July 06, 2011

No Anti-Poverty Plan in Ontario NDP Platform, by Donald Hughes June 30, 2011

http://www.mediacoop.ca/blog/donald-hughes/7639

Last weekend, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath released her party's platform for the coming provincial general election in October. The platform presented accepts neoliberal constraints while failing to address Ontario's poverty crisis.

Horwath's fiscal plan centers on the repeal of recent corporate tax cuts, restoring 2009's 14% general rate. Given that the federal general corporate rate is set to fall to 15% in 2012, the combined rate will be 29%. This would still represent a fall in the general corporate rate of over one-third from the year 2000.

The revenue gained from the corporate tax increase is largely directed towards alternative tax cuts. The four main tax cuts contained in the plan are an investment tax credit, removal of the HST from gasoline, removal of the HST from home heating and a modest small business tax reduction.

The largest area of increased public spending is health care, with a series of small spending initiatives to improve access at emergency rooms and community clinics. This is funded primarily out of unidentified cuts to public services and a promise to reduce the use of consultants and administrators.

Another area of spending is a commitment to meet 50% of transit operating costs province-wide, with a commitment to freeze transit fares. No additional funds are made available for transit infrastructure.

The NDP platform promises to continue to index welfare and disability payments to inflation, and includes a reduction to the disability clawback rate against earned income, but otherwise accounts no money for benefit increases. Likewise, there is no new money for housing initiatives.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has called for an immediate increase in the rates of 55%, or a monthly Ontario Works payment of about $1,000. This move would restore Ontario Works to the level achieved under the last NDP government in the early 1990s.

A coalition of food security campaigners, including The Stop Community Food Centre in Davenport, have called for an immediate $100 increase in Ontario Works payments, to about $700 a month, with an aim towards "Putting Food in the Budget."

The Housing Network of Ontario has focused on promoting a policy centered on a new housing benefit as a short-term measure to alleviate poverty and improve housing access.

The NDP platform contains no specific commitment to expanding child care access in Ontario. Affordable, non-profit child care has been a component of Quebec's limited antipoverty strategy.

Another feature of this year's NDP platform is the absence of a post-secondary education strategy. In recent elections, the NDP often campaigned on promises to freeze or reduce tuition fees. In the current platform there is no significant spending related to education at any level.

Horwath's platform represents a shift to the political right for the NDP. It avoids addressing a large number of issues associated with social-democracy and the labour movement in favour of debt stabilization and generally low taxation. The aim appears to be to accept neoliberal constraints in return for the ability to make minor reforms in government. This strategy has been launched at the expense of many of the NDP's traditional campaign positions.

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