The Daily Exchange: Has the NDP lost its soul?
In Thursday’s paper, the Star questions Andrea Horwath’s vision for Ontario, suggesting the NDP leader is too focused on getting power and winning votes.
It’s an interesting thesis. It’s certainly a view that Dalton McGuinty’s war room is aggressively advancing. It’s a view my fellow Daily Exchanger Erika has been writing about throughout this campaign.
It is also, in my opinion at least, just plain wrong.
Horwath’s vision is for an Ontario of greater equality, justice and opportunity. It is about tackling, as Jack Layton put it in his letter to Canadians, the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous society.
At its heart, Horwath’s platform is a blueprint for starting to address one of the great issues of our time – income inequality.
Does it matter that the richest one per cent of Canadians account for 14% of the country’s wealth? Does it matter that Canada is catching up to the United States as a country divided between haves and have nots? Does it matter that going down this road raises a moral question about fairness and concerns about social tensions?
Horwath is seeing millions of Ontarians working hard, but their hydro bills are going up. Their home heating costs are going up. Their health care costs are going up. Their education costs are going up. The price they pay to take public transit is going up. Their child care costs are going up. The price they pay for a litre of gas is going up. And at the end of the year, they have less money, but the people on top are cashing in.
Her plan is an important policy shift aimed squarely at reducing this growing gap between the rich and the rest of us: Discontinuing the no-strings-attached corporate tax giveaways being championed by Dalton McGuinty and Tim Hudak, while ensuring Ontario’s tax rate remains lower than the U.S. rate, to maintain our competitive advantage.
Money for nothing corporate tax cuts entrench income inequality by boosting already lucrative CEO and executive pay packages and by rewarding the wealthiest few who reap the vast majority of Bay Street earnings. It’s more fancy cars, swanky yachts and international travel for them. That's where the money is going, not to investment spending and job creation. In the last eight years, despite tax cut after tax cut, Ontario has lost 300,000 manufacturing and resource jobs, good middle-class jobs that have disappeared.
Horwath’s plan is about changing Ontario’s priorities. It’s about fairness for everyday families who for too long have had the deck stacked against them.
She’s saying to Ontarians, instead of bankrolling higher pay for CEOs, instead of rewarding companies that keep their head offices in Ontario, we can make life better and more affordable for the rest of us. We can help people find a job and make a decent living by giving tax credits to companies that create jobs. We can take the HST off home heating fuel, electricity and gas. We can freeze tuition. We can freeze transit fares. We can give our local small businesses a break by lowering their taxes. We can freeze child care fees. And we can do all this while improving the public services people count on – health care, education, environmental protection and support for our most vulnerable citizens.
That is Horwath’s vision, and that is what Horwath means when she says it’s time for change that puts people first.
Response from Guy Giorno, former chief of staff to Mike Harris and Stephen Harper:
I agree with Jeff that it's unfair to attack Andrea Horwath for lack of policy. The issue is whether NDP policies will damage the economy and thereby harm Ontario families. I'll return to that in a moment.
The gist of the Star's editorial criticism is that putting more money in people's pockets (or, more accurately, taking less from their pockets) is the wrong way to help ordinary people, and that big social programs are the right way to help ordinary people.
Nothing new there. That's the Star's long-standing ideological belief.
Of course, it's wrong to claim that the NDP isn't wedded to expensive, big government solutions. The NDP is a high-tax, big spending party. When it governed Ontario, the NDP raised taxes 33 times and left Ontario with a deficit approaching $11 billion. It pursued anti-business, anti-investment policies that made Ontario the first province to enter, and the last province to exit, the 1990s recession.
Ontarians concerned about affordability (and who isn't?) need to realise that neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats can be trusted to take less money from people's pockets.
Voters are already thinking about the economy (one poll indicated that it's the number two election issue). Yesterday's news shows there's reason for concern. Economists from TD Bank have now joined RBC in downgrading their forecast for Ontario's economic performance.
The party leaders will face increasing pressure to elaborate on their plans for the economy. I've already commented on NDP economic stewardship. The Liberals promise more of the same. The PCs offer change in the form of lower taxes; lowering taxes is a proven way to boost confidence and get the economy working again.
So far there has been too much coverage of campaign process and not enough about substance. That's a pity. We need more focus on the economy and on the parties' plans to respond to increasingly grim economic news.
Response from Erika Mozes, former senior adviser to George Smitherman and Gerard Kennedy:
A puppy and rainbows for everyone in Ontario!
This morning I woke up to the following headlines in my morning paper: “We’ve been here before: back to the dark days of 2008-2009 as investors hit the panic button,” “Dollar Drop: Canadian dollar takes it on the chin amid flight to safety of greenback,” and “Recession fears, Europe debt crisis blamed for fall.”
There are world-wide economic and job concerns. We are potentially on our way to double dip recession, and the NDP plan would put us dangerously on track to not only further economic instability but on a backward plan for Ontario which will cost thousands of jobs not to mention a free-for-all on the public purse.
Don’t get me wrong, I love puppies and rainbows. But Ms. Horwath and the NDP need to wake up to the fiscal reality we are facing.
Raising corporate taxes is a proven job killer. Ontario needs incentives for job creators, not further reasons to invest elsewhere (like China or India). The Ontario Liberal plan focuses on building the right work force by investing in education, helping small business and encouraging innovation. The NDP wants to implement higher job killing taxes in a time when corporations are looking for any reason to downsize
Further, their protectionist “made in Ontario” policy is not only against major trade regulations, it also will cut us off from our largest market, the US. Protectionist plans, like that which President Obama introduced, can easily send our economic instability from a recession to a depression (and yes, I can’t believe I am agreeing with Prime Minister Harper on this point). Ontario Liberals believe the right way forward is to provide the right tax structure and incentives to attract companies, not to push them away.
On CEO salaries, I think I already made my point clear on the fictitious math Ms Horwath is using. There is a big difference between $3.7 million adn $80 million. Further, it is a slippery slope between compensation and going back to the days of the brain drain. Ontario needs to be able to keep and attract talent. Talent breeds innovation. Innovation breeds jobs.
Premier McGuinty’s plan is a balance between providing families with relief they need, and ensuring jobs creation continues in Ontario. It is a forward thinking plan which focuses on what type of jobs and what type of workforce Ontario can strive towards. Ms Horwath’s spokespeople couldn’t even answer what industry she would target when I asked point blank earlier this week. Ontarians don’t need higher job killing corporate taxes and protectionist economic theories. They need a real and workable plan.
Further response from Jeff Ferrier:
Fact check addendum: The NDP plan will cap executive salaries across the public service. This will generate $20 million a year in savings, for a total of $80 million over a four-year mandate.