Taxes, fees – a growing threat to Ontario households

By MPP Toby Barrett

“IRS: We’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got” – Anonymous

During the course of pre-budget hearings in London, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Ottawa and Toronto, we on the Finance Committee heard from dozens of stakeholders and received hundreds of written submissions.

Many testifying recognized that the government’s management of the province’s finances poses a direct threat to maintaining current programs. As Lakehead Professor Livio DiMatteo said, “The long-term implication of poor economic growth and productivity is ultimately a lower standard of living and reduced public services in health, education and other programs we hold dear.”

From 2000 to 2010, Ontario has been the worst performer in Canada in terms of growth of per capita gross domestic product. This poor performance explains how Premier McGuinty’s Ontario has ended up qualifying for federal equalization payments.

As I now follow Twitter @tobybarrettmpp here’s a quote from @montesonnenberg, “I reached into my pocket for my wallet the other day and ended up shaking hands with Dalton McGuinty. Talk about an awkward moment.”

Many economists, financial experts and the business sector, have declared the need for Ontario to reign in spending, eliminate deficits and reduce the debt ahead of the McGuinty government’s target of 2017-18.

And it is apparent, to support accelerated spending, Premier McGuinty has brought Ontarians a myriad of new taxes and fees.

Here are some examples:
• the 2004 income tax hike – the largest income tax hike in the history of Ontario
• the 2010 HST– the largest consumption tax in the history of Ontario
• auto insurance rate hikes
• tuition fee hikes
• eco-fees on just about everything
• higher fines and penalties for seatbelt, speeding and other highway infractions
• costs of the Green Energy Act, Smart Meters and Time Of Use metering.

In an on-line survey by CFIB, 69 per cent of small business owners said they were somewhat or very negatively impacted by the introduction of Time-Of-Use meters. As well, the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax in Ontario took a heavy toll with 68 per cent claiming the HST has negatively impacted their business.

As Teresa Armstrong testified before the Finance Committee, “I think the government needs to review what the HST impacts are on working families because, as we all know, we’re in a very hard time right now and struggle to pay all our bills. Costs for everything are increasing.”

There is little doubt Ontarians can expect Premier McGuinty to continue his pattern of implementing new and creative taxes. Coupled with Ontario’s lagging productivity, increased taxes will continue to drag down the standard of living for many Ontarians, particularly seniors. Life has become less affordable for middle class families in Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario.

All too often we find we are paying more, but getting less. While costs increase – for everything including health care – Ontarians wonder why they spend more time on wait lists and line-ups for services.

We in Ontario’s Opposition, under the leadership of Tim Hudak believe that Ontario families deserve greater respect from their government. That includes respect for each dollar collected in the form of tax revenue. And Ontarians need relief from wasteful spending, rising taxes and the increased cost of everything from energy to everyday goods and services.