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Here's what the Liberal leadership contenders are offering

By Jonathan Jenkins, Queen's Park Bureau

The Ontario Liberal leadership hopefuls met in Ingersoll for the first of five debates on Dec. 1. (QMI AGENCY)

The Ontario Liberal leadership hopefuls met in Ingersoll for the first of five debates on Dec. 1. (QMI AGENCY)

It’s better to give than to receive and nobody believes that more than your Ontario Liberal Leadership hopefuls.

The seven would-be Santa Grits are keen to put something under the tree for everyone in the hopes it will translate into support at the party convention in late January. Here’s a roundup of what they think you want.

Eric Hoskins

Dr. Hoskins made his name as the founder of the charity War Child and not surprisingly has made improving health care key to his campaign. He’s proposing more focus on prevention, shifting doctors off fee for service, and an income-tested drug plan. Transit geeks will get a 20-year investment in transportation, funded by new revenue streams — possibly tolls, or congestion fees. Youth will get programs to ease them into skilled trades and to help pay off student loans through community work. Rural communities are also on his list and he promises to get them broadband access and targeted economic development.

Gerard Kennedy

Teachers would get a gift from Kennedy, a former education minister. He came out against Bill 115 early calling it unnecessary and promising to end the hostilities between the government and its former friends in the teacher unions through negotiations. He’s also proposed decentralizing political power at Queen’s Park by allowing more latitude for MPPs at the leader’s expense. Kennedy’s also said he wants to reach out to rural Ontario and has promised to give municipalities more power to reject unwanted power projects.

Glen Murray

The former mayor of Winnipeg wants to gift-wrap no money down student loans for college and university tuition which wouldn’t need to be repaid until post-graduate employment, with the interest rate tied to income level. He’s also stuffing your stocking with capital gains tax cuts for small businesses and proposing replacing RRSP and child care tax deductions with 15% and 15% credits. Municipalities are promised greater input on power projects while Northern Ontario residents would get regional government. And government would be opened up, Murray promises, with a greater role for backbenchers and the opposition.

Sandra Puatello

Santa Pupatello has gifts for rural and northern Ontario, as well as plans to create jobs. The former economic development minister says she’ll offer support for exporters to find new markets, encourage entrepreneurs and get more help for youth. Small town Ontario will get a one-stop window for government services, a Local Food Act to promote Ontario produce and support for bioproduct development and rural tourism. The north would get a permanent low industrial energy rate and better health care. And Pupatello is promising to deliver social assistance reforms with more affordable housing and support for the disabled.

Charles Sousa

Once a banker, Sousa has made job creation a focus of his campaign. He’s offered to help small businesses get more economic development cash and he favours government support for increasing innovation and productivity to get more people working. He’s promised some big ticket infrastructure, including another look at a high speed rail corridor from Windsor to Quebec and would wrap a bow around the TTC and gift it to Metrolinx, the provincial transit planning agency. Sousa would also grant small towns the power to reject power projects, something his Mississauga South constituents benefited from after he opposed a nearby gas plant.

Harinder Takhar

Credit rating agencies would see a present from one-time government services minster Taqakhar. He says he’ll eliminate Ontario’s $14 billion deficit a year ahead of schedule and boost the economy by fostering small business with loans and one window for government programs. He’d offer a $5,000 job creation tax credit and improve productivity through micro loans for entrepreneurs. He’d also smooth the path for foreign professionals to get accredited here. Consumers would benefit from a “pay what you see” pricing system and commuters in the GTA would see an integrated transit system.

Kathleen Wynne

The former education minister has a sack of goodies including an OHIP drug plan for medications keeping patients out of hospital and a poverty reduction strategy. Renewable energy producers would get support and a Wynne government would eliminate coal and reduce reliance on natural gas. But Wynne is also promising to limit spending growth to 1% annually and she’d eliminate the deficit by 2017-18. And she’d underline her commitment to the north and rural Ontario by serving as agriculture minister for a year and by holding a cabinet meeting in northern Ontario during her first 30 days in office.


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