This has never happened to me before. Honest.
I know for some people, it’s normal. And I understood it from an intellectual level. But never like this. I’ve never experienced it myself.
I never knew how embarrassing and frightening it would be.
I’ve never gone into an election as an undecided voter.
Part of the problem is that the parties don’t give a damn about the two issues I care about most.
My top economic issue is the housing bubble. I think this is the biggest issue of Generation X and the Millenials. Not because houses are too expensive for these cohorts to buy, but rather because they’re too expensive to buy, yet they’re buying them anyway. In essence, they’re being sucked into an economic trap that they will struggle a lifetime to escape, taking on far too much debt for an asset that’s likely to fall dramatically. In the end, the policies in place will likely bankrupt a generation.
Every party seems to have the same response to this concern: inflate the housing bubble more!
So that doesn’t help me at all in deciding who to vote for.
My second key issue is the environment. Global warming is a huge risk for humanity that can be eliminated at a relatively low cost, so it seems like a no-brainer to deal with it now. While the major parties wave their hands about the environment, they don’t actually seem to have a concrete plan. Only the Green Party is willing to say that they’ll do something.
So that doesn’t help me much either.
If I can’t look at it from an “election issue” standpoint, how about looking at the individual parties?
I look at the liberal platform, and there’s some stuff I like in there. But a couple things really bug me.
First, they want to roll back the TFSA increase. In other words, they want to make it more difficult for people to save for their retirement. They say that anything over $5,000 is only for rich people, but if you run the numbers, if you max out a $10,000 TFSA every year, and get a 7% return on it, after 40 years, you’re only at about $2 million.
This might seem like a lot, but that’s before you factor in 40 years of inflation. According to my rough calculations, $2 million in forty years is roughly equivalent to having $30-40K a year (in today’s dollars) to spend in retirement. In other words, it’s enough to make you secure, but far from wealthy. So really, a $10,000 TFSA isn’t for rich people. It’s for prudent people.
The other thing the Liberals are doing is discouraging stay at home parents. Personally, I think if a parent wants to stay at home and raise their kids, that provides a huge value to society. Instead, by eliminating income splitting, the Liberals would encourage people to value a second income over their family’s well being. That’s uncool.
Finally, the Liberals plan to take on a lot of new debt. I think this is a bad idea too. It really bugs me when politicians say, “your kids can’t vote, so we’ll take on a bunch of debt to buy toys for you now, and your children will have to pay for later.” If you want to give me toys, fine. But I should be the one paying for those toys, not my kids. Raise my taxes and let me decide if I want those toys enough to actually pay for them.
I like that the NDP is thinking about childcare. Though I suspect they only care about the short term votes it will get them, if you can properly execute a good childcare plan, it can have huge returns over the long term.
The problem is that the NDP struggles with math and concrete ideas. They say things like they’ll “secure your retirement”, without actually saying what that means. And to me, that implies that either they don’t have a clue, or they’re just lying. Thus, their “balanced budget” claim seems implausible.
Like the Liberals, they’ll also cut back on TFSAs and eliminate income splitting. But in addition, they’d also get rid of the stock option tax credit. In effect, this would be a huge hit to technology workers, who make reasonable amounts of money from this tax credit. As a tech guy, I’ve benefited substantially from it in the past.
I don’t think it will impact the really wealthy much–it’s easy for those guys to come up with tax-efficient ways of paying themselves a lot. However, if the goal is to hurt upper middle class tech workers, increasing the tax on stock options will do it. I imagine it would further encourage Canadians with technology skills to migrate to the Silicon Valley and the Seattle area.
I’m also paranoid that the NDP will introduce a wealth tax or increase the capital gains tax, both of which would be a disaster for me and anyone else who believe in saving money for the future.
Financially, the Conservatives would benefit me the most. But I have two main problems with them. First, the Conservatives don’t care about the long-term future of Canada, wealth inequality, or environment. They took office with a balanced budget and accumulated huge deficit every year. So, they’re not fiscally responsible, and don’t really care about the issues I care about.
The second problem is that they’re loathsome. They used tricks to subvert the democratic majority in parliament, proroguing it when it looked like they were about to lose power. They discouraged science. They attacked human rights and privacy, spying on Canadians in the name of security. They quelled disagreement and discussion, ruling by ideology rather than evidence.
And frankly, Stephen Harper seems like a total jerk.
The Green party is perhaps the best option. They care about the environment and boosting education. What’s more, they’ve been talking about the guaranteed minimum income, which is an interesting idea to examine, at least. What’s more, Elizabeth May seems like the brightest of all the party leaders, by far.
However, the Green party is also against the TFSA limit increase. In other countries, they’ve also supported wealth taxes and “polices that restrict the accumulation of excessive individual wealth”.
During my lifetime, I’ve started four or five businesses, risking a large chunk of my net worth every time. In doing so, I’ve created somewhere between fifty and a hundred jobs. I wouldn’t have started any of those businesses if I didn’t think there was some chance that I could accumulate excessive individual wealth. Why take the risk if there was no potential payoff? I’d rather work for someone else in that case. (Though perhaps there wouldn’t be anyone else, since most people wouldn’t be stupid enough to take the risk either.)
As far as I know, Canada’s Green Party hasn’t said they’ll destroy my ability to get rich, but the fact that the Green Party has such policies elsewhere makes me wary.
The bottom line
At this point, I’m still not sure who I’ll vote for. I’m in a swing riding–it’s unclear who is leading now and the top three candidates are likely to be within 10 percentage points of each other in the end. I’ll certainly vote. I just don’t know for whom….