New and increased taxes are taking their toll

By MPP Toby Barrett

Eight years ago I recall chatting with a gentleman in what was known as Alice’s Restaurant – just north of Scotland – about the highlight of his day. Each afternoon he would order a pot of tea and a butter tart for $2. He described it as the one luxury he could afford – a treat under threat at the time by the meal tax proposed by the newly elected McGuinty government.

That was one tax that didn’t happen. I delivered petitions to 30 restaurants as did people across the province and government backed off.

But the ensuing eight years have not been kind to people in Ontario who are now taxed-out. Other increased and new taxes, fees, and costs have taken a huge bite out of the family budget.

Shortly after failing to implement his meal tax, Mr. McGuinty was successful in – at $3.1 billion a year – bringing the largest income tax increase in the history of Ontario. According to the Ministry of Revenue, total income tax hikes now cost the average family an extra $400 – $600 annually.

But it doesn’t have to be this way – tax hikes can be reversed.

To give families relief and spur economic growth, Opposition Leader Tim Hudak proposes to lower income taxes by 5 per cent on the first $75,000 of taxable income. This will return $258 to a taxpayer earning $70,000.

As well, a case can be made for changing the tax system to allow couples to share income for tax purposes. A middle class family with a sole wage earner bringing in $70,000 could save almost $1,400 a year building on the federal government’s proposed Family Tax Cut.

We’ve also announced plans to double the Caregiver Tax Credit for those who care for an elderly or critically ill family member in their own homes.

As we consider action on income taxes, we must also consider the impact of McGuinty’s sales tax hikes. The HST is the biggest sales tax grab in the province’s history – a tax on everything from electricity to home heating to haircuts and funerals. And this was done in the middle of a recession; when Ontario families could least afford it.

An agreement between Dalton McGuinty and the federal government stipulates the HST remain in place until 2015. In exchange, the federal government gave Ontario $4.3 billion in transition funds. According to the 2010 Ontario budget, annual sales tax revenue will increase by $3.1 billion due to the HST. Meantime Ontario families are hit with HST costs of approximately $800 to $1000 per year.

As Ontario’s Opposition, we advocate the removal of the HST from home hydro bills and home heating for $275 in annual relief.

Any discussion of the increasing tax burden must include the attempt at an eco tax last summer, tire taxes, electronics taxes, and the recent hidden hydro tax. And don’t forget $450 million in increased property taxes, $931 million in hydro debt retirement charges, and $1.2 billion in business tax hikes.

For starters, let’s scrap eco fees and the debt retirement charge, which has been paid off, and lower business taxes to boost jobs and investment.

As far as tax policy, all options must be on the table to give families relief and restore economic growth.