NDP pledges four-year tax freeze

Ontario New Democrats would freeze taxes on low- and middle-income families for four years if they win the June 2 election, the Star has learned.

When NDP Leader Andrea Horwath unveils her party’s platform Monday in Toronto’s Distillery District, a cornerstone promise will be freezing provincial income taxes for all households with a combined income of about $200,000 or less.

The blueprint for defeating Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives — entitled “Strong. Ready. Working For You.” — will highlight the cash crunch facing families as inflation hit 6.7 per cent last month, its highest level since 1991.

“Andrea’s fiscal approach will include a four-year freeze on taxes for low- and middle-income families,” a senior New Democrat official said, speaking confidentially in order to discuss the campaign manifesto.

“The number we’re looking at for the absolute four-year freeze is household incomes below roughly $200,000,” the insider said.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll raise taxes for everyone else,” the source emphasized.

But an NDP government would not starve the provincial treasury — especially since the Tories have been running massive deficits due to the two-year COVID-19 pandemic.

“On the flip side, we’ll make sure the very wealthiest corporations and highest income individuals pay their fair share,” the New Democrat said.

“That’s not people in that $200,000 plus category — we’re looking at multimillionaires and the giant corporations that made windfall profits during the pandemic.”

Aside from appealing to the wide swath of voters feeling the inflationary pinch, the tax-freeze pledge is designed to mitigate the expected campaign salvos from the Conservatives.

In recent weeks, government house leader Paul Calandra has been telegraphing the Tories’ line of attack against the NDP when it comes to pocketbook issues.

“The minister of finance recently brought a bill into this house that would lower the gas tax for the people of the province of Ontario … and how did the NDP vote? They voted against that,” Calandra told the legislature on April 11.

“They voted against putting more money in the pockets of the people of the province of Ontario.”

That temporary cut of 5.7 cents a litre of gasoline and 5.3 cents of other fuels — such as diesel and natural gas — only takes effect July 1 and expires at the end of the year.

The New Democrats warn they are more than willing to tackle the Tories on the economic matters that Ontario voters are discussing at their kitchen tables.

They believe Ford, scion of a wealthy family, is vulnerable to criticism that he is more interested in helping other rich people, including property developers who stand to profit from the building of Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass.

Due to environmental concerns, the NDP, Liberals and Greens have vowed to cancel Highway 413, which would run 60 km from Highway 401 at Milton to Highway 400 in Vaughan, and the 16.2 km Bradford Bypass linking Highways 400 and 404.

But the New Democrats are well aware that at least four developers with strong connections to the Tories own thousands of acres of prime real estate near the proposed route of the Highway 413.

“What we’re hearing from people the most is that they’re tired of Doug Ford helping his buddies, and leaving middle-income working people to pay the price,” said the senior NDP insider.

As well, the New Democrats will remind voters the Tories axed scheduled increases to the minimum wage upon winning power in 2018, only to finally relent and raise it to $15 an hour last January.

“Families in the middle are bearing the brunt of skyrocketing inflation,” said the party source.

“And it’s their wages that Ford is holding back.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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