IN the middle of the heated US presidential election lies another political drama taking place north of the American border.

Canada is in the final weeks of a federal election which will bring Canadians to the polls on October 19.

The Tories, the right-of-centre and current ruling party, are under fire by both the opposition left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) and centre-wing Liberals in a tight three-way race for the polls.

Here are the three parties’ views on Canadian issues that could also affect the country’s closest allies and trading partners:

Military and Foreign Aid

One of the most forefront issues being debated by party leaders is how Canada will continue to support the United States, the United Kingdom, and other nations in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has promised voters that he would end military intervention in the region, which include the deployment of nine aircraft, six of which are fighter jets, and 600 troops in Iraq.

The NDP would rather focus on UN peacekeeping missions and reverse the current situation on foreign aid spending, which had shrunk by C$825 million from 2011 to 2014. Canada had been asked by the UN to aim to increase their aid spending to 0.7 per cent of gross national income, but currently sits at just 0.24 per cent.

Tory leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that he would continue contributing to the US-led mission while also increasing military spending by three per cent per year.

Harper has also touted the need for more counter-terrorism and has increased the power of police and Canada’s intelligence agency in the light of an attack in the Parliament buildings and another in Quebec.

The Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, takes a more moderate stance and would like to end the bombing mission on ISIS and instead refocus on training local security forces fighting against the Islamic State. The Liberals also promise to work towards the 0.7 per cent target on foreign aid and to increase foreign aid spending by C$500 million.

Economy

Canada is also back in a minor recession partially due to low performance in the oil and gas industry and a failing dollar, which fell to its lowest level in 11 years last month. The Harper government has been carrying trade deficits, importing more products into Canada than has been exported.

The European Union is Canada’s second largest trading partner next to the United States. Canada exported C$38.6 billion of goods to the EU while C$57.8 billion of European merchandise was imported last year.

The NDP promises voters to create jobs in manufacturing and to protect Canada’s auto and aerospace industry, which may be under threat by the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement signed on October 5. The party also looks to invest in public transit and infrastructure, a move that will create even more jobs, particularly in construction. The Canadian construction industry makes use of temporary foreign workers to fill openings, many of which are filled by people from the UK and other countries in the EU.

The Tories want to invest in manufacturing as well, and plan to create a fund for use in developing the advanced manufacturing sector. They also plan to create 1.3 million new jobs by 2020.

The Liberals plan to revive Canada’s struggling economy through investment in innovation. They pledge to invest C$200 million per year in business incubators, research facilities and financing for small companies who want to expand and export products, creating more products in Canada and with its trading partners and encouraging innovation between Canada and partnering nations.

The party will also invest C$100 million per year in Industrial Research Assistance for developing new technologies and a total of C$300 million in adopting sector-specific strategies for supporting clean technologies.

Environment

The Tories have been heavily criticized by the other parties for failing to protect Canada’s environment. Under their rule, Canada became the only nation to back out of the Kyoto Protocol. Change in policies on environmental review and the National Energy Board, the regulatory body for the oil and gas industry, has made regulation more lenient, promoting heavy industry at the cost of overseeing environmental measures.

To reduce Canada’s carbon footprint, Mulcair and the NDP promise to introduce a carbon pricing system, which will charge organizations based on their CO2 emissions, and use that money to fund anti-pollution initiatives within Canada’s provinces.

The Tories’ response to the environment was in a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below Canada’s levels in 2005.

Trudeau and the Liberals wish to revise environmental review processes to make it more stringent so it can better protect the environment. The Liberals also plan to create an agreement in partnership with the US and Mexico to promote clean energy and environmentalism.

With a tight race and much at stake, the Canadian election will be one to watch as its outcome will affect international affairs.

By Martin McFarlane

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