Skip to main content

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty conceded yesterday that his government's controversial health tax will continue to dog the Liberals as he unofficially kicked off the election campaign by adjourning the legislature 3½ weeks early.

Opposition members have labelled Mr. McGuinty a promise breaker for introducing the health tax after pledging during the 2003 election campaign not to raise taxes.

"I know it's an issue," he told reporters. "It will always remain an issue for us."

Story continues below advertisement

The Premier took the rare step yesterday of inviting reporters and television cameras into the Liberals' caucus room, where he defiantly defended the decision to impose the health tax. He said his government had to clean up the mess left behind by the previous Progressive Conservative government, including a $5.5-billion deficit. The health tax adds $2.6-billion a year to the province's general revenue coffers.

"I hated making that decision. ... But we were desperately short of money and the system was under desperate pressure," he told 57 members of the Liberal caucus who greeted him with cries of "four more years."

In return, he said, his government has delivered better health care and education to Ontarians.

Mr. McGuinty said he adjourned the legislature's spring session early because his government has completed its agenda, with the passage of 14 new pieces of legislation.

"We're not leaving a single bill on the order paper," he said.

But opposition members criticized the Premier for ending the session one day before committee hearings were set to begin into grants given to groups with ties to the Liberal Party.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle was to appear before the standing committee on estimates today.

Story continues below advertisement

With the legislature shutting down, Mr. Colle will no longer have to answer for the "slush fund" he has been running out of his ministry, said Progressive Conservative House Leader Bob Runciman. "It's clear that that's the real reason Dalton McGuinty is running out the door."

New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton said the McGuinty government decided to "cut and run" because it is "desperate" to avoid having Mr. Colle answer questions about the grants handed out by his ministry.

The alleged multimillion-dollar slush fund dominated much of Question Period during the spring session. In response to pressure from the opposition, Mr. McGuinty asked the provincial Auditor-General to conduct a special investigation last month into the grants handed out without any formal application process and totalling $32.4-million over the past two fiscal years.

The legislature won't be back in session until some time after the provincial election on Oct. 10.

With recent polls showing the Liberals and Tories in a neck-and-neck race, all parties have stepped up their campaign efforts in recent days.

"Trust is going to play a very big role in this election," Mr. Hampton told reporters.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter