05/23/2014 10:59 EDT | Updated 07/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Ontario Election 2014: Wynne Says Choice Between Liberals, Tories


TORONTO - If the Liberals win the June 12 election they will keep the Drive Clean vehicle emissions test program, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday.

Speaking at a campaign event in Toronto, the Liberal premier said her party would do whatever they could "to make sure the air is clean."

"The Drive Clean program has been changed over time," she said. "It has evolved, but we'll continue to support it."

The Progressive Conservatives have said they would kill programs that "don't offer good value," such as Drive Clean, which critics say has outlived its usefulness.

"I think you'll be amazed at how much government you're never going to miss (and) top of my list: Drive Clean," Tim Hudak said Friday.

"The auditor general said the program has had its day, and it did, but why we keep making you pay a tax to help you celebrate your birthday every two years just to keep bureaucrats busy, that doesn't make any sense at all."

The Liberal government recently lowered the price from $35 to $30 for the tests drivers pay for every two years for light-duty vehicles at least seven years old.

Drive Clean is supposed to be a revenue-neutral program to get cars that spew pollution off the road, but it started turning a profit.

The government collected $30 million in fees in 2011-12, but spent only $19 million to deliver the program. It had projected a surplus of $11 million by the end of that fiscal year.

Ontario's former auditor general warned in 2012 that could land the province in legal hot water, because it's a user fee, not a tax. He cited a Supreme Court decision which basically ruled that a user fee cannot exceed the cost to providing the service.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has said she is open to looking at whether the program is delivering and if it's not she's "not averse to seeing it deep-sixed."

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association issued a statement Friday saying they welcome Hudak's announcement that he would scrap the "beleaguered" program.

"(It) is wrapped in red tape that wastes time and money for auto dealers and drivers alike," Todd Bourgon, the executive director, wrote in the statement. "This bureaucratic lemon of a program simply is failing Ontarians."

Wynne is characterizing the choice in this election as one between her party and the Progressive Conservatives, criticizing their plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs.

"There is a very stark choice that is confronting people right now in Ontario," Wynne said.

"On June 12 people will be choosing between our party, that has put forward a plan that is very comprehensive...and a plan that the Conservatives are putting forward that really starts with cutting and tearing down much of what has been built."

The NDP, she said, has put forward "a list of kind of disconnected ideas," many of them coming from the Liberal platform.

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