Now that’s an NDP election platform.
The Ontario NDP, struggling to compete for voters with the poll-leading Progressive Conservatives, and threatened by the leftward drift of the Liberals, has made the risky decision to just go ahead and be itself.
Its platform, released Monday, is not some centrist document aimed at easing the minds of undecided voters. And it is not the weak tea of Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has spent the last two years doing her best impression of an NDP leader in an effort to protect her party’s left flank.
No, this is full-on, unapologetic NDP. An Ontario government led by Andrea Horwath would spend billions on new or expanded social programs, most notably free dental care and pharmacare for all, and subsidized public daycare that would be free for families earning less that $40,000 per year.
Provincial university loans would be turned into non-repayable grants, and the government would forgive the interest on outstanding student debts.
An NDP government would also re-nationalize Hydro One, and fund 50 per cent of net municipal transit costs. The minimum wage would rise to $15 per hour and be indexed thereafter, and employers would be obliged to give employees three weeks of annual holiday, instead of two.
In doing all this and much more, the NDP would run deficits rising to $5.1-billion in 2020, but reduce the shortfall in the years after. To increase revenues, it would raise taxes on the rich (by one percentage point on earnings over $220,000 and by two points on earnings over $300,000) and increase the corporate tax rate to 13 per cent, up from 11.5.
Even if businesses benefit from healthier workers who have affordable daycare, this is not a platform for Bay Street, or for this page. It would hurt Ontario’s competitiveness and continue its spiral into deeper debt.
But it is true to what the NDP stands for. In an election featuring a scandal-ridden governing party that is spending billions of borrowed dollars on new programs in a blatant effort to save itself, and a PC Party that was taken over in a moment of crisis by a populist sloganeer, Ms. Horwath is gambling that there is merit in sticking to your principles.