POLITICS

Liberals, NDP can't be trusted not to raise taxes, Hudak says

09/10/2011 05:11 EDT | Updated 11/10/2011 05:12 EST
TORONTO - The Progressive Conservatives painted themselves as champions of Ontario's taxpayers Saturday while labelling their rivals as cash-hungry tax collectors, fuelling simmering tensions in an already heated election campaign.

Conservative Leader Tim Hudak vowed to bring tax relief for Ontario families, touting the party's pledges to cut personal income taxes for middle-class workers and remove the harmonized sales tax from hydro and heating bills.

Speaking at an electronics store in Toronto, Hudak called out Dalton McGuinty, saying the premier can't be trusted not to raise taxes if the Liberals are re-elected on Oct. 6.

McGuinty promised not to raise taxes before the last two Ontario elections then did so both times, first with a health-care tax in 2004 and with the harmonized sales tax in 2009. Earlier this week, the premier said he would not raise taxes again.

"You just can't trust a word Dalton McGuinty says when it comes to taxes," Hudak said. "If Dalton McGuinty is not stopped, Dalton McGuinty will raise our taxes once again."

Hudak's comments suggest the Tories are returning to their original plan to brand McGuinty as the "Tax Man" after getting sidetracked by a fiery debate over immigrant workers that dominated the first week of the campaign.

The Liberals released a plan earlier this week that calls for a tax credit of up to $10,000 to offset necessary training costs for employers who hire newcomers.

The proposed tax credit has quickly emerged as a hot-button issue in the provincial election debate, with Hudak calling it an "affirmative action program for foreign workers.''

At his campaign stop Saturday, Hudak laid out his party's tax platform while standing in front of a wall of flat-screen televisions that showed McGuinty signing his "taxpayer protection pledge" ahead of the 2003 election.

The Tory leader also took aim at the New Democrats, citing the party's "history of calling for higher and higher taxes."

Tax hikes are "in the NDP's DNA," he said.

The Liberals and the New Democrats flatly denied Hudak's accusations and said they're disappointed by the tone the campaign appears to be taking.

"It's clear from our platform that we have no intention of making life less affordable," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in Hamilton, noting her party also plans to trim HST off heating and hydro bills.

"What's fascinating about the Tory campaign is that it's all negative, it's all innuendo," said Greg Sorbara, the Liberal's campaign chair.

He said the Liberals' platform has been vetted by independent accountants to ensure "we can meet all of our commitments and all of the initiatives that we propose to bring about within the next four years with the revenues that we have."

Neither the Tories nor the NDP have allowed economists to look over their books, Sorbara said.

The Liberals have said there is a $14-billion gap in the Conservatives' plan, which would force the party to axe cherished public services to make up for the shortfall.

"What Ontarians should expect from a Hudak government is a dramatic cut in services, including health care, including education, including the environment and including social services," Sorbara said.

The Conservatives have promised taxpayers would get some immediate relief starting in July 2012 when the provincial portion of the HST would be stripped from home heating and hydro bills, as well as the debt retirement charge on electricity bills.

Eco fees on electronics and other household items would also disappear.

Other tax breaks would be rolled out over four years, including a five per cent cut on the first $75,000 of taxable income that the Tories say would save $258 a year for someone earning $70,000.

Couples would be able to share up to $50,000 of their income for tax purposes, which they say would save almost $1,400 a year for a family earning $70,000. The caregiver tax credit would also double under a Tory government to help people care for their loved ones.