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politics

What a Liberal Win Would Mean for Toronto

Here's what the future might hold for our city if Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals form the next provincial government.

kathleen wynne throne speech

The relationship between Toronto and the Liberal Party of Ontario is complex. While the NDP has its downtown strongholds, and the PCs have recently made inroads in Thornhill and the Fords’ Etobicoke, much of the city remains solidly Liberal—hence the party’s hold on power for the last eleven years. We shrug and ignore eHealth, Ornge, gas plants, and assorted micro-scandals, and keep our ridings Grit-red year after year. So what can we expect in return for our unflinching, seemingly inexplicable loyalty should the Liberals win again?

Leader Kathleen Wynne has said that if she keeps the big office, she’ll reintroduce the rejected budget that triggered the fall of her government. What goodies do the budget, and all the subsequent electioneering, promise the T-dot?

Transportation

The big-ticket item here is $15 billion over 10 years for transportation and infrastructure in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The plan would include GO upgrades that would provide for electrification and allow trains to run every 15 minutes on all lines (presumably whether they are needed to or not); a TTC “relief line” (like the PCs, the Grits have stripped out the politically risky “downtown” from the name); and the building up of Hamilton’s transit (which counts if we consider Hamilton as a less hipsterish Brooklyn to Toronto’s more insecure Manhattan.)

Obviously, trains are awesome: the problem is funding. Not much more than a year ago, Wynne was making bold noises about the fact that transit should be funded by new, dedicated revenue sources—possibly including tolls, congestion charges, or even a provincial sales tax. Shortly thereafter, Metrolinx came out with a study that recommended an increase in the HST, a new five-cent fuel tax, and a variety of other dedicated measures be used to pay for transit expansion. Wynne, faced on the one hand with this expert recommendation and on the other with a minority government and a disgruntled electorate, sent the question away for further study.

As a result, the funding for Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends would have to come largely from existing revenue streams—the current gas tax and the HST—which would likely create gaps in support for current programs. The Liberals might also employ the “borrow and beg” strategy by issuing new “green bonds” and lobbying the feds to pony up some cash through the Building Canada Plan. Given that the province is still crawling out of the 2008 recession, these trains could be slow to arrive.


Pension Plan

The proposed Ontario Pension Plan isn’t Toronto specific, but it warrants mention because it’s arguably the boldest move in the budget. Under this proposal—basically a middle finger raised at Stephen Harper for his refusal to enhance the Canada Pension Plan—workers and employers would pay into a plan that would then supplement their meagre CPP earnings after retirement. The upside of this is obvious: greater income security for the elderly, with the added benefit that the youth of tomorrow won’t have to deal with a cohort of cranky Gen Xers tweeting about eating cat food for breakfast. The downside is that it’s a new tax, and not a trivial one: you and your employer could each be on the hook for up to $1,600 a year (depending on income). And there are other, arguably more efficient ways to get people to save for retirement.


Social Programs

The Grits are thinking of the children here, presumably in part because they wanted to force the NDP into making a choice between supporting the budget or looking like heartless Hudakians. A Wynne government would oversee the continued rollout of the all-day kindergarten subsidized daycare plan (which the Tories would halt), and bump the Ontario Child Benefit to $1,310 annually and index it to inflation. Older kids aren’t left out; the Liberal budget continues the current grant for 30 per cent off tuition. Programs such as these are particularly important to Toronto, where child poverty is more than twice the national and provincial average.


Office Space, Ontario Place, Farms, and Trees

In the city itself, the Grits propose to save money by squishing civil servants closer together like the Tokyo subway commuters during rush hour, thereby freeing up about a million square feet of office space.

They also commit to transforming Ontario Place back into the family fun centre that it hasn’t been since around the time Pong was invented—starting with the creation of the already announced Urban Park and Waterfront Trail, scheduled to open in 2015.

The Libs would also “create a Farms Forever Program to protect prime agricultural land close to urban centres” and “promote urban forestry by planting one million trees” (with no word on how many of those Toronto would get).


To offset all these projected costs, the Wynne government proposes a few measures, notably a hike in personal income tax for those earning over $150,000 annually, and a few billion in anticipated savings through a restructuring of pension expenses. In the meantime, the government is expecting lower than originally forecast revenues over the next of couple years, and yet is still promising to eliminate the deficit by 2018. Whether you buy the Liberal claim that they’re “on track” with the deficit fighting (it depends which projection you’re working with), their current schedule calls for them to drop the billions at an accelerating rate over the next four years—and it’s not clear how they would make that happen. So the overall Liberal plan might paint a pretty picture for Toronto—lots of new transit, youth being educated, the elderly being supported—but it fails to answer one crucial question: How much of this generosity can we actually afford?

CORRECTION: May 29, 2014, 4:10 PM This post originally stated that the Liberals are proposing a tax hike for those earning between $150,000 and $220,000 annually; in fact, the hike would affect all those earning over $150,000 annually.


  What a Green Win Would Mean for Toronto   What an NDP Win Would Mean for Toronto     What a Progressive Conservative Win Would Mean for Toronto  

Comments

  • Wonko

    Full day kindergarten is more than an “all-day [...] subsidized daycare plan”. You should do more research before adopting the language of its ideological detractors in describing it.

  • em_robin

    “planting one million trees”

    Hudak should steal this for his “one million jobs” creation plan. One million people planting one tree each; there, one million jobs created! He never said or promised how long said jobs would last…

    • Ben James Waechter

      lol

  • em_robin

    “None of the above” is also known as spoiling your ballot. I get the feeling there will be a higher-than-normal amount of that this time around…

    • nevilleross

      Something for those doing this action that should be considered:

      • tomwest

        … unless you’re inelgible to vote.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          If you aren’t eligible to vote you can’t spoil or refuse your ballot.

      • torontothegreat
        • nevilleross

          Then he can’t complain, can he?

          Of course, George was as wealthy as fuck (probably) so he wouldn’t have to care about who to vote for in the USA.

          • torontothegreat

            Did you even watch the bit?

            Resorting to ad hominem attacks against George Carlin doesn’t make you right and the way you tried to logically piece together -> he’s rich, he doesn’t need to care about who is in power <- is beyond the reach of logic.

            Would it help if it was a quote from someone who's net worth wasn't 6 million dollars (not exactly "wealthy as fuck", as you put it)

            "But wait a minute dad, did you actually say freedom? Well, if you're dumb enough to vote, you're fucking dumb enough to believe them"

            ~ Propagandhi

            If you've got something worthwhile to say regarding his or Propagandhi's comments, say it. Don't just type for the sake of typing.

      • Gabriel Mansour

        Don’t blame me—I voted for Kodos.

  • Kat Mf

    And don’t forget that under liberal leadership at the provincial level, all dog owners continue to be treated as second class citizens thanks to BSL – warrantless entry, reverse onus should I chose to take it to court, yup. My kind of province!

    • dsmithhfx

      KATZ ROOL!!!

  • tomwest

    “Leader Kathleen Wynne has said that if she keeps the big office, she’ll reintroduce the rejected budget that triggered the fall of her government”

    Assuming no Liberal majority, then the budget could fail, equating to a vote of no confidence in the Liberal government. Historical precedent (1985) suggests that if the governing party loses a vote of no confidence right after an election, then the Lieutenant Govenor will offer the second-largest party (i.e. the PCs) the chance to form a government instead.
    So Wynne can’t re-introduce her budget unless she can be sure the NDP won’t vote against it, which surely requires some sort of concessions to the NDP.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Wynne has already said she’s open to a coalition government (with the NDP), which means Horwath could hold the balance of power in a number of possible outcomes.

      • dsmithhfx

        It’ll be interesting to see what fate awaits Horwath if the gambit fails to enlarge their seat count. I’m guessing it won’t be pretty.

      • Ben James Waechter

        she has also blasted horwath for horwath note ruling out the possibility of her supporting the conservatives in forming a government.

    • MaryL

      ” … then the Lieutenant Govenor will offer the second-largest party (i.e. the PCs) the chance to form a government instead.” Oh. Great. Nightmares now.

      • Ben James Waechter

        the PC, by the simply fact that they are not the liberals would be a much better choice then the liberals. Any party other then liberal should be voted in. heck even vote in the communist party as long as it is not the liberals

  • tomwest

    Minor mistake: the hike in income tax would apply to all those earning over $150k, not just those earning $150-250k. If you’re earning over $250k, your marginal rate stays the same, but the portion of your income between $150k and 250k is being taxed at a higher rate.

    • TorontoistEditors

      You’re absolutely right! We’ve made the correction.

  • tomwest

    What specific expenses would you cut?

    • Ben James Waechter

      CBC. eliminate funding for CBC, theres 1/15th of the 15 billion for transit per year right there

      • tomwest

        Given it’s a national thing being cut, giving to one fifth of the national population seems unfair

        • Ben James Waechter

          Just trying to make a point. Even if we don’t cut CBC, (which is biased and seems to only get heartland right), we could simply not waste 1 billion dollars on a gas plant scandel, or as much as 470million on MaRs building ext ext and then we would see that we have the money for these transit projects without raising taxs and you and me can keep more of our money

          • HotDang

            Spelling is hard, eh?

  • UnknownTransit

    The one thing taxpayers should have leart is that private corporations cannot do things properly. They somehow always screw up and need the government to bail them out. The liberals love to send stuff to private entity without overseeing their actions and this is what they get. This clearly means privatization have a high chance of failure.

  • Kat Mf

    Have you read Ontario’s BSL? Calling it a “pit bull” ban is a red herring. The legislation includes any dog sharing in physical characteristics. Which means my short haired, long narrow tailed, 35lb shar pei lab mix is all of a sudden lumped into that group. The liberals were very clever in how they delivered BSL. And most of the public, specifically dog owners, don’t realize that they have less constitutional rights than their neighbor who owns a cat or a purebred dog registered with the CKC.

    I won’t even comment on your idiotic reference to animals created to kill things but FYI – in Ontario it is LEGAL to own a tiger or other exotic animals. Unless you live in Ottawa (which coincidentally, does not enforce BSL.)

  • torontothegreat

    “an animal created to kill things”

    A Shark?
    A Tiger?
    A Lion?
    A Liger?

    • dsmithhfx

      ..

  • ei(pi)+1=0

    Well, it definitely would be an endorsement that the Liberals have the green light to waste whatever money they want to.

  • Ben James Waechter

    dogs are mans best friend stop being a hater. my dog wouldn’t hurt a fly I could understand you being a cat person but dont hate on dogs so much

  • Ben James Waechter

    your future, your life. just remember to add in money for worthless gas plants and other scandles.

  • Kat Mf

    Sasha I don’t blame Wynne specifically, obviously. And I hate the idea that my vote is so driven by this issue (at the provincial level only) but the liberal government has made it clear they won’t get rid of this bad legislation. The latest private members bill made it all the way to third reading in 2012 (I believe?). It was a tri-party bill and included some technical amendments to the DOLA (like some minor terminology errors) and even some amendments stiffening owner liability for dangerous dogs. The liberal MPPs voted down EVERY SINGLE AMENDMENT. It’s pure stubbornness. And nobody seems to care that dog owners rights are being trampled on.

    I repeat – why should I have less rights than my neighbor just because I own non purebreds?

  • Kat Mf

    Wow you don’t get it, do you?
    Firstly, BSL is not evidence based, look it up – I have spent enough time doing so and you can do your own homework.

    Secondly, my point is that I DON’T own a “pit bull” type dog, which is the dog BSL is supposedly targeting (it doesn’t), but the two dogs I DO own (a puggle and a sharpei mix) are NOT PUREBREDS and therefore NOT REGISTERED with the CKC which means if animal control decides to label one of them a “pit bull” i have NO WAY OF DISPUTING IT!!!

    DNA tests are not admissible in court (obviously, since they are not very accurate for identifying dog genetics).

    Prior to taking the case to court, the only person whose opinion as to what the breed is counts is Animal Control. They are not trained in breed identification. They have a chart of X number of physical characteristic and the dog only has to share X number of those characteristics to be considered a “pit bull”. I hope at this point you have begun to appreciate the irony of the term BREED SPECIFIC legislation.

    I would surely chose to be charged and take it to court as I am not one to hand over my dogs to anybody, and so then it would be on ME to prove they are NOT what they are being accused of BEING. REVERSE ONUS.

  • Karen Batchelor