Ontario NDP plans to ask to take HST off heating bills
TORONTO - A New Democrat bill to eliminate the provincial portion of the HST from home heating will mark the first test for Ontario's new minority government, but the Liberals wasted no time shrugging it off Monday.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath set out the private member's bill as her first priority Monday, saying it's just one of many election promises they plan to make good on once the legislature resumes.
"It was the first opportunity for us to bring something forward and we thought it was really important to show Ontario families that we are serious about the commitments we made during the campaign," Horwath said Monday.
"I think exactly because we have a minority government the opportunity for this private member's bill, and probably others, is quite a bit different than it was in the past."
With a combined 54 seats, the NDP and Progressive Conservatives could outvote the minority Liberals. Those numbers give the opposition parties much more power in the legislature than they have in the past.
While Horwath did not approach Tory Leader Tim Hudak to co-sponsor the bill, she said she hoped to count on his support, noting that the upcoming session is "a perfect opportunity to start doing things differently."
Hudak suggested earlier Monday he'd support such a bill, saying bringing that kind of relief to families was part of his own election platform.
"It's a private member's bill, members will decide, but I'd vote for it, absolutely," he said.
The New Democrats said that if passed, the bill will save families $100 a year and cost the government $350 million in lost revenue.
The Liberals vowed not to let the bill become law, as they still have the power to decide which bills get to third reading. If they choose not to call it up, the bill will get nowhere.
"Outrageous proposals for new spending and reckless tax giveaways like these are unacceptable," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said in a statement.
"That's why we've turned our focus to reform -- reforming the way that government spends tax payers' dollars in order to provide better services that meet the needs of all Ontarians."
The current economic climate means this is the wrong time to dip into the province's pockets, Duncan added, dismissing Horwath's suggestion that he get rid of corporate tax cuts to make up that lost revenue.
New Democrat Michael Mantha, who represents the riding of Algoma Manitoulin, will introduce the bill next Thursday, calling it "a small step and one that will make a real difference in people's lives."
The Tories and the New Democrats have disagreed over how quickly to deal with a possible exemption for hydro bills, and Horwath said that is something she'll look at in the future.
She wanted to focus on home heating for now, Horwath added, to present a straightforward bill that all parties could agree on.