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Five ways the Ontario Liberals are messing with the province’s economy

Scott Stinson, National Post, April 28, 2014

Kathleen Wynne has spoken repeatedly in the past month about how her Liberals are the only party to be trusted with the fortunes of a province that is still unsteady on its economic feet.

Ontario, the Premier has said, needs her “safe hands” to guide it through its recovery, not those “reckless schemes” of the two parties in opposition.

Other Liberals have picked up the thread. In blasting the NDP for its demand of increased corporate tax rates, Transportation Minister Glen Murray last week said the province, “is emerging from the global recession. However, our recovery remains fragile.”

Add a couple of seafaring metaphors about troubled seas, and the comments were perfectly in line with what the federal Conservatives were touting in the 2011 election: now isn’t the time to mess about with our delicate economic recovery.

Except there is a key difference: the Ontario Liberals are furiously messing with the economy.

On Thursday, after the federal Tories announced plans to tinker with public pensions, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa all but rolled his eyes at the proposal and insisted that the province will forge ahead with an Ontario-only enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan. It is fair to say a debate remains over whether a CPP top up is needed, and if so whether a mandatory plan as envisioned for Ontario is the solution. But there is little such debate in the business community.

“It’s going to have a devastating impact,” Nicole Troster, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Business, said in an interview. Among the key concerns for the CFIB, Ms. Troster said, is that mandatory pension contributions are essentially a profit-insensitive tax. Even struggling businesses would be hit with a new, additional cost. Other business groups have lined up to express concern over the Liberal proposal: the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Certified General Accountants of Ontario, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Read the full story here and see the Liberal Party’s new ad.

Excerpt Re: hydro rates:

Hydro rates

The Liberals announced this week that they plan to remove the Debt Retirement Charge from the bills of residential electricity users in 2016. It will remain on those of businesses for another two years after that. Further, while the government is expanding plans to allow companies to switch to time-of-use billing, many of them couldn’t take advantage of the option, even if they were large enough to qualify.

“A lot of our members,” Ms. Troster of the CFIB says, “don’t have a way to switch their energy usage.” Businesses are often neither open nor staffed during non-peak hours, when energy is cheapest. And with hydro rates in Ontario having doubled since 2008, and scheduled to rise further, electricity is “the most important cost concern for our members over the last two years,” she says.

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