The Ontario NDP’s platform – the first to be released ahead of the June 2 provincial election – contains a series of promises aimed at expanding health care coverage and making living in the province more affordable.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced the platform on Monday in Toronto’s Distillery District, in front of candidates and supporters. She said the party’s plan is “to fix the things that have been broken” in the province under the current Progressive Conservative government and during the preceding 15 years of Liberal rule.
Ms. Horwath said health care improvements, based on lessons learned during the pandemic, would be a main priority for her if she were to become premier in June. In its platform, the NDP commits to hiring 30,000 nurses and 10,000 personal support workers in an effort to address staffing shortages and lengthy wait times.
The PC government under Premier Doug Ford recently passed a permanent $3-per-hour wage increase for personal support workers. Ms. Horwath said the NDP would increase that by an additional $2. The party would also scrap current legislation that caps wage increases for public sector workers at 1 per cent annually.
Ms. Horwath said the party doesn’t yet have a price tag for its entire platform or details on where the money for its promised new spending would come from. She said the lack of costing specifics is a result of the current government’s delayed budget, which will be tabled Thursday. A full cost breakdown will be released during the election campaign, after the party has more information on the current fiscal situation, she said.
Pharmacare, tax freeze and health-care spending feature in Ontario NDP platform
The party didn’t commit to balancing the province’s budget over a four-year term, but Ms. Horwath said she would make significant efforts to bring down its debt-to-GDP ratio.
“When it comes to how do we pay for these things, the problem is we’re paying for not having these things,” she said. “I want people to be confident that not only will we be responsible with the government’s finances, but we will also be responsible in fixing the things that they need the most.”
One funding source already ruled out by the party is increasing income taxes on low- and middle-income Ontarians. The party outlined a four-year tax freeze proposal for people who make less than about $200,000 annually, subject to a cap on household income that has yet to be determined. The plan is still being finalized, but Ms. Horwath said wealthier residents and “massive corporations” would be asked to pay a greater share of taxes.
More details on who would be impacted by the tax hike and the amount of revenue it would generate will be released throughout the campaign, the party said.
“We’re going to ask those who have the most ability to pay to do exactly that, and ensure that middle-income and low-income families have no increase in their taxes because they simply cannot afford it,” Ms. Horwath said.
Ms. Horwath also promised to accelerate the rollout of universal pharmacare and dental care programs, which the federal Liberal government has committed to implementing nationally over the next five years with support from the federal NDP. Ms. Horwath took issue with that timeframe, saying a provincial NDP government would move to implement the programs immediately. Enacting the first step of the pharmacare plan in Ontario is expected to cost $475-million.
Ontario NDP promises $25 minimum wage for early childhood educators
Ms. Horwath previously announced that an Ontario NDP government would immediately invest $500-million in expanding OHIP to cover mental health care, including therapy and counselling services. If the program were fully implemented, the NDP estimates it would cost $1.15-billion annually.
The other major provincial parties have not yet released full platforms, but have been holding announcements to promote individual aspects of their plans.
Also on Monday, the PC government announced a plan to invest $1-billion in expanding home medical care over the next three years, which it said would benefit about 700,000 families. The government has made several other announcements over the past few weeks, in which it has promised increased funding in areas such as health care and public transit.
Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca pledged on Monday to double the Old Age Security top-up by providing up to $1,000 a year to eligible seniors. In addition, the party said it plans to expand the eligibility threshold for the top-up to $25,000 in annual income for single seniors and $50,000 for couples.
The full NDP platform can be found online.
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