Horwath, Ford offer duelling visions
Leaving Liberals for dead, NDP’s ambitious, expensive platform out-lefts Wynne
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.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told supporters in Toronto, “It’s time for a new premier who will move Ontario forward.”