Andrea Horwath sets forth legislative priorities

Bill Mauro Kenora Queen's Park - NAN Sarah Campbell

Andrea HorwathQUEEN’S PARK – Leaders Ledger – In a matter of days the Legislature will be getting back to work after a long break. Over the past months while the Legislature has  been prorogued my NDP caucus colleagues and I have been traveling across the province consulting Ontarians on their priorities. 

Andrea Horwath open letter on priorities

I’ve laid out for them what I think we can achieve this spring. I’m hoping you and your cabinet are ready to work with New Democrats to deliver on change that will create jobs, improve healthcare, make life affordable and ensure we take a balanced approach to balanced books.

As I said in our meeting last week, I want to be absolutely clear with the public and with you about the changes we hope to achieve this spring. These are prudent ideas that will help ensure a better and more affordable life for Ontarians while balancing the province’s books.

First Start: Youth On-the-Job Training

In 2012, 182,000 Ontarians between the ages of 16-24 we’re unemployed. That’s a 15.7% unemployment rate; nearly double that of the average worker in the province. Almost 25% of all youth with a university degree were unable to find a job in their field in 2010.

We propose to provide young people aged 16-26 years an entry point to long-term employment opportunities. Participants will learn life and work skills while earning income. Our proposed fund would commit $78 million in the first year and $117 million the following year towards creating jobs for youth and to fund on-the-job training in these jobs. This would create 25,000 jobs over two years with participants learning new on-the-jobs skills and earning at least $9,360 in a 6 month job. A maximum of $7,800 government contribution per job would be provided in the form of a wage subsidy. All jobs would last a minimum of 4-6 months and include on-the-job training and skills development. All jobs must provide at least 30 hours of work per week and would pay at least $12/hr.

Participants will apply through all Employment Ontario offices, youth employment centres and online. An emphasis will be placed on moving young people into sustained jobs with an expectation that private sector employers would retain young people past the initial 6 month, minimum period.

Opening doors to employment

People on social assistance face real barriers to entering the job market. Current social assistance rules punish initiative by taking away 50% of people’s earnings starting from the first dollar earned. People on OW and ODSP should be encouraged to find work.

Social assistance should support people in finding work and becoming independent, not punish them for doing so. This proposal would allow social assistance recipients to keep 100% of the first $200 they earn each month. This is one of the recommendations of the Lankin-Sheikh Social Assistance Review report.

Approximately 50,000 Ontarians would benefit from this rule change. The cost of this change will be no more than $60 million, and likely less if it supports more OW and ODSP recipients in securing paid employment.

Five Day Home Care Guarantee

Ontarians have told us they want reliable and consistent home care. A 5 day home care guarantee would ensure that Ontarians receive home care five (5) days after being approved. We will work with individual Community Care Access Centers (CCACs) to see what they need to clear the roughly 6100 people across the province currently waiting for home care services. Today, 3,300 Ontarians are waiting for care by a personal support worker and an additional 2,800 Ontarians are waiting for service by therapists.

An investment of $30 million a year would allow CCACs to eliminate waitlists and add capacity to the system so that all Ontarians who need home care receive it within 5 days. New Democrats have a plan to generate $3.5 million for this program by putting a hard cap on hospital CEO salaries. An additional $27 million will be found through standardizing procurement policies and streamlining administration at Ontario’s Local Health Integration Networks and Community Care access Centers (CCACs).

15% Cut to Auto Insurance Rates

The auto insurance industry has given us two main reasons why Ontario’s insurance premiums remain sky high: overly generous benefits and fraud. However, following the Liberal government’s 2010 statutory benefit cutbacks, payouts declined by 50% in 2011 and overall industry benefit payouts declined by 25%. At the same time, driver premiums increased. This is just unfair for the consumer. A 15% reduction would reduce average premiums by $225 for an average Ontario driver and would still allow for a very reasonable industry profit. The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) can instruct insurers to lower their premiums. By asking FSCO to direct insurers to decrease premiums by 15% by the end of 2013, we can ensure that life is more affordable for safe drivers across Ontario.

Permanently Restrict HST Input Tax Credits

In the 2009 budget, the Ontario government announced that companies would receive “input tax credits” for sales tax on their purchases along with temporary restrictions on some input tax credits that would apply to large businesses and financial institutions.

The restrictions are set to be phased out starting in 2015. By making the existing restrictions permanent, large corporations and banks will not be able to claim sales tax rebates for corporate meals and entertainment expenses. Small businesses would still receive input tax credits for all purchases, including fuel and energy. This decision would ultimately save the Ontario treasury $1.3 billion.

Increase Corporate Tax Compliance

The Report of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services recommended reducing the ability of corporations to eliminate or decrease payment of provincial corporate income tax by shifting profits and losses across Canada. A range of other illegitimate practices could be curtailed including aggressive international tax planning strategies used to shift profits earned in Ontario to foreign-based subsidiaries thereby avoiding Ontario Corporate Income Tax. The Report estimates that this would bring in $50 million in Year 1 and $200 million by 2017-18.

Employer Health Tax (EHT) Exemptions

To help small business, the province doesn’t collect Employer Health Tax on the first $400,000 of payroll, but this exemption applies to all businesses. Ontario should maintain the EHT rules for small business. At the same time, eliminating the exemption on the first $400,000 in payroll for all companies with payrolls over $5 million (or roughly 100 employees) would mean approximately $90 million for the Treasury.

Balanced Approach to Balancing the Budget

A balanced budget should contain a commitment to review government expenditures and find savings within the current fiscal framework that doesn’t impact the services Ontarians rely on. We must maintain high quality delivery of healthcare, education, transit, and other public services, encourage job creation and protect existing jobs.

These are achievable goals we can reach this spring. They will create jobs, grow our economy, improve healthcare, make life affordable and set us on a balanced path the balancing the books. The Liberal government has already wasted months on prorogation – time that would have been better spent in the Legislature dealing with the issues important to Ontarians. The proposals outlined above are achievable and would deliver concrete results for Ontarians. I hope you will work with me to deliver the change Ontarians deserve.

Sincerely,

Andrea Horwath, Leader
Ontario’s New Democrats