Hor­wath, Ford of­fer du­elling vi­sions

Leav­ing Lib­er­als for dead, NDP’s am­bi­tious, ex­pen­sive plat­form out-lefts Wynne

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID REEVELY dreevely@post­media.com twit­ter.com/davidreevely

To hear Doug Ford and An­drea Hor­wath tell it, change is go­ing to come.

And one of them is it.

Both would-be On­tario pre­miers were fir­ing up their sup­port­ers Mon­day: Hor­wath in Toronto and Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Ford — hav­ing just taken de­liv­ery of his cam­paign bus a day ear­lier — pulling into Ot­tawa.

The NDP plat­form is ti­tled Change for the Bet­ter, dis­miss­ing Premier Kath­leen Wynne’s Lib­er­als with its first word and Ford’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives with its last three, David Reevely writes.

The New Democrats’ plan if elected in a vote ex­pected on June 7 is am­bi­tious, de­tailed and ex­pen­sive, and man­ages to take what lit­tle space to the left the Lib­er­als have, well, left. They vow to cover all that ex­pense with higher per­sonal in­come taxes on big earn­ers, higher taxes on cor­po­rate prof­its, a tax on ex­pen­sive cars and an an­nual prop­erty tax on for­eign own­ers of prop­erty in and around Toronto.

All of which is not quite what Ford has in mind for On­tar­i­ans, Blair Craw­ford re­ports.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple braved ice, wind, rain and slush to hear the for­mer Toronto city coun­cil­lor put down the first plank in his plat­form.

Pre­dictably, it’s tax cuts: Cuts for min­i­mum-wage earn­ers, end­ing any tax on car­bon and go­ing line by line through the pro­vin­cial bud­get for any mis­spent nick­els and dimes.

And for his fans, he tossed in jeer­ing points: cheers for the cuts, jeers for Lib­er­als, Wynne provin­cially, and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau fed­er­ally.

Kath­leen Wynne and the Lib­er­als are done for and the only ques­tion is whether On­tar­i­ans want Doug Ford or An­drea Hor­wath to re­place her, said, er, An­drea Hor­wath in pre­sent­ing the On­tario New Democrats’ elec­tion plat­form Mon­day.

The elec­tion hasn’t been called yet, of­fi­cially, but it’s due June 7 and all the par­ties are al­ready charg­ing hard. The NDP’s plat­form is ti­tled “Change for the Bet­ter,” which dis­misses the Lib­er­als with the first word and the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives with the last three.

“Peo­ple are fed up,” Hor­wath said at a rally in Toronto, speak­ing to sup­port­ers in a rented au­di­to­rium in a down­town Toronto hos­pi­tal — cheer­ing par­ti­sans in front of her, clap­ping MPPs and NDP can­di­dates be­hind. “They’re fed up with politi­cians who of­fer noth­ing more than sound bites and de­ci­sions that keep mak­ing life harder for them­selves and their fam­i­lies. I’m here to­day be­cause there’s hope. The Lib­er­als and Kath­leen Wynne have had 15 years. If there’s any­thing they’ve wanted to do, they would have done it al­ready.”

Polls have found that On­tar­i­ans are ea­ger to change the gov­ern­ment, Hor­wath said. “Kath­leen Wynne made her choices and now, in this elec­tion, it’s time to choose who will re­place her.”

You want to be the can­di­date of the left, Kath­leen? Hor­wath essen­tially asked. Not. So. Fast.

The New Democrats’ plat­form is am­bi­tious, de­tailed, and ex­pen­sive. Wynne’s vig­or­ous spend­ing hasn’t left the NDP much room but they’re tak­ing all of it.

“The ques­tion is: What kind of change does On­tario need? Do we need more anger? Do we need to drag this prov­ince back­wards with deep con­ser­va­tive cuts?” Hor­wath asked, dig­ging at Ford. “My friends, I be­lieve it’s time for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. It’s time for a new premier who will move On­tario for­ward.”

The New Democrats’ plat­form starts by elim­i­nat­ing all the new stuff the Lib­er­als promised in their last bud­get, but they’ll re­place most of it with big­ger stuff.

They prom­ise uni­ver­sal phar­ma­care and gov­ern­ment-funded den­tal care, uni­ver­sal child­care (free for fam­i­lies mak­ing under $40,000 a year, and peo­ple mak­ing more pay­ing on a slid­ing scale that av­er­ages $12 per day per kid), more gen­er­ous welfare pro­grams, ma­jor spend­ing on hos­pi­tals and nurs­ing homes, and heavy sub­si­dies for tran­sit in cities. They’ll end On­tario stu­dent loans and re­place them with straight grants, and for­give all the in­ter­est on stu­dent loans On­tar­i­ans al­ready have.

(The ma­jor Lib­eral pro­gram left on the floor is a $330-mil­lion-a-year pro­gram to sub­si­dize retrofits to help se­niors stay in their houses longer.)

They’ll cover all this ex­pense with higher per­sonal in­come taxes on peo­ple mak­ing more than $220,000 a year, higher taxes on cor­po­rate prof­its, a tax on cars that sell for more than $90,000, and an an­nual prop­erty tax on for­eign own­ers of prop­erty in and around Toronto (ex­pand­ing a Lib­eral anti-spec­u­la­tion tax that only ap­plies to sales).

Hor­wath’s au­di­ence loved her, as you’d ex­pect, but it was the idea of mak­ing the rich pay their fair share that caused a chant of “NDP! NDP! NDP!” to break out.

“Let’s ask those at the very top to pay a bit more. Let’s ask those who can spend 90 grand on a car to pay a lit­tle bit more. It’s ab­so­lutely the right thing to do,” Hor­wath said.

Still, like the Lib­er­als, the New Democrats an­tic­i­pate run­ning deficits for a whole term — slightly smaller ones, though, with the help of the tax hikes. They’d bor­row $3.3 bil­lion this year, in­crease the deficit to $5.1 bil­lion in 2020 as their new and ex­panded pro­grams kick in full force, and then shrink it to $2 bil­lion by 2022. The Lib­er­als plan to bor­row $6.6 bil­lion this year and have the deficit down to $4 bil­lion in 2022.

The New Democrats of­fer a more pre­cise ac­count­ing than even the Tories’ aban­doned “Peo­ple’s Guar­an­tee” had. Much more pre­cise than the Doug Ford Tories’ five-pri­or­i­ties-no-de­tails plan. The NDP have a big-spend­ing plan to ex­pand On­tario’s welfare state, for bet­ter or for worse, but it’s light on the mag­i­cal think­ing.

The ex­cep­tion is the New Democrats’ plan for the elec­tric­ity sys­tem, which they an­nounced weeks ago — can­celling the Lib­er­als’ al­ready-started plan to sub­si­dize hy­dro bills with bor­rowed money, buy­ing back the ma­jor­ity share of Hy­dro One the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment sold, hav­ing ur­ban res­i­dents sub­si­dize re­mote com­mu­ni­ties that are ex­pen­sive to serve, elim­i­nat­ing the use of smart me­ters, and yet still cut­ting elec­tric­ity prices by 30 per cent. The ba­sic as­sump­tions are that the gov­ern­ment can man­age elec­tric­ity sup­ply and de­mand well (con­trary to the last 40 years of On­tario’s lived ex­pe­ri­ence) and prices don’t mat­ter.

Some other messi­ness is in store under Premier Hor­wath, if not of the di­rect-gov­ern­ment-pro­gram kind. An NDP gov­ern­ment would take an­other run at elec­toral re­form, ap­point­ing a com­mis­sion to study pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion. It would ban “pink taxes,” the cus­tom of charg­ing more for some prod­ucts that are mar­keted to women in­stead of men. (Per­fectly fine in the­ory but re­ally hard to pull off in real life, re­quir­ing le­gal judg­ments about whether the ser­vice of­fered in a hair salon cater­ing to women is the same as in a bar­ber­shop cater­ing to men, for in­stance.)

It would be very busy in mak­ing plans to im­prove life for First Na­tions peo­ple, both on and off re­serves. With­out hav­ing con­sulted and reached agree­ments, know­ing what the con­se­quent pro­grams would look like or cost is im­pos­si­ble and the plat­form doesn’t guess, but nei­ther de­sign nor ex­e­cu­tion would be easy.

The tip­toe act of 2014, when a dour Hor­wath tried to at­tract dis­af­fected Lib­er­als by rail­ing about ethics and pull votes away from the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives by em­pha­siz­ing pop­ulist pock­et­book is­sues, is gone. This is a New Demo­crat plat­form in the tra­di­tional style, one Hor­wath can sell with a smile on her face.

DAVEABEL

NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath told sup­port­ers in Toronto, “It’s time for a new premier who will move On­tario for­ward.”

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