The 2014 provincial budget was clearly an election budget aimed to position the Liberals to the left of the NDP on a range of social policy issues. These include the proposed defined benefit pension plan, increases to the child benefit program and the extension of free dental services to impoverished children, cost of living increases to the minimum wage, a small increase to single recipients of Ontario Works, and small wage increases to Personal Support Workers.
The 10-year, $29 billion investment in infrastructure renewal and jobs, a portion of which were to be earmarked for youth employment, would have provided significant economic stimulus and jobs, and improved urban and inter-urban public transportation. $11.4 billion was set aside for hospital construction, and another $11.1 billion for School Boards to repair aging schools and build new ones.
The budget also proposed a miniscule corporate tax increase, eliminating the tax break of 7% on the first $500,000 of income (currently taxed at the small business tax rate of 4.5%). It also projected a small tax increase for the 2% of the population with incomes over $150,000.
But the budget was clearly a Big Business budget, with privatization at the core of the funding proposals, the transformation of many public services into private public partnerships (AFR’s), and the promise of future deep cuts to the corporate tax rate, from the current 11.5% down to 10%. Public sector layoffs and wage cuts are built-in, implicit in a package that contains continued restraints to operating budgets in hospitals and healthcare, public and post-secondary education, and social programs. This is the Drummond Report, implemented over 10 years.
The Tories opposed the budget because they are ideologically opposed to any and all progressive measures, and they wanted more privatization, more cuts, and more corporate tax cuts. They also wanted to force an election, win it, and then introduce massive austerity measures with right-to-work legislation, mass privatization, deregulation, and inter-provincial free trade to knock down any remaining obstacles to the free reign of capital. Wages, living standards and pensions would drop down to the basement in no time, and labour, social and democratic rights would virtually disappear.
The NDP’s stated reason for opposing the budget and bringing down the government was the gas plant scandal and government corruption. In fact they had nothing to say about the budget, or about the NDP’s agenda for Ontario. It’s true the Liberals can’t be trusted, but why didn’t the NDP use its clout to hold the government’s feet to the fire in this minority government to secure deliver of the progressive proposals and scuttle privatization?
On the face of it, the NDP has no major disagreements with the budget; and is mainly focused on defeating the government by defeating Liberal MPPs, securing more (Liberal) parliamentary seats for itself, and moving up to Official Opposition or government. A very short-sighted tactic and a failed strategy that the NDP used in the last federal election, and which helped open the door to one of the most right-wing Tory majority governments in Canadian history.
For working people, youth, women and the unemployed, the main danger in this election is the election of a Hudak Tory government. Their agenda is no secret, and it starts with smashing labour and democratic rights and turning the clock back 75 years in Ontario. By forcing an election now, the NDP is playing a very dangerous game, as leaders of the labour and people’s movements have indicated in their responses to the budget.
For our part, the Communist Party will continue to warn of the dangers of a Tory government in the first instance, and to campaign for complete reversal of the pro-corporate, anti-people austerity and privatization policies introduced by both Tory and Liberal governments, and supported by the NDP caucus on too many occasions.
Working people and youth can count on the Communist Party to fight for real restraints on corporate power and to deliver an agenda that serves people’s needs and curbs corporate greed. Another Ontario is possible! Electors can make their vote really count in this election by casting a vote for the policies and objectives below.
The CPC (Ontario) and its 11 candidates will fight for a People’s Agenda:
- Good jobs, better pensions, a livable minimum wage
- An industrial and manufacturing strategy for Ontario
- Affordable housing and rent controls
- Quality public services, healthcare and hospitals
- One universal, quality, secular education system
- A quality, affordable public childcare system
- A healthy, sustainable environment
- Public auto insurance & improved public transit
- Public power and lower rates
- Strong labour, democratic and equality rights
- Democratic electoral reform
- Tax relief for working people – tax corporations and the wealthy
Our detailed platform is available here.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Rowley, CPC (O) leader: 647-994-4976 (cell), 416-469-2446 (office)