Ontario's Progressive Conservatives targeted two of the Liberal government's most vulnerable areas Thursday with their first major policy announcement, promising to remove the eight per cent provincial portion of the HST from hydro and home heating bills.
"The HST has made life unaffordable for many families, particularly when hydro rates were already soaring," Hudak said at the home of a Toronto couple who have seen their hydro bills jump 50 per cent in three years.
"We will also remove the HST from the cost of home heating. We live in Canada, and heating our homes is not luxury."
If elected this fall, the Tories would also remove the controversial debt retirement charge, which was imposed to cover stranded debt from the old Ontario Hydro's nuclear program, from hydro bills added Hudak.
"This debt retirement charge has become nothing more than a permanent tax grab by the McGuinty government," he said. "The full amount of the stranded debt that was supposed to be paid down was all collected by 2010, but the McGuinty government has extended the charge until at least 2018."
The combined changes, which would be introduced in the first budget of a new Conservative government, would save a typical household $275 a year, said Hudak, and is only the first of other tax relief proposals the Tories will offer.
Plan will cost jobs, Liberals say
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan lashed out at Hudak's announcement during question period, warning the $1.2 billion in lost revenue from the HST cuts will cost the province thousands of jobs and force the Tories to close hospitals.
"This reckless plan will cost jobs, raise the deficit and raise the debt," warned Duncan, "and they refuse to say what hospitals they will close."
Hudak also said he would leave the Liberals' 10 per cent rebates on hydro bills in place, even after he removes the HST.
Last week, Hudak promised to scrap the Liberal government's $7-billion green energy deal with South Korean giant Samsung and to stop offering huge premiums for wind and solar power.
Hudak had already promised to let people opt out of time-of-use pricing for electricity if the Conservatives win the Oct. 6 election, calling so-called smart meters nothing but tax machines.