By Kevin Werner, News Staff
NDP leader Andrea Horwath says Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is junking previous revenue proposals she has previously supported to pay for new transit projects for the Toronto and Hamilton areas because the premier is finding them to hard for people to swallow.
“Today the premier is basically backtracking from her position that she has held for over a year now,” said Horwath during a stop in downtown Stoney Creek March 13. “She has said over and over again she will find new revenue streams and that could include higher gas taxes and sales taxes. Now, all of a sudden she’s finally seeing that families are not able to actually pay up those kinds of new revenue. She is scrambling to distance herself from the very proposals she has been supporting.”
Wynne said earlier in the day that the Liberals won’t raise gas taxes or the HST to help pay for transit programs. She wouldn’t say what revenue tools the Liberals are considering to help pay for about $30-billion in transit projects, including Hamilton’s estimated $1 billion light-rail transit system.
Wynne also ruled out increasing the income tax for middle-income earners.
Her decision ignores recommendations from Metrolinx and an expert panel headed by Anne Golden that supported raising gas taxes and the HST to pay for transit projects.
There are still other revenue measures that could be implemented including charges on property developers, a parking levy, road tolls or corporate tax increases.
Wynne has stated there will be a new “revenue stream” in the budget for public transit expansion.
Horwath said the NDP is adamant they won’t support a budget that includes new taxes, tolls or fees “on middle-class families. We’ve been saying that for quite some time. We will not cross that line.”
Horwath was touring Hamilton in preparation of announcing policies in support of small businesses scheduled for March 17. The announcement had been set for March 13 in Toronto, but NDP officials delayed the release because of the severe weather.
The NDP leader remained circumspect about supporting a Liberal budget and in effect postponing a provincial election. Horwath is determined to protect the province’s middle class who, she says, have had to endure higher hydro rates, unemployment, and rising costs to everyday items.
“Life is becoming far too unaffordable,” she said. “Hydro rates are out of control, people can’t find good work; we’re seeing a health care system still not responding to the needs of people. We are going to be continuing to put out a few more priorities to show Ontarians where we think the attention should be spent.”
With the Progressive Conservatives under leader Tim Hudak already proposing to vote against a Liberal budget in an effort to force a spring election, Horwath will measure what the NDP will do once the budget is released.
“At this point we are taking our cues from the people, getting a sense of where Ontarians are at,” said Horwath, who spent time also at McMaster University InnovationPark, Concession Street, and at a Barton Street bakery in Stoney Creek. She was accompanied in Stoney Creek by Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller.
“I won’t say I’m going to vote against a budget sight unseen,” she said, in reference to Hudak’s position. “I don’t think that is responsible behavior. So I will wait to see what comes forward in the budget.”