Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has released a campaign platform that includes plans to increase class sizes and rein in education spending toward delivering a balanced budget by 2016 and, ultimately, tax cuts.
Hudak released the platform, called the Million Jobs Plan, during a "town hall" in downtown Toronto Wednesday, saying job creation is "at the core of every decision I make."
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"I'll make Ontario number one again for new Canadians to start that business, to raise their families," said Hudak.
"Balancing the budget is job number one to ensure we get private sector job creation in our province."
The platform lays out more specifics of Hudak's plan to balance the budget quickly to attract investment and spur private-sector job creation, which has been the main theme of his campaign so far.
'I want to free up small business to focus on selling their product, innovating, creating more jobs, not filling out useless government forms.' - Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak
"I want to free up small business to focus on selling their product, innovating, creating more jobs, not filling out useless government forms," said Hudak.
"Instead of pressing [for] more handouts, we'll pressure the federal government for more trade opportunities, protect our gains with the Americans, the Europeans, have more trade with Asia and sell Ontario products worldwide."
In a message directed at managers and business owners, Hudak also vowed to end "corporate welfare."
"I'm not going to give you a grant, but I'm not going to give your competitor a grant either," he said. "I'll lower taxes for both of you, so you can create more jobs for workers in our province."
Specifically, he vowed to end "the excessive and expensive subsidies for wind and solar projects and downsizing that massive and expensive hydro bureaucracy."
'Recipe for recession'
Among the measures in the campaign document are cuts to education spending and teachers as part of Hudak's pledge last week to eliminate 100,000 public sector positions over the first two years of a PC government.
The government slim down includes his cabinet, which Hudak says will be cut from "27 down to 16 ministers," adding that there will be "no pay hikes in the next two years" for all government workers including MPPs and himself, if he is becomes premier.
Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne called Hudak's plan "a recipe for recession, plain and simple."
"Tim Hudak has a very different plan. Our corporate taxes are among the lowest in North America and he wants to reduce them by 30 per cent," she said.
"He wants to cut 100,000 jobs. That's firing 100,000 people. He's willing to do all of that so that he can tell you that he will balance the budget 365 days earlier than we will."
NDP leader Andrea Horwath declined to comment on the Tory platform, instead focusing on her policy announcement about the creation of an accountability minister in the event of an NDP victory.
Cuts to education
Hudak's platform puts forward specific measures to save money in education, including moves to:
- Increase classroom sizes by 2-3 students.
- Increase the ratio for full-day kindergarten to one teacher for every 20 students, from the current ratio of two teachers per 26 students.
- Cancel a planned raise for elementary teachers in the public school boards.
- Cut 9,700 non-teaching positions in schools — on top of the 100,000 public sector jobs.
- End a 30 per cent tuition grant for post-secondary students.
- Eliminate proposed raises for early childhood educators and personal support workers for students with special needs.
Other alterations to education include instituting 45 minutes of physical activity in all schools and bringing in the first science test in Grade 8.
"We'll bring in math specialist teachers in our elementary schools to make sure we're leading, our test scores go up, not down."
'I want to make sure we are pro-resources, pro-jobs and anti-red tape.' - Tim Hudak
Hudak pressed for a focus on "high-quality education," which he said means putting a "greater stress on science, technology, engineering and business and math."
The platform includes other spending cuts or freezes as part of Hudak's pledge to balance the books by 2016, among them plans to:
- Freeze the Ontario child benefit at $1,200.
- Forego proposed funding for in vitro fertilization treatments.
- Eliminate the $1,500 Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit.
- Combine Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
- End public funding for advocacy groups such as the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
Hudak's platform projects a small surplus in 2016 that will grow to $4 billion by 2017 — and, once that is accomplished, the PC plan calls for income tax cuts of up to 10 per cent as well as corporate tax cuts.
To raise money for public transit and transportation infrastructure, the Tories said they'd sell off chunks of Crown corporations like the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation to Canadian and Ontario pension plans.
"I want to see all parts of the province firing on all cylinders. I want to make sure we are pro-resources, pro-jobs and anti-red tape."
Ontario PC Platform: Million Jobs Plan
Ontario PC Platform: Million Jobs Plan (PDF 4198KB)
Ontario PC Platform: Million Jobs Plan (Text 4198KB)