Andrea Horwath defends party's big-spending platform

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath knows her plan to provide free or low-cost licensed daycare to families across the province will cost billions of dollars, but said the program will become sustainable in the long run.

Ontario NDP pledging $12 per day childcare, $19B for hospitals ahead of June election

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath says her party's plan to provide $12 per day childcare is fair and sustainable. (John Rieti CBC)

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath knows her plan to provide free or low-cost licensed daycare to families across the province will cost billions of dollars, but said the program will become sustainable in the long run. 

The NDP platform, released Monday, promises to spend $375 million in the first year of the childcare strategy, followed by another $1 billion in the second year. By 2023 the price tag rises to more than $3 billion annually. 

Under the plan, families earning less than $40,000 will get free daycare, while those with higher household incomes will pay an average of $12 per day. 

The NDP leader told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday the idea behind the program is to get more women back into the workforce. 

"It's a sustainable plan," Horwath said. "It's one that recognizes that some families can pay some money toward childcare, but the lowest-income families simply are not able to afford anything at all."

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath addresses supporters at a rally in Toronto on Monday, April 16, 2018, as she unveils her party's platform for the forthcoming provincial election. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Some families could end up paying more than $12 per day, Horwath said, but most will pay less. She was unable to pinpoint the income cutoff that would determine whether a family will qualify for the $12 daily rate.

"Unlike the other plan that's out there, our plan is one that's got universal access to childcare. It's not about how old your little ones are. It's about how much your family can afford to pay," she said.

Boost in hospital spending

Other significant promises in the NDP platform include a 5.3 per cent increase in hospital funding, followed by annual increases to match inflation. In all, the NDP said it would commit approximately $19 billion in funding for hospitals over a 10-year period, as well as create 2,000 new hospital beds.

To help pay for this plan the province will need to run deficits over the next five years and hike taxes for high-income earners. There will be a three per cent surcharge on the purchase of luxury cars worth more than $90,000, and the corporate tax rate would rise from 11.5 per cent to 13 per cent. 

"We've only costed out to the five-year plan, but you can see that we're down below $2 billion ... for the fifth year and we're going to continue to trend downward as we go forward," Horwath said. 

Unlike her opponents, Premier Kathleen Wynne and PC Leader Doug Ford, Horwath wants to return Hydro One to public ownership and use dividends to pay for the purchase. 

NDP slipping in CBC poll

On Tuesday, the CBC's poll tracker had the NDP at a 0.1 per cent chance of winning the June election, a far cry from the 91.9 per cent probability of a PC majority. 

Horwath said the numbers are a sign that Ontarians want a change in leadership. 

"I believe Doug Ford will drag this province backwards. I don't think that's what we need for Ontario. That's the message of hope that I have for the people of the province. Change, but change for the better," she said. 

Ontarians will head to the polls on June 7. 

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning