A voter’s guide to the best ideas in 2014 campaign
TheStar.com – News/Queen’s Park – In the homestretch, here’s a voter’s guide to cut through what the political rivals are saying — about themselves, and each other (harsh talk).
Jun 07 2014. By: Martin Regg Cohn, Provincial Politics
Voters who find themselves in the broad centre of Ontario politics may be feeling confused, if not neglected. Who speaks for you?
In the campaign’s final week, here’s a voter’s guide to cut through what the political rivals are saying — about themselves (not so much) and each other (harsh talk).
No, it doesn’t purport to be an objective look at who’s right or who’s telling the truth (none of the above). That’s up to you.
This column has something for everyone: The best from each platform.
While it’s not possible to vote for a hybrid party — you only get to pick one — here’s what might make sense if only you could mix and match:
- Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak wants to streamline the way skilled tradespeople are trained. Union leaders oppose the reforms, but the ratios of journeymen to apprentices are skewed in Ontario compared to most other provinces. When the Liberals created a new College of Trades, it required a lopsided ratio of five journeymen bricklayers for every apprentice, compared to 1:1 elsewhere. In other trades it’s 4:1. Hudak wants to right those ratios by putting them on a par with the rest of Canada.
Common sense so far. But Hudak oversells his plan by claiming that the mere training of more apprentices will automatically create 200,000 new jobs for them — part of his mythical eight-year “Million Jobs Plan.” Increased training won’t resolve our jobs shortage, but it could help reduce our skills shortage.
- Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne proposed a new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan in the spring budget that the NDP rejected. Wynne’s government seized the initiative after Ottawa rejected a request from the provinces to enhance the outdated Canada Pension Plan. Ontario’s proposalwould mirror the CPP, providing a modest, fully funded pension supplement to those without a comparable workplace plan.
The plan has won backing from actuarial experts, economists, major unions and anyone who worries about how the next generation will plan for retirement in an era of precarious employment and disappearing pensions (replaced by glorified savings plans known as “defined contribution” schemes). The Tories, NDP and small business oppose the idea, opting for passivity over activism. Managed independently of government, this plan would offer the best value to future pensioners, at the lowest fees.
- The NDP’s Andrea Horwath wants to raise corporate taxes by one percentage point. This makes good sense in light of Ontario’s record low rates (cut by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals), and given former Bank of Canada Mark Carney’s complaints that corporate Canada is sitting on a $500-billion stash of dead cash. It still won’t go very far — raising about $700 million annually for a province that takes in about $120 billion a year.
Had Horwath played her cards right, she might have persuaded the Liberals to go along with a corporate tax hike in budget negotiations. Instead, she plunged the province into an election that may yet make Hudak premier — with his plan to lower the existing tax rate from 11.5 per cent to a dumbfounding (and just plain dumb) 8 per cent, making it North America’s lowest. For those who care about cutting our $12.5-billion deficit (corporations keep raising their hands, but count me in, too), raising the business tax rate seems only prudent.
But having raised that extra $700 million in corporate revenue, the NDP platform would give it all away — and more — with pointlessly populist tax cuts: nearly $300 million in a small business tax cut, more than $800 million from taking the HST off hydro bills (only the provincial portion), and $250 million for a new Caregiver Tax Credit (for people who would have looked after loved ones anyway).
- There are other good ideas from all three parties that rate honourable mentions: The Liberals would cap or cut unfairly high hospital parking fees. They would also raise wages for poorly paid child-care and home-care workers, while indexing the minimum wage. The PCs would upload the TTC’s rail links to Metrolinx (fee to be determined). New Democrats would cap CEO salaries at twice the rate of the premier, and reunite the old Ontario Hydro that the Tories broke up into OPG and Hydro One.
- And here’s some they all forgot — or more precisely, are too scared to touch: A pharmacare program to ensure everyone gets the medicine they need, not just those who have workplace drug plans or welfare. An updatedsex-education curriculum so that our children can hear it from teachers before they see it online. And oh yes, a little tweak to our alcohol laws allowing all licensed retailers to sell beer, not just those three massive foreign-owned multinationals who control the privately run Beer Store’s de facto monopoly.
The polls point to a possible hung parliament, which might prompt all three parties to put water in their wine — and dilute their whines. Can they ever blend their competing brands in order to make a minority legislature work for all of us?
If the homilies and hostilities on the campaign trail are any indication, best to brace for post-election gridlock.
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