Categorized | Canadian Politics

Patrick Brown promises PCs would bring hydro bill relief, new subways, lower taxes

Posted on 01 December 2017 by admin

The Tory leader unveiled a “People’s Guarantee” at the Progressive Conservative policy convention Saturday in Toronto, pledging not to run for a second term if he fails to deliver on five major commitments.

 A Progressive Conservative government would reduce hydro rates by 12 per cent, invest $5 billion in new TTC subways that would be owned by Queen’s Park, and cut income taxes and child-care costs.

If Tory Leader Patrick Brown fails to meet any of his five major commitments in the glossy 78-page, 147-promise “People’s Guarantee,” he will not seek a second term as premier, according to a pledge he signed at the party’s policy convention Saturday.

“That’s my guarantee — the People’s Guarantee,” Brown told 1,500 PC delegates at the Toronto Congress Centre.

“At its core it’s very simple. It’s a recognition of the need for change that works for you, the people, not the insiders,” he said, urging Ontarians to help him topple Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in the election on June 7, 2018.

As exclusively first disclosed by the Star, Brown is promising to reduce middle-class provincial income tax rates by 22.5 per cent and upload the Toronto Transit Commission’s subways in order to bankroll more expansion as it becomes more of a regional transportation service beyond the city’s borders.

Taking a dig at Wynne, Brown boasted that “with our platform, you will pay less and you will get more,” to cheers from the crowd of loyalists hoping to end what will be 14 years of Liberal rule at Queen’s Park.

Speaking for the government, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca questioned what services the PC leader would have to chop to pay for the tax breaks and other measures.

“I’m calling on him to step up and be honest with the people of Ontario,” Del Duca told reporters, recalling the cuts that took place after the PCs under Mike Harris were elected in 1995, including an end to the previous NDP government’s Eglinton subway line and the privatization of Hwy. 407.

Conservative leaders “have an extraordinary track record of telling the people of this province one thing … ‘You can get everything under the sun … it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows. Just elect us,’” said Del Duca. “But they won’t divulge that they plan to ‘kill and fill’ a subway line, close schools or put tolls on a highway and sell it to a foreign country.”

New Democrats echoed those concerns.

“I’d be very, very worried about what was not signed on a pledge form today. We’ve never seen a Conservative government elected in Canada that doesn’t cut and privatize,” said Michael Balagus, chief of staff to NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“And that was not on the pledge form.”

Brown ended his 30-minute speech with an acknowledgment that “the next six months will not be easy” as the party tries to reverse four consecutive election defeats. “I will be tested. You will be tested,” he warned PC activists, MPPs and candidates.

On transit, a Tory administration would cover maintenance costs for subway stations, though the TTC would still keep the fare box revenue and own and operate surface bus and streetcar routes.

Brown’s government would also assume the city’s current $1-billion commitment for the controversial Scarborough subway, freeing up that municipal cash to extend the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit line to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus.

Parents would be able to write off up to 75 per cent of daycare, nanny and babysitter costs, with a maximum refund of $6,750 per child. As well, there would be 100,000 additional licensed child-care spaces.

The 12-per-cent cut in electricity rates — which is atop the 25-per-cent decrease implemented this year by Wynne’s Liberals — would be funded largely by returning to ratepayers the province’s annual $350-million dividend from its 49-per-cent share in Hydro One.

“As Patrick Brown and the Ontario PCs have repeatedly said, there is no monopoly on a good idea. The Toronto Star editorial board had just that — a good idea — when they suggested that the province should rebate the annual Hydro One dividend to ratepayers instead of using the money for government projects,” the platform said.

The Tories would match Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 10-year, $1.9-billion commitment to mental health care, improve autism services, provide free dental care for low-income seniors, and put a moratorium on rural school closures.

Taking a leaf from the book of his old boss, former prime minister Stephen Harper, Brown would introduce a “trust, integrity and accountability act” with hopes of ending “political corruption in Ontario.”

There would be free Wi-Fi on GO Transit trains, and a new $500 tax credit would be introduced for motorists to buy snow tires.

The only major Liberal initiatives the Tories would scrap are Ontario’s $2-billion-a-year cap-and-trade program with Quebec and California — they would instead abide by the federal carbon tax — and the minimum wage increase to $15 that is scheduled for 2019, but would be pushed to 2022.

According to the Tory platform, the hourly wage, which will jump from $11.60 to $14 on Jan. 1, will be held to $14.25 in 2019, $14.50 in 2020 and $14.75 in 2021 before reaching $15 the following year. In contrast, the Liberals say the minimum wage, held to inflationary increases in their plan, would be $15.90 then.

On the environment, the Tories “will cancel the Liberal slush fund known as the Climate Change Action Plan, dismantle cap-and-trade, and withdraw from the Western Climate Initiative.”

Instead, a Brown government “will opt in to the federal carbon pricing benchmark.”

That is such a contentious position in Conservative circles that convention organizers banned longtime PC activist Jim Karahalios, head of the grassroots Axe the Carbon Tax group, from attending Saturday’s event.

“I was stopped and asked to leave. My membership was revoked and I was not allowed to register as a non-member observer,” said Karahalios, noting Liberal and NDP observers were allowed to watch the proceedings.

Highlights from the PC election platform

•          Cut middle-class income taxes 22.5 per cent within four years

•          12 per cent more off hydro bills

•          Refund up to 75 per cent of child-care costs for lower-income households

•          $1.9 billion over 10 years to boost mental health care

•          15,000 new nursing home beds within five years

•          $5 billion for new subways in Toronto

•          Free dental care for low-income seniors

•          $500 winter tire tax credit

•          Scrap the Drive Clean emissions program for cars, minivans, pickup trucks and SUVs

•          Moratorium on school closures

 

 

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