TORONTO - The NDP's list of demands in exchange for supporting the Liberal budget — and avoiding another Ontario election — was dismissed Tuesday as a "spending spree" by the cash-strapped minority government.
Voters did not give any party a majority last October and don't want to be forced back to the polls because politicians couldn't get a budget passed in a minority parliament, warned NDP Leader Andrea Horwath as she unveiled her final demands.
"What they want to see now is the Liberal government, in its minority, to make some compromises to make sure that the budget is acceptable by at least one of the other political parties," she said.
Horwath added a $250-million job creation tax credit and help for the horse racing and tourism sectors to her list of demands, which for the most part amounts to a beefed-up version of the NDP's campaign platform from last fall.
Last week, Horwath called for a new tax on people making over $500,000 and said the eight per cent provincial portion of the HST should be removed from home heating bills.
She also wants the Liberals to keep Ontario Northland in public hands after they used the budget to announce the province could no longer afford to subsidize passenger train service, a move the NDP says will cost 1,000 jobs.
"The government brought forward a budget that had no job creation at all in it, and in fact really killed a lot of jobs in a couple of different areas, (and) that was a concern for us," said Horwath.
"We want to see more fairness in the budget."
Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said the Liberals want the Ministry of Finance to review the NDP's ideas before reacting, but made it clear eliminating the $15.2-billion deficit by 2017-18 remains the government's top priority.
"What we're seeing from the NDP here looks like a bit of a spending spree," said Duguid.
"It's questionable as to whether it's costed out properly or not. We'll have to let Finance look at the numbers to determine exactly how much damage this does in terms of our efforts to balance the budget."
Speaking in Windsor on Tuesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty rejected the NDP's call to help the horse racing industry and keep Ontario Northland public, and added none of the other NDP ideas focused on how the government could save money.
"We would have appreciated receiving some suggestions as to how we might further reduce our expenditures," said McGuinty.
"It’s always easy to spend more. It’s so much harder to spend less."
McGuinty again lashed out at the Progressive Conservatives for vowing to vote against the budget, which means the Liberals need at least two NDP votes or the minority government will be defeated.
"From the get-go the PCs said they’re not interested in (working together) and have not submitted a single, responsible proposal for us to consider," he said.
"Their interest is personal and political. They'd like to cause an expensive, unnecessary election."
The Tories say they have put forward ideas such as cutting corporate taxes, reforming the apprenticeship system and scrapping subsidies for wind and solar power projects, and accused the Liberals of trying to arrange another election so they can win a majority government.
"It seems like they protest a little bit too much on that issue," said deputy PC leader Christine Elliott.
"They seem to be out there on the campaign trail, kissing babies and talking about how much they don’t want an election. That usually signals that they do."
The NDP are "not drawing any lines in the sand," said Horwath, and want to keep negotiating with the Liberals to get agree on a budget they can support and avoid defeating the minority government.
"I am prepared to have a conversation with the government about how they can take these proposals and make them work, and put them in the budget, either as-is, or I’m open to a conversation about how we can achieve some of these things if they’re not prepared to do them as-is," she said.
"But I have to say we’re pretty firm on the fact that these are areas this budget needs to be repaired on."