NDP plat­form prom­ises change

On­tario party pledges spend­ing on child care, health care

The Sault Star - - NEWS - SHAWN JEF­FORDS

TORONTO — On­tario’s New Democrats are promis­ing free child care for low-in­come fam­i­lies and more fund­ing for hos­pi­tals if they win the spring elec­tion, a move some ex­perts saw as an at­tempt to re­gain ground the party has lost to the Lib­er­als.

The prom­ises were con­tained in the party’s fully costed elec­tion plat­form — called “Change for the Bet­ter” — re­leased Mon­day by NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath.

“For too long, the peo­ple of On­tario have been forced to set­tle for less than what we know is pos­si­ble,” Hor­wath said. “We’ve been told to switch back and forth, from the Lib­er­als to the Con­ser­va­tives and back again. As though the only choice is be­tween bad and worse. And look where it’s got­ten us.”

The NDP child-care plan would be phased in over five years, would be free for house­holds that earn $40,000 or less, and would grow to in­clude in­fants, tod­dlers and preschool­ers. Fees for par­ents earn­ing more than $40,000 would be based on abil­ity to pay and the party says the av­er­age fee for fam­i­lies would be $12 a day.

Hos­pi­tals would see fund­ing boosted by 5.3 per cent — $916 mil­lion — in the first year of an NDP govern­ment. It would main­tain year-over-year in­creases at 5.3 per cent.

The party projects five con­sec­u­tive deficits to pay for its prom­ises, start­ing with a $3.3 bil­lion deficit in 2018-2019. The deficit would peak at just over $5 bil­lion in 2020-2021, and de­crease to $1.9 bil­lion by 2022-2023.

Hor­wath said the de­creas­ing deficits would help the prov­ince even­tu­ally get back to bal­ance.

“It’s a very clear trend to get back to bal­ance,” she said. “We think that that’s an im­por­tant thing. We don’t want to trade off the bal­anced bud­get against the fun­da­men­tal ba­sics that On­tar­i­ans should be able to ex­pect a govern­ment to be able to pro­vide.”

The NDP plat­form was an­a­lysed by former fed­eral par­lia­men­tary bud­get of­fi­cer Kevin Page, who says its cost­ing of in­di­vid­ual mea­sures is “rea­son­able.”

Hor­wath said the Tories would cut ser­vices while the Lib­er­als would wait un­til prob­lems sprung up to ad­dress them, but an NDP govern­ment would bring the change On­tar­i­ans want.

“Peo­ple are fed up with politi­cians who offer noth­ing more than sound bites and de­ci­sions that just keep mak­ing life harder for them­selves and their fam­i­lies,” she said. “I am here today be­cause it doesn’t have to be this way.”

The NDP would in­crease taxes on peo­ple earn­ing more than $220,000 by one per­cent­age point, and those earn­ing more than $300,000 by two per­cent­age points. The party’s plat­form also in­cludes a num­ber of pre­vi­ously an­nounced prom­ises in­clud­ing a pledge to re­turn Hy­dro One to pub­lic own­er­ship, to cut hy­dro rates by 30 per cent, and es­tab­lish uni­ver­sal den­tal and phar­ma­care pro­grams.

The party would also spend bil­lions to in­crease On­tario Works and On­tario dis­abil­ity pay­ments to re­cip­i­ents across the prov­ince over their man­date. And it would in­crease ac­cess to men­tal heath care to 28,000 more On­tario res­i­dents by adding 2,200 new men­tal health work­ers over five years.

The plat­form fur­ther calls for the ad­di­tion of 15,000 ad­di­tional long-term care beds, with spend­ing ramp­ing up over five years from $164 mil­lion to $923 mil­lion.

The party would also add a 3 per cent sur­charge on ve­hi­cles that cost more than $90,000, which it ex­pects will raise $12 mil­lion a year. The NDP is also promis­ing to cut auto in­sur­ance rates by 15 per cent, echo­ing a prom­ise the Lib­eral govern­ment made in 2013 and has thus far failed to achieve.

Barry Kay, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence professor at Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity, said the NDP plat­form is an at­tempt to break through a me­dia land­scape dom­i­nated by the Lib­eral govern­ment and the Tories who lead in the polls.

“More than any­thing the NDP just want to get no­ticed,” Kay said. “The fact that the Lib­er­als have pushed left out of des­per­a­tion ... has very much en­croached upon their ter­ri­tory.”

Kay said while Hor­wath is still very pop­u­lar — with her ap­proval rat­ings con­sis­tently top­ping both the Lib­eral and Tory lead­ers — it hasn’t trans­lated to broad­en­ing the ap­peal of her party.

“If the NDP is go­ing to catch fire it’s go­ing to be be­cause the Lib­er­als have done such dam­age to each other dur­ing the course of the cam­paign . ... They have to keep above the fray and not get too in­volved in gut­ter pol­i­tics.”

The Lib­er­als said the NDP plat­form would use $6.5 bil­lion in money bud­geted for health care, ed­u­ca­tion and tran­sit to buy back shares of Hy­dro One.

“On­tario Lib­er­als had hoped the NDP would join us in cam­paign­ing against Doug Ford and on the side of care, in­stead of cuts,” the party state­ment said.

The Tories, mean­while, said their party was the only one of­fer­ing vot­ers a pos­i­tive change.

The prov­ince heads to the polls June 7.

CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath ad­dresses sup­port­ers at a rally in Toronto on Mon­day as she un­veils her party’s plat­form for the forth­com­ing pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

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