TORONTO — A Liberal government in Ontario would rely on a renegotiated child care deal with Ottawa and “efficiencies” in public procurement to deliver on election promises — including making housing more affordable and ending nursing homes long-term for-profit in the province.
The Liberal Party released its costed platform Monday morning at an event in Toronto, saying it would also draw revenue from the provident fund, which the auditor general called last Monday “too cautious.”
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says he’s “confident” his party, if it forms government in June, could balance Ontario’s budget by 2026-27 — a year earlier than the Progressives -conservatives, who are trying to get re-elected. Mr Del Duca added, however, that “unforeseen circumstances” could always arise.
The party expects $2 billion of its planned funds for program spending to be covered by a renegotiated agreement with Ottawa on child care. It was not clear, however, how the Liberals would reopen this agreement, reached earlier this year, and which does not allow a renegotiation before the third year of funding from Ottawa.
Mr Del Duca said on Monday he had “a lot of optimism and confidence” that Ottawa would agree to talks. And if that doesn’t work, his government would dip more into provident funds to provide $10-a-day before and after-school child care spaces.
The party also unveiled the housing component of its election platform on Monday, saying it would restore rent controls and build 1.5 million new housing units – also two key New Democratic Party (NDP) promises.
The Liberals would create an “Ontario Housing Corporation” to fund and build affordable units, Del Duca said. A Liberal government would build 78,000 new social and community housing units, 38,000 supportive housing units and 22,000 new Aboriginal housing units.
On the health front, the party promises to hire 100,000 workers and train 3,000 new mental health and addiction professionals. It is also committed to eliminating the backlog of diagnoses and surgeries, thanks to an investment of $1 billion. It also promises to establish maximum wait times for surgeries.
For post-secondary students, the Liberals promise to double funding for the Financial Aid Program and provide “significantly” more scholarships, while eliminating interest on student loans.
The party would also offer free tuition for college programs for child care workers, and cancel the slate of all student loans for nurses, paramedics and other healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID-19. .
The Liberals had already pledged to end for-profit long-term care homes, a move they said would cost $50 million this fiscal year, $150 million in 2023-24 and $200 million in during each of the following two years.
NDP: the North and the French
The New Democrats, for their part, on Monday promised residents of northern Ontario faster reimbursement of travel expenses for health reasons and more local health centers in their communities.
Chief Andrea Horwath says northerners have been denied their fair share of health care by previous governments.
If elected in June, the NDP promises to guarantee residents won’t have to wait more than 14 days for reimbursement after health-related travel. The NDP is also promising to establish community health centers in Kenora, Cochrane and Sault Ste. Marie, with services for Aboriginal and Francophone communities.
The party’s health-focused northern plan also includes a promise to hire 300 doctors for that region, expand French-language health services and work on incentives to bring health care workers to the North. They are also committed to building 6,000 affordable housing units and 3,600 supportive housing units in the region.
The NDP also promised to restore the “Northlander” rail service, between Timmins and Toronto, which was canceled by a previous Liberal government in 2012, for financial reasons.
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford also repeated a 2018 campaign promise at the weekend to bring back the ‘Northlander’.
Mr. Ford spent the weekend in the North, with stops in Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay; he is to be in North Bay on Tuesday with the other party leaders for a debate on northern issues.
On Monday, flanked by four of the northern NDP candidates, including three incumbents, Ms Horwath said she was not worried about Mr Ford’s campaign in the territory where his party holds seats. “I think Doug Ford is trying to experience the North for the first time.”
Doug Ford hadn’t scheduled any public campaign events for Monday, but the Conservatives promised to raise disability benefits by 5%, a promise that was not in their recent budget that they use as their platform.
In a statement, Mr. Ford argued that a future Conservative government would spend $425 million for such a 5% increase. A Conservative government would also introduce legislation to make annual increases to Ontario Disability Support Program benefit rates, which have been frozen since 2018, permanent.
The New Democrats promise an increase of about 20%, the Liberals 10% this year, 10% next year and 2% per year thereafter. The Greens promise to double benefit rates.