Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says employment "first and foremost,” is the single most important issue to Windsor residents.
“If you can’t get a good job, you can’t have a good standard of living or afford the necessities of life,” Horwath told Windsor Morning host Tony Doucette on Friday.
Windsor's unemployment rate was 7.3 per cent in March. April's numbers are due out Friday.
Before arriving in Windsor on Thursday night, Horwath announced her job creation plan — a tax credit given to businesses if they create jobs.
The credit would pay 10 per cent of a new employee’s first year of salary, up to a maximum of $5,000 per hire and $100,000 per company. The New Democrats say that this could help generate up to 170,000 new jobs.
“We prefer rewarding those companies that are actually creating jobs in Ontario. Create a job, you get a tax credit,” Horwath said. “It doesn’t make sense to throw money at companies with no strings attached.”
The NDP has earmarked $250 million over each of the next two years for the program.
It’s different than Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak’s “Million Jobs Plan,” which also began rolling out this week.
As part of that rollout, Hudak said Thursday that a PC government would revamp the rules for apprenticeships in Ontario, so that more people can get into the trades.
“Allow each journeyman to mentor and train an apprentice, one each, and that'll help create 200,000 positions,” Hudak said.
Horwath said Hudak would make Ontario “the next Alabama by driving down wages.”
But Hudak in February backed off his pursuit of right-to-work legislation. Alabama is one of several right-to-work states.
"Only 15 per cent of the private sector is unionized in Ontario [so] this right-to- work issue just doesn't have the scope of power to fix the issues for the 100 per cent of manufacturing jobs threatened in Ontario," Hudak said in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade in late February.
The change in policy came after Hudak removed Dave Brister as the Essex Conservative candidate because the candidate didn’t support right-to-work policy.
Horwath arrived in Windsor late Thursday afternoon and poured beer at Brews and Cues on the western edge of the city, near LaSalle and beside the boarded up Windsor Raceway.
Horwath accused the Liberals of "callously" killing the slots-at-racetracks program, which, in large part, led to the closure of Windsor Raceway.
“We know very well the concerns the community had when the racetrack was closed,” Horwath said.
Horwath was joined by Essex NDP incumbent MPP Taras Natyshak and Windsor-West candidate Lisa Gretzky, who Horwath called “connected to the community.”
Horwath spoke out against the Liberals’ handling of the Herb Gray Parkway girder scandal. Hundreds of girders the Liberals knew weren’t built to code were installed — and then removed.
“It’s an example of the lack of capacity the Liberals have shown to deliver to the people of Ontario,” Horwath said. “Had they acted more quickly, it wouldn’t have been such a schmozzle .”
Horwath earlier this month said the parkway was “falling apart.”
Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis took exception to that, calling the ploy to politicize the parkway “Mickey Mouse.”
"I've made it clear to Mayor Francis that our desire is to make sure, going forward, that some of the mistakes that occurred in the past with the girders don't get repeated,” Horwath said. “The Liberals did not have a good process in place to manage and oversee such a major, import infrastructure project.”
Thursday night was also Gretzky’s first public campaign appearance.
She's optimistic about her chances, because of one issue in particular: hydro rates.
“A lot of people are talking about the hydro rates, the sky-high hydro rates,” Gretzky said.
They rose May 1, a week after the Liberals announced they would remove the debt retirement charge from hydro bills.
“People are having a hard time deciding whether they're going to be paying their hydro bill, whether they're going to be paying their gas bill, whether they're going to be putting groceries on the table,” Gretzky said. “That's a big concern for them. And Andrea has a very clear plan on how to reduce the costs of hydro."