It seems to be about paying the bills and taxes

By MPP Toby Barrett

My discussions over the summer with people across Haldimand and Norfolk seem to centre on pocket-book issues – paying the bills, taxes and even concerns about hanging on to one’s home. People feel they cannot afford the additional HST on electricity and home heating fuel, and the debt retirement charge on their hydro bills.

As we head into a month of discussion about these and similar issues across the Province of Ontario, I remain concerned that rising costs will only continue if we repeat the missteps of the past.

Many recall the tax increases levied after votes were counted the last time, despite promises to the contrary. Promises that included the television commercial of eight years ago: “I won’t cut your taxes, but I won’t raise your taxes either.”

After that election, Ontario received the largest tax increase in the history of the province – the so-called “health tax” which cost families up to $1800 a year.

The “health tax” came on the heels of the Premier himself signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge: “I, Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, promise if my party is elected as the next government, that I will not raise taxes or implement new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters, and not run deficits. I promise to abide by the Taxpayer Protection and Balanced Budget Act.” (September 11, 2003)

Four years later history was repeated.

After stating to the CBC that, “We won’t have to increase taxes on a go-forward basis,” the Leader of Ontario brought in the largest sales tax increase in the history of the province – the HST, introduced July 1st last year.

As well on July 1st last year, we all were taken aback to receive eco-taxes on the cost of over 9,000 everyday items used by Ontario families.

Going forward, I remain concerned that the people of Ontario may be in store for “déjà vu all over again”.

You can predict a person’s behaviour from their past performance. For example, in 2007 the Premier stated: “In the last election I told Ontarians I wouldn’t raise their taxes, and I broke that promise. I did raise their taxes.” (Dalton McGuinty, 2007)

Now, today, while we again hear pledges to hold the line on taxes, the fact remains a plethora of government spending announcements are a recipe for a third round of tax hikes.

For example, a number of Ontario Cabinet Ministers have hinted of a new carbon tax on fuel: “It is time for all of us to start to get comfortable with two words: carbon tax.” (Research and Innovation Minister, Glen Murray, Toronto Star, May 27 2007), and “…certainly a carbon tax is something to look at” (Environment Minister, John Gerretsen, May 31, 2010).

Those I speak with at the door tell me that instead of following the path of more and increased taxes, what people need is an elimination of the HST from their electricity and home heating costs, scrapping of the Debt Retirement Charge on hydro, reduction of family income taxes, and the eradication of the eco-tax.

Ontario families resent wasteful spending and the accompanying tax hikes. They’re asking for the ride to stop, because they want to get off. However, the Premier has stated, “I’m going to promise to keep doing what we have been doing.”