HST will hit renters hard, Hudak predicts
TORONTO - Renters will be hit with an increase of several hundred dollars when the government merges Ontario's sales taxes next year, new Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Thursday as he urged provincial residents to revolt against the changes.
"At a time when Ontario families deserve our support, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals are making it tough for people to make ends meet," Hudak said during his first media event since becoming party leader last Saturday.
"We need to tell Dalton McGuinty that enough is enough before he takes one dollar more from our pockets."
According to Hudak, an average rent of $1,000 a month will rise between $270 and $320 a year when the eight per cent sales tax is incorporated into goods and services previously exempt -- such as repair and property management, natural gas and utilities.
Hudak said the increase, which will hit Ontario's four million renters, is only one example of the many goods and services that will become more expensive under the new system, and he is urging people to sign an online petition at www.daltonsalestax.com to push the government to backtrack on the change.
"By putting pressure on Dalton McGuinty, we can get him to return to character," Hudak said. "He's a notorious flip-flopper, and I'm convinced we can get him to back down."
Hudak once again refused to say whether he would repeal tax harmonization if elected premier, instead arguing he hopes it won't ever come into effect.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she's confident the tax can be repealed before next year.
"If students can go viral on Facebook and get the government to back away from restricting the number of young people that can drive in a car at any given time, then there's hope that the government will listen to the people of this province," she said.
In April, the government passed a bill with new rules that impose a zero blood-alcohol limit for all Ontario drivers aged 21 and under. The legislation had also planned to limit how many passengers young drivers could share their car with, but that element was nixed following a public uproar on the social networking website Facebook.
McGuinty has given no sign he's willing to back away from the controversial harmonized tax, calling it one of his government's most important policies. He also shuffled his cabinet to separate the Revenue Ministry from Finance and appointed John Wilkinson as the minister responsible for implementing the single 13 per cent sales tax.
The government says it is offering renters sales and property tax credits on top of other measures available more widely, like cheques of up to $1,000 to ease the pain of the tax transition, supported by $4.3 billion from the federal Conservative government under a deal with the province to harmonize taxes.
Those measures include a new refundable Ontario Property Tax Credit for low- to middle-income homeowners and tenants that would provide an additional $270 million in property tax relief on an annual basis, as well as a proposed rebate for new rental housing, up to a maximum rebate of $24,000.
"It's disappointing that on his first day as leader Mr. Hudak either doesn't have his facts right or is choosing to only tell half the story," said Finance Ministry spokeswoman Alicia Johnston.
"The McGuinty government is bringing in the largest package of personal income tax relief which will put more money back into the pockets of Ontarians -- especially low- and middle-income Ontarians who rent."
Hudak wouldn't address the opinions of his federal counterparts, saying only that this is the wrong time to hit people in Ontario with a new tax, and dismissing McGuinty's efforts to ease the transition as an attempt to "bribe" taxpayers with their own dollars.