· by Huzaifa Saeed
On April 16, 2018, Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath announced the NDP’s 2018 Election Platform Change for the Better. Below is a high-level synopsis of the major policy initiatives within the platform brought to you in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
Five Key Promises
- Provide drug and dental coverage for all Ontarians.
- End hallway medicine and fix seniors care.
- A 30 percent cut to hydro bills by bringing Hydro One back into public hands.
- Take on student debt by converting loans to grants, and creating thousands of student co-op jobs.
- Protect middle-class families by having the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.
The NDP plan to establish universal dental and pharmacare programs:
- Every employer will be mandated to provide dental benefits that meet a minimum standard of care. The estimated cost for this program is $575 million; and
- Introduce a pharmacare program that covers 125 “essential” medicines and then expand to universal pharmacare by 2020. The estimated cost is $475 million.
The NDP’s platform focuses on supporting hospitals as a means of improving the health care system. Their plan includes:
- Increasing hospital funding by 5.3 percent, with an additional $916 million investment;
- Ensuring annual funding for hospitals will be at or above inflation, and reflect population growth and aging
- Investing $19 billion over 10 years into hospital capital expansion;
- Creating 2,000 new hospital beds; and
- Ending arbitrary caps on surgeries to shorten wait times.
They also have a plan for addressing long-term care needs:
- Create 40,000 more long-term care beds, including 15,000 new beds over the next five years;
- Set standards to ensure each long-term care resident is offered a minimum of four hours of dedicated care per day;
- Hold a public inquiry into long-term care; and
- Update the Long-Term Care Residents’ Bill of Rights to give couples the right to stay together.
Their mental health and addiction strategy includes:
- Establish a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions;
- Hire 2,600 new mental health care workers;
- Build 30,000 new supportive housing units;
- Invest $590 million to cut children’s mental health waits to a 30-day maximum; and
- Invest $100 million in Ontario’s Dementia Strategy.
Other healthcare-related promises include:
- Eliminate the home care wait list;
- Invest $30 million in community care and open 35 new Community Health Centres by 2025;
- End front-line healthcare staff layoffs;
- Provide complete coverage for take-home cancer drugs;
- Guarantee no cuts or closures of women’s health centres and add 360 midwives; and
- Eliminate wait times for palliative and end-of-life care.
The OCC recognizes that healthcare is moving away from a hospital-centric model, and that technology is increasingly playing a critical role in the delivery of care. While greater investment is needed in the system, that investment should be dedicated to increasing value for dollars spent and improving patient outcomes.
Education and Training
The NDP pledge to create 27,000 new work-integrated learning opportunities for Ontario students and double the Career Kick-Start Program. Additionally, they intend to spend $57 million from the Jobs and Prosperity Fund to create opportunities in the trades including bringing more women and minority groups into the skilled trades. They will also place a moratorium on school closures.
In Vote Prosperity, we ask that the government prioritize modernizing the apprenticeship system through revising the journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio, reforming the Ontario College of Trades, and digitizing the application process. While an expansion of the Career Kick-Start Program is welcome, the province needs more than 27,000 work-integrated learning opportunities. The Ontario Chamber Network passed a resolution in 2017 asking for a moratorium on school closures in rural and Northern areas of the province.
Energy and Electricity
The NDP platform proposes several changes to Ontario’s electricity sector, including a pledge to reduce electricity bills by 30 percent and put Hydro One back into public hands. In addition to these promises they will also:
- Remove mandatory time-of-use charges, capping private profit margins;
- Ensure rural users pay the same delivery costs and exempt First Nations communities from delivery charges;
- Seek to end the over-supply and cancelling/renegotiating bad private contracts; and
- Make expanding natural gas access to rural communities a priority.
From the position of the OCC, reductions in electricity costs must not adversely affect the reliability or sustainability of the energy system. There should also be clear accounting as to the impact price reductions and actions such as buying back Hydro One would have on taxpayers.
In our 2018 Pre-Budget submission, we highlighted the need to continue natural gas expansion to create significant economic development opportunities.
The NDP will increase access to affordable housing by building 65,000 new affordable homes over the next decade. They will also make rentals more affordable by introducing new legislation to include:
- Effective, reasonable, predictable rent controls;
- A rental registry, so tenants can know previous costs charged by a landlord;
- Protection for renters who pay their rent and abide by their agreements;
- Updated rules to recognize changing rental markets; and
- Guarantees that rent will remain affordable in the long term, while continuing to spur investments in new, purpose-built rentals.
The NDP pledges to overhaul inclusionary zoning regulations to require a certain number of affordable homes within new housing developments. They will also invest in the creation minimum density in developments along new transit lines, letting municipalities opt out of some minimum parking requirements.
In Vote Prosperity, the OCC encourages the government to focus on “strategic growth policies by ensuring that land use planning and development regulations are aligned, to increase density and create more housing stock.” The OCC is pleased to see the NDP commit to addressing the cost of living for Ontarians by aligning development regulations and land use planning and would welcome further alignments in the future.
Jobs and the Economy
The NDP will make further changes to labour and employment law in Ontario, including:
- Require employers to offer at least three weeks paid vacation;
- Increase the minimum wage to $15/hour for everyone, including students and restaurant workers; and
- Put in place card-based union certification and first-contract arbitration.
They also plan to create a stream within the Jobs and Prosperity Fund to promote manufacturing research and development.
They pledge to spend $1 billion to take immediate action on the Ring of Fire, including collaborating with Northern communities and First Nations to begin building infrastructure. They support bringing smelting and ferrochrome processing to Northern Ontario.
As outlined in our Bill 148 advocacy, the OCC supports sector exemptions for changes to labour and employment law, including application of the minimum wage. We also support the secret ballot for union certification.
Immediate action on the Ring of Fire, including infrastructure investment for Northern and First Nations communities, is a priority of the OCC.
The NDP will continue with the cap and trade market, and dedicate 25 percent of its revenues to support Northern, rural and low-income Ontarians.
They also plan to dedicate $50 million in cap and trade revenues to seed the creation of a new no-interest/on-bill home-efficiency retrofit program, to help residents install energy conserving technologies and improve the energy efficiency of their home.
The OCC has consistently advocated that there should be a prioritization of the allocation of cap and trade revenue for businesses, in addition to other efforts to offset the cost of cap and trade. It is not clear from this platform how the remaining 75 percent of cap and trade revenues will be used, whether those funds will flow into general revenue or only be used for greenhouse gas reduction policies and programs.
The NDP pledge to invest $180 billion in infrastructure over the next decade, with a focus on public-only projects instead of “wasteful” public-private partnerships.
The NDP will invest $100 million in natural gas expansion to rural Ontario and create a 10-year $1 billion fund for bringing broadband service to rural and Northern communities, while also lobbying the federal government to match it.
The NDP plan to expand Community Benefits Agreements, making them integral to all infrastructure projects. These agreements prioritize experience for Ontario apprentices and set standards for efficiency and climate-resilient construction.
The OCC has a longstanding history of advocating for public procurement reform, based on the principle that procurement should be value-driven and evaluated by evidence-based outcomes. In Building Better: Setting up the Next Ontario Long-Term Infrastructure Plan for Success, the OCC recommended that the Government of Ontario should work to develop comprehensive principles and elements from successfully procured projects that were delivered using alternative financing and procurement methods which can then be applied as best practices to smaller scale projects. AFP includes strategic use of public-private partnerships.
The OCC has also consistently advocated for trade-enabling infrastructure, including both traditional infrastructure and digital infrastructure such as high-speed broadband internet and is pleased to see the NDP focusing on broadband in its election platform.
Transit and Transportation
The NDP intend to fund 50 percent of net transit operating costs across Ontario, including investing more than $330 million in Toronto and over $800 million across the province.
They are also pledging to bring two-way all-day GO service between Kitchener–Waterloo and Toronto and year-round GO rail service between Niagara and Toronto. The NDP will also electrify GO networks and the UP Express, and make sure GO planning integrates with density plans.
In Toronto, NDP will make it a priority to fund and build the Downtown Toronto Relief Line. They are also pledging to build Hamilton’s LRT. They intend to implement a Northern Rail Strategy, which will include supporting Ontario Northlander’s passenger service and the Huron Central and Algoma Central Rail Lines.
The NDP will direct Metrolinx to begin multilateral discussions with the federal government and local transit authorities focused on coordinating GO train and VIA Rail service with urban transit.
In our 2018 Pre-Budget submission, the OCC called for a commitment of the portion of infrastructure spending to support The Big Move’s Next Wave projects, including the Relief Line. The OCC has long advocated for fare integration within the GTHA and is pleased to see a focus by the NDP on this issue.
The NDP will increase the corporate income tax to 13 percent up from the present 11.5 percent. The increase will be phased in over two years, increasing by one percentage point in 2019-20 and 0.5 percentage points in 2021-22.
They also intend to increase the income tax rate among the top earners in the province by raising the tax on amounts earned over $220,000 by one percentage point, and on earnings over $300,000 by two percentage points.
The NDP will continue the Education Tax Reduction Plan, adjusted to equalize rates, and will review the way the tax works.
They also promise to crack down on excessive public sector executive compensation.
The NDP will re-examine the Employer Health Tax. Starting in 2019–20, businesses with payrolls over $3 million will no longer qualify for small business exemptions and beginning in 2021–22, small business exemptions will be available only to businesses with payrolls below $1.5 million.
The NDP plan continues to utilize deficit spending to finance their platform over the next five-year term.
In Vote Prosperity, the OCC called on all parties to reinstate scheduled reductions in the Corporate Income Tax, standardize the Business Education Tax, and reduce the Employer Health Tax. While we are pleased to see the NDP address the BET and EHT tax issues, an increase in Ontario’s corporate income tax weakens business competitiveness relative to our neighbouring jurisdictions.
Additionally, in our 2018 Pre-Budget submission and Vote Prosperity, the OCC called on all parties to create a meaningful plan to tackle the debt and move towards balanced or surplus budgets. While we recognize that the NDP platform presents a more aggressive balanced budget schedule than that of the current government, we remain concerned about the viability of continued deficits in the long-term.
In the coming weeks, to supplement the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce will be releasing a platform of Hamilton specific priorities for the provincial election. For more information and to discuss your key issues as a member, please contact Huzaifa Saeed, Policy & Research Analyst at: 905-522-1151 ext: 230, e: firstname.lastname@example.org