I do not vote based on promises. They are always broken. Each party is "known" to those who know politics. What they say they will do is often different from what they really will do. Most of what the Tories have done (and not promises) or promised but not done is "typical Tory behaviour". The leader is important in that he (or she) can stop certain things (Harper has done so with social issues, because all the polls tell him that if they act on abortion, they will lose voters) or that the leader can drive towards certain goals.
As such I know the NDP will spend more than they claim, will raise taxes farther than they claim, and will do more to help the needy. The NDP's main goal is to make a Canada where the poor class can become lower middle class.
I know the Liberals will spend themselves happy and try to cut taxes at the same time, they are the most likely to give us a deficit, and this is the first time they've been honest about that. They want a Canada where the lower middle class can become the upper middle class.
The Tories will cut spending and taxes when they can, and, if they can get away with, reverse social progress. So far the polls have not let them do this. Their dream Canada is one where people who are upper middle class can become rich.
In order to "adjust" the classes, you need to remove barriers. Doing so costs money, either in spending, tax cuts, or both. In order to make up for this, parties throw up barriers in one of the other paths. The Tories for example have done quite a bit to ensure the poor can not become lower middle class. At this time, the path from making $45,000 a year to $250,000 a year is easier than it's ever been, and the path from $13,000 a year to $35,000 a year has never been more difficult. The Canada I'd create is where going from $13,000 a year to $95,000 a year is easy, but getting much beyond that is a hell of a struggle.
There is, however, more than economics. Justice issues, security issues, foreign affairs.
The Tories favour a "harsh" approach. They want (to simplify) a cop on every corner with the power to search everyone, and would like to tell other world leaders they disagree with to %^&* off.
The Liberals want a "gentle" approach. While they generally support the cops, they'd much rather see them focus on specifics, and with other world leaders, if there is a profit to be made by business, the key word is hush.
The NDP want a "loud" approach. Cops should spend lest time acting and more time getting "involved in the community" (Ie talking to them) while other world leaders will be lectured.
In this field, my Canada is a Tory Canada. The NDP approach is one I find annoying at the very least.
So what of the current leaders, and current situation? What would they do over the next 4 years?
Harper would likely keep the surplus/deficit very very small. He'll make sure to make enough tax cuts every year so that the next year's surplus is tiny, so tiny that he will need to justify cuts to programs. He would likely try to make our country more like the US when it comes to civil rights related to terrorism, and would continue to hold back his caucus on social issues. Despite that I don't see him really going after the needy in any significant way. Harper would be the best friend of money. Not "people" money, mostly corporate money and investment.
Trudeau would spend the first 18 months getting a handle on things. This is not unusual, Chretien did the same thing, and Chretien was not "inexperienced". After that we would see him try to solidify our relationship with China, as well as push programs for the middle classes, and those with children. I could see many deficits as he is also liable to keep taxes low, and for those making about $50,000, it's likely they'd have a lower tax rate after 4 years of Trudeau than 4 years of Harper. I can also see Trudeau taking the first, real steps to healing our relations with first nations people.
Mulcair will be fighting his caucus the entire way. The NDP would likely rake in some truly massive surpluses, the sort that would make Chretien and Martin jealous. I could also see increased spending on programs to help those in the working class, and a re-adjustment of the focus of government away from the middle class and more towards a mosaic of targeted issues. On the world stage I expect to see a "quieter" Canada. Less stuff that you end up reading in the news. I also, ironically, expect a far more active Canada. The reason you won't read about it is it will involve a lot of work with "loser countries".
In terms of self interest, the NDP is my clear option here. However, in terms of who would increase Canada's GDP the most, the Tories are the clear answer. However, in terms of people, the Liberals would do the most to increase the total income of all Canadians when combined.
The problem is this is NOT all there is.
The Greens exist. They want to do things like make more free votes in Parliament, and make stronger ethical laws. They want to restore logic to decision making. They also want to help natives. Biggest of all is Green support for a basic income, something I support. They even want lower, or no, tuition for university. However, their environmental policies are things I can not agree with. I wish there was a "Green Party" that was not so "Green".
Thus, I should vote Green, right?
My riding will be won by the Tories.
Even if the NDP wins a majority, the Tories win it. The Greens could win it with a majority, but they are sitting on 1, maybe 2, possibly 3 seats, not the 170 or so they need for a government. The Liberals could win it if they were around 200 seats, but currently, they are about half that.
As such, it does not matter to the outcome how I vote. Thus, other things matter.
The Tories and NDP are far too ideological. If, for example, you could prove without a doubt to the NDP that our public healthcare system is a bad idea, they'd stick with it, because their ideology tells them that it should work. The Tories are the same on many issues. As such, I can not "trust" either party.
The Liberals are pragmatic, but "too" pragmatic in that they'd sacrifice the 10% of poorest Canadians, along with the 10% of richest, if it meant getting the votes of the 80% of the remainder.
The Greens can't win, and even if they could, they are full of people who don't expect to win and would almost certainly $%^& up everything they touched, not to mention they are full of ideologues.
So, I don't vote then?
See, I don't do that "secret ballot" thing. I tell everyone how I vote.
As such, it is important to me how my vote impacts the way people see me.
As such, that, is the #1 most important thing, this election, in deciding how I will vote, and as such, I've made my decision.
I will go to the polls with all the ID I have. If it's not enough to meet the new ID requirements for voting, I will not obtain other ID (asking the landlord for a letter proving I live there, for example) I will be happy to be turned away as it means I can say for the next 4 years that I was not allowed to vote because I was too poor to afford one of those "Ontario ID" cards that people can get if they don't have a drivers lic that has all their information.
"Too poor to vote". And it will be true.
If I am allowed to vote - as I should be (I've read the legislation) - I will vote.
See, I know people who are Liberal (along with people who are Tory, NDP, and Green) and overwhelmingly the people who are Liberal are people who I want to be around. People who support the other parties annoy me to hell with their sanctimonious screeching.
And thus, my answer is
I plan to vote Liberal.