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NDP demands in hand, McGuinty considering options to save budget

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is seen in this 2011 file photo.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty plans to respond to New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath's demands for saving his minority Liberal government as early as this week.

Mr. McGuinty said on Tuesday that he will look at the NDP's package "in its entirety" shortly after Ms. Horwath unveiled her third and final series of proposals.

Ms. Horwath said there is nothing in the provincial budget tabled by the Liberals last month to help the nearly 550,000 people in Ontario looking for work. She reprised a key element of her platform for last fall's election campaign by calling for a tax credit that rewards companies that create new jobs. Employers would be reimbursed 10 per cent of the salary paid to a new employee during the first year to a maximum of $5,000.

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The measure is similar to one proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama, Ms. Horwath said. She said that $250-million of the Liberals' proposed $2-billion jobs and prosperity fund could be set aside to pay for the tax credit.

"Instead of more handouts with no strings attached, we need a plan that rewards the real job creators and uses our resources to keep jobs in Ontario," Ms. Horwath said at a news conference on Tuesday morning.

Ms. Horwath also wants Ontario's natural resource riches to be processed in the province - another measure that was in her campaign platform. Processing the resources here, she said, would create jobs in Ontario instead of exporting raw ore outside the province.

The Liberals' budget would actually lead to job losses, Ms. Horwath said, because it proposes closing the Ontario Northland railway, a move that would also leave many communities in the north without transportation services.

Ms. Horwath wants the Liberals to keep the railway in public hands. She is also calling for measures to stabilize other sectors affected by the budget, including the horseracing industry, which stands to lose its government subsidy.

But Mr. McGuinty suggested that continuing to subsidize the horseracing industry is a non starter. With the province facing a $15.3-billion deficit, the Liberals are looking for ways to reduce program spending, he said, and health care and education are much higher priorities.

"It's always easier to spend more," Mr. McGuinty told reporters in Windsor, Ont., where he was touring a plant. "It's so much harder to spend less."

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Last week, Ms. Horwath called for a tax on the rich - a new tax bracket for people who earn more than $500,000 a year - as well as a pay cap for executives of hospitals, universities and other public sector entities.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has vowed to vote against the budget, so the Liberals need support from the party that came third in the fall election to survive.

Mr. McGuinty criticized the Tories on Tuesday for not submitting a single proposal for his government to consider.

"They'd like to have an expensive, unnecessary election exactly at a time when what our province needs, what our economy needs, what our businesses need, what our families need, is certainty and stability," he said.

/In fact, the Tories have called on the government to introduce new legislation that would freeze wages for public sector workers who bargain collectively. The Tories also want the Liberals to proceed with further cuts to corporate taxes. The Liberals are delaying cutting the rate from 11.5 per cent to 10 per cent until the deficit is eliminated.

Tory MPP Christine Elliott said the budget does not control the size or cost of government or contain any ideas to create jobs. She also accused the Liberals of protesting "just a little bit too much" about not wanting an election.

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"They seem to be out there on the campaign trail, kissing babies," Ms. Elliott told reporters on Tuesday.

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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