New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath laid out her conditions for supporting the minority Liberal government on Tuesday, including having the 1 per cent in Ontario pay higher income taxes.
Ms. Horwath is calling on the government to use the annual revenues of $570-million a year from higher taxes on those who earn more than $500,000 a year to help low-income families with everything from home-heating costs to child-care spaces.
"Ontario's not going to prosper if households are falling further behind," Ms. Horwath said. "If we have to choose between a working mom who needs help with the kids or a CEO who needs help with a seven-figure paycheque, let's help that mom."
Ms. Horwath, the leader who holds the political cards in Ontario at the moment, made it clear that Tuesday's announcement is just the first in a series of budget proposals designed to save the government.
The proposals follow a series of behind-the-scenes talks between the chiefs of staff for Ms. Horwath and Premier Dalton McGuinty, house leaders for both parties, and Liberal MPP Greg Sorbara and NDP MPP Rosario Marchese.
Mr. McGuinty has said repeatedly that he is open to hearing what Ms. Horwath has to say but that he won't consider any proposals that involve spending more money.
Ms. Horwath has come up with a proposal designed to get around the fact that the Premier has "drawn a line in the sand." Having Ontarians in the highest income brackets – those who earn more than $500,000 a year – pay higher taxes would raise more than enough money to pay for the three demands she outlined on Tuesday:
- Removing the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax from home-heating bills, a measure that would cost $350-million a year.
- Providing $50-million in funding to support more than 4,000 child-care spaces.
- Provide those living on disability with additional annual funding of $40-million.
Increasing the tax rate for high-income earners by 2 percentage points to 13.16 per cent would raise $570-million a year, according to the New Democrats' calculations.
Ms. Horwath reiterated her criticism that the budget tabled by the Liberals last Tuesday contains no measures to address the challenges facing many low-income Ontarians. Her measures, she said, bring "a dose of fairness to a budget that badly needs some."
Ms. Horwath was coy when asked by reporters if her party will vote against the budget if these proposals are rejected.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," she said.
But she added that the Liberals should not outright reject a tax hike for high income earners.
"We don't want the government to pull a Tim Hudak and say, 'my way or the highway'," she said.
Her proposals, she said, are the product of her party's consultations with Ontarians. The NDP invited Ontarians to respond to the budget through a website and toll-free phone number, and received more than 30,000 responses.
"They're not happy with the budget," Ms. Horwath told reporters earlier this week. "It puts a big burden on everyday folks."
Ms. Horwath has made it clear that she won't support the budget unless changes are made. The fate of the nearly six-month-old minority government landed in her lap after Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak outright rejected the budget just hours after it was unveiled.