Expect Carbon Tax with if McGuinty Re-elected
By Chris Vander Doelen, The Windsor Star
The provincial election doesn’t officially kick off for another month yet, but it’s already running full tilt in Windsor and Essex County. On Monday, while the world’s stock markets were busy melting down like the wicked witch of the west, Ontario’s PC party made the rather startling claim that Premier Dalton McGuinty will have to raise the HST if his Liberal party is re-elected.
That’s a bit of a bombshell claim, given how deeply hated Canada’s harmonized sales taxes are from coast to coast. Cutting the GST got Stephen Harper elected prime minister the first time. Raising the HST could easily un-elect Premier McGuinty, if the Tory claim is true, which I initially felt was hard to believe.
But how can the Tories possibly know that the Liberals intend to raise the HST?
“Because he says he’s going to keep on doing what he’s been doing,” Ottawa-area MPP Lisa MacLeod said matter-of-factly in Kingsville on Monday.
According to a campaign script already carved in stone by the Tories, what Dalton “the tax man” McGuinty does better than anything is raise taxes, including two of the largest increases in Ontario history in the form of a health levy and the HST.
If he doesn’t raise the HST it will be another tax. “It’s the only way he’s going to be able to pay for all his campaign promises,” MacLeod said during one of three press conferences with Essex Tory candidate David Brister. They were timed to take some of the shine off a later Windsor visit by the premier himself.
“They don’t want to scale back any of their program spending, said the MPP for Nepean-Carlton. “He’s staked his entire career on an unaffordable green policy.
“So potentially there will either have to be a carbon tax, an increase in the HST, or the cost of hydro will continue to rise. We’re not ruling out all three,” MacLeod says.
If voters choose to believe that pitch, and many already do, it could derail McGuinty’s bid for a third term. Good thing the Premier was in town for a nomination meeting, so we could ask him.
“The Tories say you’re going to raise the HST,” I put to him point blank. “Is that true?”
“Yeah, I understand they would say that,” McGuinty chuckled, before furrowing his brow and launching into one of his Leave It to Beaver-style lectures from dad:
“We’ve been working really hard to bring a modernized competitive tax system to Ontario. And that included reducing personal income taxes, that included reducing our corporate taxes, and it’s included adopting the HST.”
When we adopted the HST we caught up to 140 other countries.”
All true. Of course, he raised most of those taxes before cutting them, but I didn’t talk back. The premier went on, describing a map of the world filled with countries that have a value added tax. I felt like I was in Grade 3 geography class again.
“The reason you have a value added tax is it makes you more competitive and it makes you stronger. It makes you better at creating jobs and better at keeping jobs.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve reduced taxes.” He stopped there and smiled, awaiting the next question.
“That’s not a denial,” I told the premier of his defence of the HST. “You didn’t say you weren’t going to raise it, just that we have it and it’s great.
“OK, then we’re not going to raise it,” he said irritably.
What about a carbon tax, I asked? Back into lecture mode, on a topic predicted by the Tories: being green.
“One of the most exciting frontiers of the Ontario economy today at the beginning of the 21st century is clean energy. Renewable technologies.
“And whether we’re talking about Samsung or the other 29 new business investments that we’ve made here . . . the 20,000 new jobs we’ve created, the opposition is saying they’re not going to pursue that policy, that they’re going to cancel those contracts, they’re going kill those jobs and not pursue those opportunities.”
McGuinty went on to reference the “troubled global economy” and Monday’s stock market horror show, ending with a rhetorical question: “What are we doing to grow stronger? One of the things we’re doing together to grow stronger is to pursue clean energy policies. And to abandon that, in the words of David Suzuki, would be insanity.”
He didn’t say Ontario won’t have a carbon tax if the Liberals are re-elected, only that it would be “insanity” to stop borrowing billions for windmills and solar schemes that raise prices.
So there you have it. One oddly unconvincing denial sandwiched between two non-denials about raising taxes. No need to ask him about rising hydro bills, really. You can be fairly certain how the answer would have come out.