Hudak vows to wipe out Ontario's deficit in 2 years
PC leader Tim Hudak releases his provincial platform for the upcoming election on Wednesday. (JACK BOLAND/Toronto Sun)
No pain, no gain.
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak released his election platform Wednesday which promises to wipe out the province’s $12.5-billion deficit within two years.
He vowed to shrink the size of the civil service, eliminate some family-friendly breaks, end taxpayer-funded subsidies to businesses and kill the union monopoly on government work.
Hudak said a balanced provincial budget is his first priority — before even that Tory touchstone of personal income tax cuts — to send a message to business that it’s safe to create jobs again in Ontario and to ensure the province has the future financial strength to support programs like health and education.
“When we balance the budget, then we’ll work on lowering personal income taxes to reward hard work so we can give families a break and to appreciate the sacrifices they have done these last numbers of years,” Hudak said. “But I’m not going to lower personal income taxes until I lower the budget. I want to make sure that we can get jobs first.”
The platform left out a number of initiatives that were in a series of white policy papers released by the PCs over the past few years including a proposal to open up the sale of beer, wine and liquor to corner and grocery stores.
Hudak said he personally supports more choice in alcohol sales but had to put the idea on the back burner while focusing on job creation.
The PC platform calls for the Ontario budget to be in surplus by 2016, at which point the Liberal budget plan still has the province in the red to the tune of $5.3 billion.
His proposals have been criticized as “slash-and-burn” measures by Premier Kathleen Wynne, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and major public and private sector union heads, who argue the PCs would create only pink slips.
“That is a recipe for recession,” Wynne said Wednesday.
A number of pricey government programs would have to go on the chopping block to meet Hudak’s balanced budget goal.
The Ontario Clean Energy Benefit would be phased out immediately — instead of 2016 as planned by the Liberals — ending a 10% discount on hydro bills which currently shaves $180 a year off the average family’s bill.
The PCs would also kill a 30% tuition break for families making $160,000 a year or less that saves a university or college degree student $1,780 a year and a college diploma student $820 a year.
There would be a legislated pay freeze for the broader public sector, and a planned special increase for teachers with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and early childhood educators would not proceed.
In addition to reducing the broader public sector by 100,000 positions, the Tories would move new government hires to a defined contribution pension plan.
The public education system would lose 9,700 non-teaching positions as recommended by Don Drummond, a bank economist brought in by the Ontario Liberals to find savings and efficiencies in government, the PCs say.
The PC platform also axes the Liberals’ Healthy Home Renovation Tax Credit which allows seniors and their families to claim up to 15% of the cost of any remodeling done to stay in their homes up to $1,500.
Direct subsidies to businesses would be replaced with the lowest corporate tax rates in North America.
Hudak would repeal the Far North Act, and expand tourism and forestry in the North.
Savings would be directed at the health-care system to focus on treating people with chronic and mental health illnesses, Hudak said
Hudak also plans to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to attend post-secondary education.
Unions would lose monopolies to bid on government contracts, and government jobs would be opened up more to the general population.
Another monopoly — the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) — would be forced into competition with private insurance providers.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) would see some of its work farmed out to the private sector.
Ontario would, under a PC government, introduce a new standardized Grade 8 test in science, and also make math and sciences a priority at the post-secondary level.
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