The Green Party has been excluded which some have said is undemocratic. Although no hard fast rules exist, it is widely recognized that one needs a seat in the House of Commons to get in. In order to bring better clarity of who gets in and who doesn't, the media consortium should state their rules after May 2nd for the following election. My recommendation would be that only parties with at least one seat in the House of Commons (be it from a defection, by-election, or previous election) and those who have consistently polled over 10% get into the debates. This would exclude Elizabeth May from the debates. You cannot have every party in and this should be between parties that either have a chance at winning or playing a significant role in the next parliament. Also Stephen Harper proposed a one on one debate with Michael Ignatieff which Ignatieff agreed to take. As proposed by Thomas Axworthy back in 2009, there should also be a one on one debate between the leaders of the top two parties. I agree with this as after May 2nd, either the Liberals or Conservatives will come in first in terms of seats so there should be a debate between the two who could conceivably be prime-minister. This doesn't detract from those who wish to vote for other parties, it simply reflects the political reality.
Today, the parties rolled out a few policies. The Tories promised tax credits for small businesses. This got little media attention. It seemed like a decent policy, but considering that it wasn't easy to understand and made little waves, I doubt it will have much impact. The Liberals proposed an expanded CPP option. Unlike the learning passport which mostly targets younger voters who generally have a low voter turnout, this one targets seniors or those close to retirement who do generally show up on election day, so politically speaking seemed like a smart move. It off course had many difficulties since it would require approval of the provinces, but what matters is not workability, but how well it sells and I think this one does the job. The Liberals also proposed raising the number of parents and grand-parents allowed under family re-unification. There is plenty of reasons why this is a bad policy considering immigration should be used to expand our tax base and counter the ageing population while this just means even more older people and people using a large chunk of our overburdened health system without paying into it. I suspect it wouldn't be popular amongst Canadians, but that doesn't mean it wasn't politically smart. The minority who do support this likely see this as a major issue that could determine how they vote while those who oppose it, likely have this well down the list of policies that matter to them thus it won't probably cost the Liberals that many votes. The NDP proposed raising corporate taxes to 19.5% (up from the current 16.5%, the Tories proposal of 15% and Liberals of 18%) while cutting the small business tax to 9% from its 11%. To not look like tax and spend socialists, they promised to ensure our corporate tax rate stays lower than the United States. This also has plenty of problems, but politically it is definitely a wise policy. I should note though on corporate taxes it is around a 60/40 split in favour of raising them so it seems that most NDP and Liberal supporters agree with their decision to raise them and most Tory supporters agree to cut them thus its not going to probably move a lot of votes. The problem here is most large businesses start as small businesses and with higher tax rates on large ones this will act as disincentive to expand into a larger one which creates jobs and is good for the economy. Still good politics though.
In Elgin-Middlesex-London, the NDP candidate dropped out and threw his support behind the Liberals. This certainly plays well to the Liberal idea that progressive voters only have one choice if they want to stop a Harper majority, while the Tories also spin this as being proof of a coalition. I tend to find the Liberal argument somewhat stronger although in the riding mentioned, the Tories nearly got 50% last time around, so I doubt it will result in this riding changing hands, although in nearby London West, a large number of NDP voters strategically switching to the Liberals could return this to the Liberals even if the Tories hold their vote or go up slightly. On the bright side for the Tories, Tony Genco who was the Liberal candidate that faced off against Julian Fantino only four months ago threw his support behind Fantino. Considering all the nasty things he said about the Tories a mere four months ago, this does look like a case of sour grapes, however, the Tories could use this as proof the Liberals are abandoning the centre for the left thus why they are picking up NDP supporters but losing Liberals to the Tories. I would think this argument would make more sense than the coalition one.