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Ontario NDP lists child care, health care in electoral platform

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath addresses supporters at a rally in Toronto on Monday.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Ontario’s New Democrats would invest billions in schools and hospitals while spending billions more expanding social programs, paid for by increasing taxes on higher incomes, Leader Andrea Horwath promised if her party forms government.

Looking to win a June election to the left of a Liberal Party that has moved steadily toward the NDP’s brand of politics, Ms. Horwath unveiled her party’s electoral platform on Monday. The New Democrats are also looking to make gains against a Progressive Conservative Party under Doug Ford that looks poised to win power, helped by blue-collar voters who were once the NDP’s base.

The party’s blueprint for the election promises big spending targeted at Ontarians who make less than $40,000 annually, with expanded access to inexpensive drugs and dental care, as well as child care that would cost lower-income families at most $12 a day.

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“We’ve been told to switch back and forth, from the Liberals to the Conservatives, and back again. As though the only choice is between bad and worse,” Ms. Horwath told supporters at a Toronto hospital as she prepares to lead the party for the third time into an election. “It absolutely does not have to be this way. I am here today because there is hope.”

The 100-page platform, dubbed Change for the Better, is Ms. Horwath’s plan to defeat Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals. Promising five years of deficits, the plan includes programs similar to those already announced by Ms. Wynne in a budget tabled last month, but expands them to more people.

Ms. Horwath received the loudest cheering on Monday for her child-care promise, which would create free spaces for families that earn less than $40,000. The party says 70 per cent of families would pay between zero and $12 daily. The amount a family would pay increases with their income and richer Ontarians would need to pay the full price for child care, currently about $20,000 annually in certain areas of the province.

The Liberals have promised free child care for all children from the ages of 2½ until they are eligible for kindergarten, regardless of a family’s income.

Ms. Horwath defended her party’s plan to require higher-income families to pay more. “That’s pretty much the theme of our plan,” she said. “We’ll ask those very top income earners, like Doug Ford, and those very profitable corporations, like Doug Ford’s corporation, to pay a little bit more so that the rest of us can build a good life.”

Under the NDP’s plan, people earning more than $220,000 would pay an extra percentage point in income tax, while those above $300,000 would pay two percentage points more in income tax. The party would also impose a 3-per-cent surcharge on vehicles that cost more than $90,000.

To cool the housing market further after the Liberals introduced a foreign buyer’s tax last year, the NDP would create a new speculation tax on homes. The tax would require foreigners and Canadians who don’t pay taxes in Ontario to pay $5 for every $1,000 of the assessed value of their property annually.

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The New Democrats also said they would cancel a 25-per-cent cut to hydro bills made by the Liberals and would instead find savings in the electricity system to cut bills by 30 per cent. They promised the 30-per-cent cut wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything. The Liberals said the plan would increase hydro rates.

“Ontario Liberals welcome many of the policies in the NDP platform as we are either already implementing them or because they reinforce our view that this election provides a stark choice between care and Conservative cuts,” the party said in a statement.

The New Democrats’ fiscal plan was assessed by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, run by former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page. The “costing of individual measures appears reasonable,” Mr. Page concluded.

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