In a move that may set the stage for a spring election, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she plans to introduce a new "revenue stream" to pay for public transit, despite the NDP's opposition to any new tolls or taxes.
Wynne, who leads a minority government, said she wasn't prepared to play "Let's Make A Deal" to avoid her government's defeat on the budget, which would trigger a general election.
"I look forward to being able to work with the opposition parties, but at the end of the day if the budget that we put forward is not going to be supported by the opposition, then we'll be into a spring election," she said.
As the legislature resumed sitting Tuesday for the first time in nine weeks, all three parties were jockeying for position ahead of the budget, which is expected in March or early April.
In a letter sent to Wynne on Monday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath warned she "will not support any new taxes, tolls or fees that hit middle-class families."
But Wynne said the Liberals are "committed" to finding a way to fund transit expansion in the congested Toronto-to-Hamilton corridor, and will decide by budget time whether that will be an increased tax on gasoline, road tolls or some other levy.
"We have made a clear commitment to investing in transit," she said. "It's interesting, the way that the leader of the NDP frames her letter, she doesn't talk about investments in transit or the need for us to have infrastructure built."
Horwath stressed said her party "will not tolerate" any hike in the gas tax or new road tolls to fund transit, but refused to say if the NDP would vote against the minority government's budget if it includes tax hikes.
"I have made my position clear, and there is no room for misunderstanding," she said. "We don't think that hitting families with yet another sales tax hike is going to actually grow our economy."
Liberals have failed to create jobs, Hudak says
PC Leader Tim Hudak said Tuesday the "Liberal NDP coalition" has failed to create jobs and touted his own jobs plan.
"We've lost 300,000 well-paying jobs in the province," said Hudak. "This government still has no jobs plan."
Hudak also said it's unfortunate that "Wynne sees taxpayers as revenue tools."
Horwath refused to say if the New Democrats would actually vote against the budget. The NDP leader also declined to state her party's position on Wynne's promise to introduce an Ontario Pension Plan, something the NDP first proposed, and the Liberals' decision to hike Ontario's minimum wage to $11 an hour.
There are 20 government bills left over from the fall session, including one to give workers up to eight weeks unpaid leave to care for a sick family member and another to increase penalties for selling cigarettes to kids.