May 23, 2014 1:00 pm

Wynne promises to keep controversial Drive Clean program

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne says if the Liberals win the June 12 election they will keep the Drive Clean vehicle emissions test program.

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

The program has changed over time and will continue to evolve, but Wynne says the Liberals would continue to support it.

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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.

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 aversed to seeing it deep-sixed.”

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.

In Depth: A Global News investigation into the Drive Clean program found newer cars almost never fail. 

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.

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.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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