BRAMPTON, Ont. - Ontario voters can take it to the bank that a Progressive Conservative government would not raise taxes but can bank on tax hikes under a re-elected Liberal regime, Tory Leader Tim Hudak said Wednesday.
At a campaign event at a family home, Hudak released a letter containing his party's no-tax-hike pledge.
He also taunted Premier Dalton McGuinty to make the same promise while attacking the Liberal record.
"I will not raise taxes," Hudak said. "I've actually submitted my letter to the chief electoral officer of Ontario."
The letter follows the Taxpayer Protection Act, enacted by former Conservative premier Mike Harris in 1999.
Under the act, a campaigning party can give public notice of planned tax hikes up to 14 days before an election, or submit them to a province-wide referendum after a vote if they give no notice.
Just over two weeks ago, McGuinty refused to use the word taxes, saying only "we will not" when pressed to state explicitly that he would not raise them.
He also refused to say why voters should believe him in light of his broken campaign pledges.
Sitting in Jaspal and Charanjit Grewal's living room, Hudak handed them a copy of his letter to the chief electoral officer, then played video clips of McGuinty from the 2003 election.
The clips showed McGuinty committing himself to the terms of the Taxpayer Protection Act.
"I will not raise taxes or implement any new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters," McGuinty said in one of the 2003 campaign clips.
"I'm telling Ontario families that their taxes will not go up tomorrow or any day under a Liberal government."
Hudak said McGuinty brought in the health tax, the harmonized sales tax and the eco-tax despite his promises to the contrary.
He promised to strengthen the act to get rid of what he called "loopholes" and "runarounds" so that governments could only raise or implement new taxes with a clear mandate.
The Liberals responded by essentially calling Hudak a hypocrite.
"This is the same Tim Hudak who voted twice to override the Taxpayer Protection Act to raise corporate taxes," the party said in a statement.
Campaigning in Belleville, Ont., McGuinty found himself on the defensive after David Levac, the parliamentary assistant to the minister of energy, appeared to say this week that the Liberals were considering a carbon tax.
"We're not moving ahead with any carbon taxes," the premier said. "Ontarians have done their share."
The Liberals also released a letter from McGuinty to the chief electoral officer along with a costing of the party's platform.
"Our prudent plan does not rely on any increased taxes or higher fees in order to meet our budget targets," McGuinty wrote.
The letter states Hudak's plans would result in higher property taxes, something the Taxpayer Protection Act does not address.
"We will amend the Taxpayer Protection Act to encompass municipal downloads that impact property taxes," McGuinty said.
In a recent interview, Lydia Miljan, who teaches political science at the University of Windsor, called rising taxation levels a top-of-mind issue for voters.
"There is this overlying impression that the Liberals, left to their own devices, would raise taxes," Miljan said.
After watching the clips, Jaspal Grewal said he could not trust McGuinty.
"(It's) awful to have this kind of premier breaking his promises, putting it in writing, then shredding it right away," Grewal said.