Here's what the future might hold for our city if Andrea Horwath and the NDP form the next provincial government.
It’s been an interesting election campaign so far, not least because of the spectacle of NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne weaving from left to right like drunk boxers, while Tim Hudak smirks grimly from the sidelines hoping for a mutual knockout. Last week, the NDP released their “Plan That Makes Sense” (presumably crafted by the Marketing Team With Little Imagination), the contents of which confirm that this party is currently wrestling with its own split personality.
Although the document is sprinkled with ideas and language from both the Liberal and PC platforms, it doesn’t do much to challenge the old trope of NDP-ers as socialist spendthrifts. So if they formed a government, what would that mean for Toronto?
Transit is one of the few policy areas where the NDP specifically targets Hogtown, and they’ve cut and pasted their plan directly from the very Liberal budget they shot down. It features an overall transit and infrastructure expenditure of $29 billion over 10 years, with a healthy chunk designated for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Priorities would include “the Downtown Relief Line, Scarborough transit, Clean Trains Now on the air-rail link, all-day two-way GO train service to Kitchener-Waterloo, and year-round daily GO train service to St. Catharines and Niagara.” (It’s perhaps a measure of our Toronto-centricity that there’s no mention of where the two-way service to these cities would originate.)
These initiatives go largely unaccounted for in the costing chart provided, evidently because the NDP assume that if the Liberals would be able pay for such things from existing revenue streams, they would too. In fact, it’s unlikely that either of them could make that work.
“Make Life More Affordable”
Their term, not ours. While the commitments that fall under this header would indeed make life more affordable for the average voter, they would also make for a far costlier provincial budget.
The NDP promise to remove the provincial portion of the HST from home hydro bills, a logistically challenging vote-buying tactic previously advocated by the PCs. Back in 2011, when the concept was first proposed, environmental commissioner Gord Miller condemned it (and other hydro price-reduction initiatives) as a idea that sent the wrong signals about the importance of energy conservation.
The platform commits to reducing auto insurance rates by 15 per cent. This echoes a Liberal promise from 2013 that has yet to be fulfilled (in part because of objections from insurers that the reduction in premiums would need to be balanced out by a reduction in costs).
“Prevent unfair price increases for natural gas consumers.” Who gets to decide what’s unfair? For all the handwringing over the Orange losing touch with their Socialist roots, proposals like this one show they can still mount the barricades when they want to.
“Help families install solar panels and make energy efficient retrofits … this revolving fund would provide homeowners with loans for energy efficient retrofits and the installation of solar panels, which are paid back through energy savings—helping families consume less energy, save money, and help the environment.” Loans that get repaid via energy savings look like a good idea—but for now we’ll have to suspend judgment, as the devil is often in the details.
Health and Social Programs
Not surprisingly, the NDP are making a lot of promises in this area. They would, for example,
- provide “… critical relief funding to help childcare providers and parents in our first year in government” and “ongoing funding to prevent the closure of childcare centres in 18 communities,”
- freeze post-secondary tuition fees and make student loans interest-free, and
- expand dental benefits to 100,000 children from low-income households.
When it comes to the health portfolio, which already accounts for the lion’s share of the provincial budget, the NDP are particularly ambitious. They would
- open new 24-hour family health clinics,
- hire more nurse practitioners to treat and discharge patients in ERs,
- eliminate the waitlists for acute long-term care beds,
- eliminate wait times for seniors with a five-day home-care guarantee, and
- support families caring for the ill or elderly with a Caregiver Tax Credit.
A big chunk of the money needed for these proposed programs is expected to come from an increase in corporate taxes–but, as large corporations have a tendency to change behaviours in order to reduce taxes (i.e., booking profits in other provinces), it’s possible such an increase might not actually produce the anticipated revenue. They’re also assuming $600 million will be saved by way of a new “Minister of Savings and Accountability,” who will presumably be tasked with looking under the same kinds of seat cushions that turned up surprisingly little cash for Rob Ford when he undertook a similar exercise in Toronto.
It’s hard to argue with helping kids, seniors, and the economically disadvantaged. But, while the NDP platform makes clear that we’d all get to do a lot of dancing, it, like the ones developed by the Grits and even the Tories, fails to outline a realistic plan for paying the piper.
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