Ontario Premier Doug Ford has less than a year to make good on the affordability agenda he promised voters while on the campaign trail.
“We have a very simple theory,” said Ford. “Put money back into the taxpayers’ pocket instead of the government’s pocket, because we believe that the taxpayers are a lot smarter at spending their money than the government.”
Ford’s message hit home with hardworking taxpayers after fifteen years of tax hikes.
The Progressive Conservatives’ platform laid out several promises on tax relief, but three were emphasized throughout the campaign: refundable tax credits for child care, lower gas prices and a middle-class income tax cut.
Three years in, Ford’s record of keeping promises is mixed at best.
On the positive side, Ford kept his commitment to make child care more affordable.
Rather than pursuing top-down, government-run child-care program, Ford introduced a flexible refundable tax credit to let parents recoup more of their tax dollars. This program covers many different kinds of child-care costs so that parents, not bureaucrats, can decide what is best for their children.
Ford also kept part of his promise to reduce gas taxes by 4.4 cents per litre through scrapping cap-and-trade carbon tax and 5.6 cents per litre through lowering the gas excise tax.
Ford immediately repealed the provincial carbon tax. Ottawa offset that tax cut by imposing the federal carbon tax, but Ford deserves credit for fighting the feds tooth and nail.
But Ontarians are still waiting for part two of the plan to reduce gas prices, the 5.6 cents per litre excise tax cut.
Ontario drivers are paying 48 cents per litre in taxes when they fill up their gas tanks, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s 2021 Gas Tax Honest Day report.
Had Ford fully implemented his gas tax promise on day one, a typical family filling up their minivan once a week would have already saved about $655 at the pumps.
While Ford has helped reduce child-care costs and done some good work on gas prices, taxpayers are still waiting for the promised middle-class tax cut.
Had the Ford government fulfilled its income tax cut promise on day one, taxpayers could have saved up to $2,300 over the past three years.
There are those that will argue that Ontario’s budget deficit should stop Ford from implementing his affordability agenda.
After years of overspending, the Ford government can easily find the necessary savings to return more money to taxpayers without inflating the deficit.
Ford’s promised gas and income tax relief would return a little more than $3 billion into taxpayers’ pockets every year.
To find savings, the best place to start would be to ask government bureaucrats to live in the real world like the rest of us.
Government employees in Ontario are paid roughly 10 per cent more than their counterparts outside of government. And while many outside of government have taken pay cuts or lost their jobs, the list of provincial bureaucrats that make more than $100,000 has increased by 23 per cent.
Reducing bureaucrat salaries by five per cent would save $3.6 billion every year, more than enough to offset the impact of Ford’s promised tax cuts.
Ford should also save money by ending corporate welfare, which was another campaign promise that the government has yet to live up to.
“Corporate welfare is wrong,” said Ford in 2018.
Yet, in the first three years in office, this government has handed over tens of millions of dollars to wealthy corporations like the Ford Motor Company and Maple Leaf Foods.
That money should stay in taxpayers’ wallets, instead of being siphoned off into the bank accounts of corporations.
The bottom line is that Ford has plenty of options to allow him to implement his affordability agenda without growing the deficit.
With less than a year until the next election, taxpayers expect Ford to live up to the promises that got him elected in the first place and provide much needed relief.
The clock is ticking.
Photo Credit: The Canadian Press
Jay Goldberg is a syndicated columnist and the Interim Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.