Ontario’s new 2-per-cent tax on people who earn more than $500,000 a year is a punishment for those who show enterprise. It is a slap at those who create jobs, and wealth.
It didn’t have to happen, and might not have, but for Tim Hudak, whose simplistic approach to being Opposition Leader during a time of minority government left the New Democratic Party and its Leader, Andrea Horwath, in the driver’s seat. The NDP wishes to be seen making the rich pay, no matter how counterproductive it is to do so in a society that wishes to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
Although the first budget of the new McGuinty government was in some respects laudably conservative (perhaps even more conservative than the budget brought in the same week by the Conservatives in Ottawa), Mr. Hudak immediately announced, in a pre-scripted burst of opposition, that he could not support it under any circumstances. There was nothing he would ask for – short of his entire election platform being implemented.
His political calculations are not difficult to read. He did not wish to be seen working with the McGuinty government. He would prefer that the Liberals be forced into bed with a left-wing party – indeed, Mr. McGuinty has already described the pairing as a “happy marriage” – and pay the electoral price, some day, for having done so.
This is not a constructive approach to being in opposition during a minority government. It hands disproportionate power to the New Democrats. An election now would be a disaster for Ontario. The province has major financial problems to address, and just came out of an election. And not a single party, including Mr. Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives, wants an election or can afford to pay for one.
Mr. Hudak could have said, “We think this is a dangerously flawed budget, and we have some proposals to fix those flaws, in the interests of Ontarians. We’re prepared to put the interests of the province first.” His party would have taken centre stage. If it felt, for instance, that the Liberals’ stand on pay for doctors, teachers and civil servants was not severe enough, it could have pushed for more restraint. The NDP might have been shunted off to the side. The Liberals might not have accepted the New Democrat proposal of a 2-per-cent tax on high-income earners if Mr. Hudak had given it an option.
This kind of narrow, political self-interest annoys and angers voters. When political calculation seems divorced from the public interest, what sort of politics is that? Why not – gasp! – try to work together?
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan calls the tax the “NDP tax bracket,” and Ms. Horwath calls it the “fairness tax.” But really, it should be called the Hudak Tax, in honour of the man who helped bring it about.