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Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty releases the Liberal party platform at an event on Monday September 5, 2011 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/CP/Frank Gunn/CP)
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty releases the Liberal party platform at an event on Monday September 5, 2011 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/CP/Frank Gunn/CP)

McGuinty plan addresses Ontario's looming crisis Add to ...

We are confronting a major crisis in Ontario.

Our population is getting older, retiring sooner, living longer and costing more to keep healthy.

People of my generation will carry the cost of paying for the health care of more and more older Ontarians, while also paying for the education of our children.

The ratio between working citizens to those too young or too old to work is rapidly declining.

We must improve that equation, or face two terrible choices down the road: cutting health care and education or – alternatively – raising the tax burden on our productive companies and workforce so high that it might stifle our growth.

Dalton McGuinty’s platform begins to address this core challenge of our time.

We only have so many productive workers, so we need to make them as productive as possible.

More commuter trains get them to work faster, with more energy, able to contribute more.

Small business owners will get to put more money back into their businesses with a break in their taxes from 5% to 4.5%.

Tax credits for employers who give new Canadians work-related training will ensure more of us are able to contribute to Ontario.

Perhaps most impressively, the Liberals will follow up on their successful full-day kindergarten program by offering before and after-school programs to children up to 12, on a cost-recovery basis.

As a parent, any help in improving the patchwork of day care, home care, babysitters, family and friends who watch our children as we try to earn a buck is welcome. A co-ordinated program operated out of schools is a tremendous step forward.

There are also plans designed to make our future workers more productive, like summer school programs for struggling students, and better trained teachers with two-year education degrees. More campuses for undergraduates will mean more spots for the future.

On the other end of the equation, we have to lower the cost of health care for seniors.

Hospitals are by far the most expensive place to receive health care, and long-term care facilities are also much more expensive than a person’s own home.

Frankly, it is in everyone’s interest that seniors be able to live in their home as long as possible. My mother can enjoy greater independence and dignity, while enjoying a familiar surrounding, and my tax burden is lower because she is in a less expensive setting.

The Liberals are promising a tax credit for seniors who want to retrofit their home to live in them longer, and funding doctors to make house calls.

Also, additional money for personal care workers is critical. Three million more hours of support work for seniors will help keep people where they want to be: their home.

Also, to help seniors stay in their homes, the Liberals will let them defer their property tax hikes, a plan that will keep the costs on those living on fixed income more manageable.

Early cancer detection saves lives and avoids more expensive treatments, so the Liberals are going to do that, while also working to reduce childhood obesity with more help to keep kids active.

Smoking is another huge cost driver in health care, and the Liberals will double enforcement on contraband and increase fines for sale of cigarettes to children.

Overall, the Liberal platform begins the work of lowering the cost of health care while maintaining quality. It means seniors (and future seniors) will be able to live in their homes longer and with dignity.

At the same time, it aims to make those of us still humping it to the office five days a week more focused and productive, and more able to grow a strong economy.

It’s notable that the early criticism of the Liberal platform was on process, not substance.

Talk of leaked calls is the inside baseball nonsense that voters abhor about politics. These shenanigans alienate the public from government and distracts media coverage from what matters.

On substance, the Liberal platform will appeal to those key groups who will decide the election: seniors, working parents, new Canadians.

It addresses the issues polls tell us the public is concerned about: health care and the economy.

The challenge for the Liberals now is to ensure people keep talking about their platform for the next four weeks with the same intensity as the last 24 hours.

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