissions to 30 slated for debate Friday morning.

Here are some other ones that might generate debate, either during the convention or, perhaps, on the campaign trail next year.

1. End Taxation on Menstrual Products

They're essential items, but a majority of menstrual products women buy in Canada are imported from abroad. The next time you're in a drug store or poking around a bathroom cabinet, just check the packages yourself.

The former Conservative government scrapped taxes on tampons and feminine hygiene products back in 2015, but left in place import tariffs on the items. According to Maclean's, it's a catch that makes the government up to $4 million richer.

That's money collected on the basis of "gender-based discrimination from a government," a resolution states. It's championed by a wing of the party that sees itself charged with challenging the status quo, the Young Liberals of Canada.

2. A Seniors' Ministry

Members from the party's Alberta section want to see the creation of a ministry dedicated to older Canadians. They want to create a national seniors' strategy and to "protect and vigorously promote the needs and interests" and value of seniors to society.

It's a progressive idea that follow on the U.K. government's appointment of a minister of loneliness. Research in that country found approximately 200,000 seniors across the U.K. did not engage in conversation with a friend or family in more than a month.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Amie Peacock, left, founder of the volunteer group Beyond the Conversation, speaks with Simon Law during a weekly group meeting to help people practice their English skills, combat social isolation and foster relationships, in Vancouver on Feb. 23, 2018.

That would surely be an element of a Canadian seniors' ministry's mandate. Authors of the resolution want it to address concerns including "health care, housing, income security, home care, long term care, pharmacare, social isolation, elder abuse, and ageism."

It's slated to be an interesting debate considering the convention is expected to see its largest turnout of young delegates yet.

3. Implementation of a Guaranteed Minimum Income Model

This resolution was previously adopted at the Liberals' 2016 convention as a priority resolution though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has shown little interested in making it a reality.

Tuesday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer issued a report forecasting that the implementation of such a program would cost approximately $43 billion annually.

Guaranteed minimum income has many forms, but in essence it's an idea for government to help low-income individuals with a benefit to raise their incomes to a livable wage — no strings attached. Raising the incomes of those who are financially marginalized, the thinking goes, will also alleviate the strain on social services and health care.

Watch: The Ontario pilot program explained

The idea was famously adopted in Dauphin, Man. in the '70s and has been resurrected today in an Ontario pilot project involving 4,000 people. Quebec's premier has promised to create a version of the program. The federal government says it's an idea that merits further study.

According to the resolution forwarded by the Quebec wing of the party, that time is now.

4. Remote Tele-communication infrastructure development for Northern, Remote, Rural Indigenous & Non-indigenous Communities

The proposal forwarded by the Indigenous Peoples' Commission is simple: remote First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities need the government to help connect them to the internet.

In the Trudeau government's first budget, $500 million was earmarked for new investments in rural broadbroad. But the resolution slated for debate this weekend wants to ensure remote Indigenous communities are included, and will have high-speed internet available by 2025.

With the boom of e-commerce and new government initiatives to preserve and protect Indigenous culture, supporters of the resolution argue this will "enhance distance learning education, and its delivery, to support Indigenous economic growth and learning."

5. Implementing Universal Access to Necessary Medicines

Also known as pharmacare. This is a proposal that's garnering momentum. On Wednesday, the Commons' health committee tabled its long-awaited report calling for the expansion of the Canada Health to include prescription drugs. Giving Canadians a pharmacare program would "save money and lives," MPs said.

The NDP is endorsing a full-scale universal program. It was the marquee priority idea coming out of the party's convention in February. A few weeks later, in its budget, the Trudeau government announced the launch of a national study into pharmacare though the finance minister described himself as "agnostic" to the idea.

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press
Finance minister Bill Morneau speaks to media following a breakfast event co-hosted by the Canadian Club and the Empire Club, in Toronto on March 1, 2018.

The resolution proposes the development of a "universal, single-payer, evidence-based, and sustainable public drug plan." It's been forwarded to convention by the national caucus and British Columbia and Ontario wings of the party.

There's a general election next year and Liberals traditionally poach the NDP's best ideas to undercut that party's election popularity. It'll be interesting to see if the government treats the support behind pharmacare with the attention it gave marijuana legalization — or electoral reform.

6. Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights

Because... Kinder Morgan.

Since the oil company's ultimatum, the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline has engaged all federal parties, environmentalists, Indigenous groups and the oil industry and its pro-business supporters in a robust debate about economic versus environmental risks benefits.

The resolution wants the government to introduce legislation to protect the environment, referencing to when Liberals voted in favour of Bill C-469 (40-3), Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, back in 2010.

It proposes that all Canadians "have access to adequate environmental information, justice in an environmental context and effective mechanisms for participating in environmental decision-making."

Too bad the party made a change to its convention rules this year, barring the possibility emergency resolutions (such as one on the Trans Mountain pipeline) to be debated.

With files from Althia Raj

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