TORONTO - Billions of dollars in "blank cheques" to corporations in the form of planned tax cuts would be reversed by the New Democrats if they win the Oct. 6 election in favour of more targeted incentives, party Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday.
Horwath kicked off Week 2 of the campaign by taking her tour buses to the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, to announce the NDP would scrap plans to let corporations get an HST exemption from entertainment expenses.
"It's a fun place to make a serious point," said Horwath of the domed sports stadium.
The HST will be eliminated on such things as buying or renting luxury boxes at sporting and entertainment events starting in 2015, and the NDP would make sure that doesn't happen, said Horwath.
"The blank cheques that we now give in across-the-board tax breaks aren’t getting us anything," she said.
"In fact those companies often are shipping jobs out of Ontario, and that’s not the right priority."
The NDP would rather give tax credits to companies that create jobs, not to corporations that wine and dine their guests in expensive suites at sporting facilities, added Horwath.
"So if we’re going to be giving away tax dollars then those tax dollars should be getting something for us like jobs and training, not simply getting bigwigs at big companies free wining and dining at a facility like this," she said.
"I think it’s a matter of choice and priority and our priority would not be this."
Horwath said the rented luxury suite she used at the Rogers Centre for her announcement would be subjected to the HST if rented by the average citizen, but a large company would be given the right to avoid the HST on such an expense starting in 2015.
The NDP plans to block the HST exemption for entertainment-related expenses that would apply to corporations with revenues of $10 million and to financial institutions, but not to small and medium-sized businesses.
Messing with the HST undermines the benefits of moving to the single sales tax, warned Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
"It’s all about the people who work in those sky boxes and how you create those jobs," he said.
"There are literally hundreds of people who work in that business."
The New Democrats say scrapping the HST exemptions would save the province $215 million in 2015, rising to more than $1 billion a year, which Horwath called "a heck of a lot of money."
The NDP would also reverse about $2 billion in scheduled corporate tax cuts, but wants to work with companies to get something back in exchange for any tax breaks, she added.
"I look forward to working with corporations and giving them tax credits to hire new workers, to train those workers and to invest in their plant," said Horwath.
"The across-the-board corporate tax giveaways, we would roll those back and we would start working in a more targeted way to achieve what people tell me is their biggest priority, and that’s more jobs for Ontario."
The Liberals fired back by saying the NDP would kill jobs because its platform contains what the Liberals claim is $9 billion worth of tax hikes that would hit all companies, including small businesses.
"This creates uncertainty and will cause investors and businesses to ultimately lose confidence and will cost a lot of jobs." said Duncan.
Horwath also complained about the tone of the debate between Premier Dalton McGuinty and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak over a proposed Liberal tax credit for companies that would give some new Canadians their first job.
"It shouldn’t be about who can throw the biggest insult, who can throw the biggest stone," she said.
"It should be about the real problems facing Ontarians and what the solutions to those problems are."
Later, while visiting the Toronto apartment of Christina Carbagal, an unemployed woman seeking a job, Horwath rejected suggestions she was still fighting the legacy of the NDP government in the early 1990s led by Bob Rae.
"I think Mr. McGuinty has to do that. He (Rae) is the federal leader for the Liberal party now," she told reporters.
"I think a lot of people are getting very tired of the history lesson. I think people are actually looking to the future for a change, looking for something different, and that’s what I’m offering."