Past tax policy a predictor of future tax policy

By MPP Toby Barrett

This January I toured Sarnia, Thunder Bay, North Bay and Kingston in a series of pre-budget consultations with Opposition Finance Critic Vic Fedeli and other members of the Ontario Legislature. Testimony had a theme: expensive energy and high taxes.

It’s been a tough ten years. Often times future government behaviour can be predicted by past government behavior. Let’s go back a few years.

Between 1985 and 1994— under both Liberal and NDP reigns in Ontario—we saw 65 tax increases. In 1988, for instance, Liberals increased gas taxes one cent per litre. In 1989, again under the Liberal regime, the gasoline tax went up another two cents per litre. As well, a tire tax was imposed back then. A tire tax has been again imposed today. In 1991, the NDP also imposed a gasoline and diesel tax at an additional 3.4 cents per litre. In 1992, the NDP raised personal income taxes, and  again in 1993.

Let’s fast forward to 2006.

Hard on the heels of the largest income tax hike in the history of Ontario, the present government repealed corporate income tax cuts, cancelled scheduled personal income tax cuts and raised tobacco taxes. They delisted eye exams, as well as chiropractic and physiotherapy services. Then along came the Harmonized Sales Tax on new items. In addition we have seen a tripling of electricity rates and increased fees for driver’s license and vehicle registrations. And don’t forget the infamous waste diversion eco-taxes on tires, TV’s and electronics.

Taxpayers in Ontario have been forced to bear the burden of 10 years of taxing and spending by a government that believes every problem they face could be fixed by more spending, more bureaucracy, more programs and more taxes.

And what is the upshot of all this?

It’s doubled our debt, tripled hydro rates and chased business out of Ontario. Tax hikes kill jobs. The answer to Ontario’s problems isn’t to dig into the pockets of hard-working people by transferring private sector wealth to the ever-growing public sector.

Here’s what we need to do.

First, produce more private-sector jobs and increase take-home pay through lower taxes and less debt. The Opposition’s Million Jobs Act among many other things will balance the budget using tools like an across-the-board public sector wage freeze, and will cut taxes on employers so they can start hiring again.

Secondly, consider our Opposition Day motion, which recognizes families
struggling with the high cost of living, skyrocketing electricity rates and high taxes. Taxpayers should not be forced to dig into their pockets any further to pay for government waste and scandals. Government should not introduce or raise any taxes, including, but not limited to, the gas tax, payroll taxes and corporate taxes.

In concluding debate on the motion, MPP John Yakabuski drew on an old saw: “You can only bleed people for so long. They’re desperate and they’re serious. You know, I was talking to a guy the other day and he said, ‘When this government is through with me, the only thing I’m going to have left in my pockets is lint’.”

Regrettably, both this Opposition Day Motion and the Million Jobs Act were voted down in the Legislature.