Ontario Liberal tax credit for 'foreign workers' slammed

An Ontario Liberal pledge to provide a tax credit to businesses of up to $10,000 for hiring new immigrants to their first jobs is coming under fire by the province's Progressive Conservatives for favouring 'foreign workers.'

McGuinty likens PCs to U.S. Tea Party

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak has come out swinging against a Liberal pledge to provided businesses tax credits for hiring new immigrants. Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press

An Ontario Liberal pledge to provide a tax credit to businesses of up to $10,000 for hiring new immigrants to their first jobs is coming under fire by the province's Progressive Conservatives for favouring "foreign workers."

The Tories have been quick to criticize the tax credit pledge which was officially unveiled Monday along with the rest of the Liberal campaign platform just over a month before the Oct. 6 election.

With just a day to go until the official election campaign begins, Hudak slammed the new promise aimed at helping skilled immigrants as an "affirmative action" program.

"Basically Dalton McGuinty wants to pay companies $10,000 to hire foreign workers while we have half a million people in Ontario today who are looking for jobs," he said Tuesday at a  campaign event at the home of a Scarborough family.

"He is going to pay companies $10,000 to hire anybody but you. I think that's wrong and it shows a premier who is just out of touch."

Fair shake, not a handout

But the Tories have also promised a tax credit for employers who sponsor language training for immigrants.

Hudak said the Tory program is entirely different from the Liberal proposal.

"[It's] not even close," said Hudak. "I mean, ours caps at I think $400 a person that's already employed that needs a little help with language training. I think that Ontario families just believe in a level playing field."

His grandparents, who immigrated from the former Czechoslovakia and didn't speak English, weren't looking for a special deal when they came to Canada, he said.

"They weren't looking for a special handout," Hudak said. "They wanted a fair chance to succeed. Those are Ontario values."

The Tory leader also brushed off concerns that his stance may alienate immigrant voters that his federal cousins have courted for years, saying they're the ones who want a "fair shake," not a handout.

The Tories have also released a YouTube ad titled "Ontarians Need Not Apply" criticizing the Liberal pledge.

But the credit doesn't apply to those who aren't Canadian citizens – it applies to new Canadians who live in Ontario and have been in the country for up to five years.

McGuinty decries 'politics of anger'

McGuinty, speaking at an event at a school in Markham on Tuesday, delivered a scathing rebuke of the PC stance on the issue.

"It think it's a sad day for Ontartio. You know, the Progressive Conservative Party is no longer with us," he said.

"It's been taken over by the Tea Party, and they're practicing a different kind of politics, which is the politics of anger, envy, resentment, and division."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath didn't dig into the debate, saying her platform will focus on creating jobs for everyone.

"Jobs are important for the immigrant community, absolutely, they're important for all Ontarians," she said.

Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, welcomed the Liberal pledge.

"The fact is that we live in a very diverse province and that [for] government, there is a responsibility to ensure that opportunities exist for everyone," she said.

An audio recording of a Sunday Liberal strategist conference call leaked to The Canadian Press shows the policy had raised some eyebrows internally.

"It reminded me a little bit of the potential blow back that we could see by positioning it from the opposition as an affirmative action program," strategist Jameson Steeve could be heard saying.

It is expected to cost $12 million to implement the program.

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With files from The Canadian Press