A Progressive Conservative government would increase class sizes, scrap promised raises for teachers and early childhood educators, end tuition breaks for post-secondary students, and eliminate a home renovation tax credit for seniors, says Tim Hudak.
But after months of signalling reforms to Ontario’s anachronistic booze laws, Hudak would not change the government’s LCBO monopoly or open up the foreign-owned Beer Store to competition if he wins the June 12 election.
“Job creation is the sole focus of the Million Jobs Plan,” he told a town hall Wednesday of 100 Conservative supporters at the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto.
With an eye toward eliminating the deficit — which sits at $12.5 billion this year — by 2016-17, Hudak is proposing some steep cuts.
“In order to build a compassionate society and improve the services that matter the most, like health and education, we have to take urgent action on a turnaround plan to balance the budget and create jobs,” he said.
Following the recommendation of economist Don Drummond’s sweeping 2012 report to former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty government on revamping public services, a Tory administration would raise class sizes.
That would increase the 20-student class-size cap up to Grade 3 to 23 children.
From Grade 4 to 8, the cap would jump from 24.5 students to 26 and in high school classes would rise from 22 to 24.
Planned raises for Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario members and early childhood education educators would also be cancelled.
The Liberals’ “healthy homes renovation tax credit,” which pays senior citizens up to $1,500 to improve their bathrooms and stairs to enable them to remain in their houses longer, would be axed.
As well, the Liberals’ 30 per cent tuition grant for most Ontario college and university student would be eliminated.
Hudak said his plan would see the deficit drop by $8.5 billion to about $4 billion next year and the books balanced in 2016-17. Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals claim they can get Ontario into the black in 2017-18.
Touring an elementary school in Guelph, Wynne called Hudak's platform “a dangerous set of ideas” that will cost Ontarians more out-of-pocket for things like hydro bills and university and college tuition and put Ontario at risk of tipping back into recession.
With 100,000 public sector job cuts, including teachers and assistants, “he would undermine schools like this one . . . to suggest raising class sizes and remove people from the school, it's the wrong way to go.”
Wynne, whose government is struggling to erase a $12 billion deficit, said she will fight those job cuts “until the last ballot is counted” on June 12.
“There's a clearer and clearer choice” between the Liberal and Conservative approaches.
“He's talking about cutting twice as many jobs as Mike Harris did,” said Wynne, who got into politics as a school trustee in the 1990s to oppose the Harris agenda.
“We fought the cuts Mike Harris made . . . because those cuts undermined the social fabric, they did not advance the quality of life.”
“It is the wrong direction that Tim Hudak is suggesting, his ideas are dangerous, they will undermine the very institutions that define us as a province.”
Hudak’s platform announcement came the same day a new Forum Research poll in the Star suggested his plan to reduce the size of the broader public service by 100,000 positions is not popular.
Almost two-thirds — 62 per cent — disapproved of the proposal with 26 per cent approving of it and 11 per cent unsure.
About 9,700 “non-teaching positions” in the education system are among the 100,000 civil service jobs that would be slashed.
Similarly, Forum found 63 per cent do not think Hudak will be able to create 1 million new jobs, while 26 per cent feel he can deliver and 11 per cent don’t know.
His austerity measures have also affected his party’s popularity.
Wynne’s Liberals now lead with 38 per cent support to 35 per cent for the Hudak’s Conservatives, 21 per cent for Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats, and 5 per cent for Mike Schreiner’s Greens.
In the May 2 Forum survey, the Tories were at 38 per cent, the Liberals 33 per cent, the NDP 22 per cent, and the Greens at 6 per cent.
Using interactive voice-response phone calls, Forum polled 996 people across Ontario on Monday and results are considered accurate to within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.