09/09/2011 11:32 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST

NDP enters Ontario jobs fray with plan to reimburse up to $5,000 for new hires

OAKVILLE, Ont. - The New Democrats promised Friday to reward companies who hire Ontario workers, wading into a fiery weeklong debate with their own plan to help the province's unemployed find work.

Leader Andrea Horwath said if elected on Oct. 6, her party would reimburse companies 20 per cent of the wage for new hires for one year, up to $5,000 per worker.

The latest plank in the party's job creation platform was released in the midst of a raging controversy over job creation that has seen party leaders accuse each other of intolerance and pandering to immigrants.

A Liberal proposal earlier this week to help some newcomers find jobs sparked an outcry from the Tories, who accused Premier Dalton McGuinty of favouring "foreign workers" over the province's unemployed.

The premier fired back, branding opposition the idea as anti-immigrant sentiment.

The Liberal program calls for a tax credit of up to $10,000 to offset necessary training costs for employers who hire professionals such as architects, accountants and engineers.

Horwath had so far kept out of the fray, saying her party would instead issue its own plan.

"Unlike the Liberal plan, our plan will apply to all new hires," she said, announcing the tax credit Friday before a crowd of apprentice sheet metal workers at a training centre in Oakville, Ont.

"Our solution will increase the number of jobs available for everyone — men, women, new Canadians or young people — anyone who needs work."

The program would cost $100 million a year and create roughly 80,000 jobs over four years, she said.

The New Democrats' announcement seemed to fan the flames, with rival parties leaping to blast the proposal and what they called the party's job-killing policies.

"The NDP's plan is a crushing job killer" given the party's promise to scrap corporate tax cuts, said Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

He accused the NDP of fostering an anti-business environment that would only lead to job losses.

Ontario's unemployment rate was 7.5 per cent in August, above the national rate of 7.3 per cent.

Speaking at an event in Toronto, Tory Leader Tim Hudak said his party is the only one with a real plan to spur job creation.

"Quite frankly, both of my opponents will be killing jobs," he said. "Higher energy rates, higher taxes from the Liberals and NDP that will kill jobs and weaken our province further."

The New Democrats have vowed to restore a 14 per cent corporate tax rate, unlike the Liberals and Tories, who pledge to slash those rates to 10 per cent.

The plan wouldn't apply to small businesses, and the New Democrats say it would put an additional $1.8 billion a year into provincial coffers by 2013.

Horwath said her party's plan would encourage companies who might otherwise rely on contract or temporary workers to hire full-time permanent staff.

To qualify for the NDP tax credit, companies would have to provide job training and prove they are creating new positions, not replacing current employees.

The credit would be capped at $100,000 per company per year to make sure big businesses aren't disproportionately rewarded, Horwath said.