The Ontario PCs are laying all their cards on the table, releasing a full campaign platform with more than six months to go until election day, in an effort to take down Premier Kathleen Wynne and end the Ontario Liberal Party's 14-year hold on power.
The platform is presented in a magazine-style document called the People's Guarantee. In it, PC Leader Patrick Brown signs a guarantee not to run for a second term if he fails to implement his five key promises.
Those promises are:
- A 22.5 per cent tax cut for the middle class.
- A 75 per cent refund of child care costs.
- 12 per cent more off hydro bills.
- $1.9 billion in new funding for mental health, what the PCs call the largest such commitment by any province.
- Ontario's first Trust, Accountability and Integrity Act.
The 80-page platform includes a total of 147 campaign pledges.
"It is a plan for a better future, for you and for your family," writes Brown in the document. "It recognizes that there's nothing wrong with Ontario that can't be fixed by a change in government."
Other pledges in the document include $5 billion in new funding for building subways in Toronto, 15,000 new long-term care beds in five years, free wifi on GO trains and a $500 tax credit for drivers buying winter tires.
The tax cuts are primarily funded by cancelling the Liberal government's cap and trade program, which imposes fees on businesses for emitting greenhouse gases, and replacing it with a carbon tax on consumers that satisfies the federal government's climate change mandate. The PCs promise to refund all the carbon tax revenue in income tax cuts.
The 22.5 per cent middle class tax cut reduces the tax rate on the middle income bracket (on incomes ranging from about $42,000 to $85,000) to 7.1 per cent from the current level of 9.15. The tax rate on the lowest income bracket is also being reduced to 4.5 per cent from 5.05 per cent.
The platform includes a fiscal plan that shows a PC government running a deficit of $2.8 billion in 2018-19, then returning to balance in 2019-20.
The hydro rebate is funded by returning the government's share of stock dividends from Hydro One, typically about $350 million a year, to electricity customers.
Digging into the fine print of the other headline promises suggests some are not exactly as advertised.
The $1.9 billion on mental health is a cumulative amount spread over 10 years, matching a funding commitment by the federal government. It peaks with an annual funding increase in the range of $300 million, said PC officials.
PCs to keep free prescription drugs plan
The refund of day care costs is a maximum of 75 per cent, paid at a sliding scale depending on household income. Called the Ontario Child Care Refund, the PCs say a single mother earning $35,000 per year with a child under six would be eligible for a refund of $6,750, while a couple earning $100,000 with two school-age children would be eligible for a refund $5,700.
The PCs say the child care refunds will cost taxpayers a total of $389 million per year.
The platform proposes keeping the Liberal government's program to provide free prescription drugs for children and young adults and its tuition grants for post-secondary students.
The PCs are also promising to revive the tax credit for children's arts and recreational programs that was cancelled by the Liberals last year.